Learn how to grow love-in-a-mist from seed! This airy plant, also known as nigella, adds unique blooms and foliage to any cottage garden.
Love-in-a-mist, also known as Nigella damascena, gets its name from the finely-toothed, frilly bracts surrounding the base of these charming flowers. The leaves look like fennel, and the attractive spring and early summer blossoms produce interesting seed pods.
The black, aromatic seeds are often used as a flavoring in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking. You can use nigella in the kitchen as a substitute for black sesame seed, caraway seed, and cumin.
The unusual flowers, foliage, and seed pods also make this an outstanding cut flower that lasts a long time in a vase. While many varieties of love in a mist have blue flowers, you can also find cultivars with white, rose, lavender, and pink blooms.
Nigella belongs to the buttercup family, and it grows best in the cool weather of spring and early summer, declining as temperatures get hotter later in the season. It is a small, annual plant that grows to a maximum size of about 2 feet tall and wide.
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Purchases made through these links may earn me a small commission at no additional cost to you.
You can find nigella cultivars with different flower sizes, petal structures, and colors. For example:
- ‘Miss Jekyll’ has semi-double flower petals.
- ‘Mulberry Rose’ produces dark pink-colored flowers.
- ‘Persian Jewels’ is a series of cultivars with many shades, including light blue, purple, rose, white, and lavender.
- ‘Oxford Blue’ grows taller than many other varieties and has spectacular dark blue flowers, which is an unusual flower color in any plant.
- ‘Orientalis transformer’ has unique yellow flowers.
How to Grow Nigella from Seed
Nigella is straightforward to grow from seeds. However, planting it where you want it in the garden is best rather than starting seeds indoors. To start them early indoors, consider using a peat pot that can be transplanted along with the seedling to avoid disturbing the taproot.
For direct sowing, plant the seeds in early spring as soon as the soil is workable. Nigella is frost-hardy. You can also sow the seeds outdoors in late summer or early fall in warmer locations, and they will sprout up and flower early the following year.
Choose a location with full sun or light, dappled shade in well-draining, fertile ground. Plant the seeds about ⅛ inch deep, and keep the soil evenly moist until the seedlings come up in two to three weeks. Thin the seedlings to a 10-inch spacing after they get two sets of true leaves.
Planting Love-in-a-Mist in the Garden
Love in a Mist can grow in many soil types if it has a slightly acidic to neutral pH of 6 to 7 and a dose of nutrient-rich organic matter. Once it’s growing, this plant requires little care except for keeping the soil consistently moist, although it has relatively low water requirements compared to some other flowering plants.
Consider planting nigella in empty spaces in flower beds, as a bedding plant or in containers. Its fine-textured leaves and flower bracts combine nicely with other flowers and foliage in a cottage garden.
Nigella starts flowering about 90 days after germinating but only blooms for one to two months. Plant seeds in succession every three weeks or so in spring and deadhead spent flowers to keep it going.
This flower readily self-sows, so once you get it growing, it’s likely to spring back year after year without your help. Overwintered seeds will likely produce larger flower heads than those planted in spring. The seeds are so eager to sprout, this plant can become somewhat invasive if you don’t deadhead spent flowers.
Caring for Love in a Mist Plants
Thin self-sown seedlings in the garden to prevent overcrowding of plants and deadhead spent flowers before the seed pods ripen unless you want to collect nigella seeds.
Few pests bother this plant, except aphids which can be easily removed with a jet of water from a garden hose or treated with insecticidal soap.
When harvesting nigella as a fresh-cut flower, remove the leaves on the bottom third of the stem before putting it in water. To dry seed pods and flowers, harvest them when you can see stripes on the pods and hang them upside down in a shady, dry, and well-ventilated location until they are dehydrated.
Do you grow love-in-a-mist in your own garden? I'd love to hear your experiences with this plant in the comments below!