Love in the mist

Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena: “The Romantic”

As Love-in-a-mist’s name implies, this old-fashioned garden annual has lovely flowers that appear to be encased in a delicate misty web of bracts. Nigella damascena is a reliable annual that’s on my must-grow list and should be on yours.

Please keep reading to learn why—and how—to grow this pretty cutting flower, which blooms in shades of blue, white, pink, and lavender.

Above: Photograph by Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr.

Native to rocky areas of North Africa and southern Europe, Nigella has a long season of interest. Let me explain: Not only is love-in-a mist absolutely easy to start by sowing seeds directly into the soil in the spring but also it rewards the garden during the cool months with interesting flowers to cut. And if you can resist the urge to harvest, you get quirky seed pods when summer starts heating up.

Above: For more Love-in-a-mist in this cottage garden, see Garden Visit: Honey Grove Cottage in the Firs, on Vancouver Island. Photograph by Sylvia Linsteadt.

Love-in-the-mist grows upright to heights of from one to two feet and produces flowers in cooling shades of white, blue, pink and purple. While I admire all the different varieties (more than 15 are widely available), my favorite is the traditional ‘Miss Jekyll Indigo’, with its rich blue blooms that float over the finely cut leaves.

Above: A packet of seeds of N. damascena ‘Persian Jewels Indigo’ is £1.95 from Chiltern Seeds.

Cheat Sheet

  • Love-in-a-mist looks charming in a loose cottage, meadow, or cutting garden. You can also use this annual in a container planting where the fennel-like foliage adds texture and contrast to bolder leaves like lamb’s ear or Bergenia.
  • Nigella is the perfect annual to sow over spring bulbs. Instead of unattractive bare spaces after bulbs finish blooming, you will see “love” in their place.
  • Love-in-a-mist is a standout cut flower. Also, the horned, pod-shaped seed heads are marvelous in fresh or dried arrangements.

Above: Nigella damascena. Photograph by Maggie McCain via Flickr.

Keep It Alive

  • Love-in-a-mist is a prolific re-seeder. One packet will start your obsession and then you can redeem your rewards for years to come. Tip: Harvest the seed pods while still firm and before they split open; hang upside down in a cool, dark place.
  • In the spring, sow your seeds about 1/8-inch deep in a spot that gets full to part sun and keep the soil moist until sprouts appear in from two to three weeks. After it gets going, this annual takes average to little water. Love-in-a-mist does not transplant well because of its long taproot; sow seeds directly in a prepared planting bed or container.
  • Few pests or problems afflict this annual. Actually, this honeybee attraction is a trouble-free plant that appreciates a little neglect. And while deadheading will prolong flowering, it also will prevent the plant from developing decorative seed pods, so it is best to let this ornamental alone.

Are you planning (or already sowing) this year’s cutting garden? See more of our favorite fast-growing flowers in our curated guide to Annuals 101, including growing and care tips for Nasturtiums, Cosmos, Poppies, and Zinnias. See more:

  • The Best Sweet Peas to Plant for Spring
  • Chamomile: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design
  • DIY: Endless Cutting Garden
  • Everything You Need to Know About Perennials

Photo: Penny Woodward

A beautiful, delicate-looking annual with feathery blue-green leaves, love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) reaches about 50cm in height and despite it’s looks is surprisingly tough and easy to grow. It’s looking fabulous in my garden right now, but can be grown from the tropics (in winter) to cold temperate regions thriving in most soils as long as they are well-drained. Planting at this time of year with unexpected heat waves, put them in a position where they’re shaded from the hot westerly afternoon sun. Mine self-sow from year to year, happily filling wild spaces and bring great joy when they flower.

It’s evocative common name, love-in-a-mist, comes from the ‘misty’ foliage. But obviously not everyone felt about it in the same way as it was also known as devil-in-the-bush and Jack-in-prison. Other early names are St. Katharine’s flower, fennel flower, love-in-a-puzzle, gith and nigella. Old fashioned flowers were often combined in tussie-mussies to send messages to loved ones, or those suffering ill health. And in this language of flowers, a love-in-the-mist flower means perplexity, you puzzle me, openness to love and kiss me. It feels like a pretty confusing language at times. If you want to know more go to the lovely small book Flowerpaedia, 1000 flowers and their meanings, by Cheralyn Darcey, which tells us it’s also the flower, along with forget-me-not, that you give to a friend on a Friday, and amongst the Zodiac symbols it is one of the flowers for Libra.

Sow seed into containers in autumn and winter and transplant once the seedlings are big enough to handle, planting in clumps for a more dramatic effect. Flowers appear in late winter, spring and early summer, and once established this flower will self-sow. In very warm regions, protect from the hot afternoon sun. Flowers are usually many different shades of blue, but there are also white, pink and burgundy flowered forms. Both the flowers and unusual seed head look wonderful in flower arrangements, and the flower is edible. The original form of this flower N. sativa, also known as black cumin, has flowers that are not as showy, and is grown for its black, peppery, aromatic seeds that are used as a spice. Seed of both is available from most seed suppliers.

By: Penny Woodward

First published: December 2017

Herb to Know: Love-In-A-Mist Flower

Although flowers of the species come in a clear blue or white, growers have developed a number of cultivars that extend the color range to include pinks and purples as well as producing showier blossoms and providing shorter and taller plants to accommodate different landscaping situations.

The semidouble ‘Miss Jekyll’ hybrids are about 18 inches tall and come in white and rose as well as pale, bright, and deep blue shades; these are available as separate colors. ‘Persian Jewels’, about 15 inches tall, produce flowers of pink, mauve, rose, lavender, whtie, and blue. Mulberry Rose, a selection of Persian Jewels, is available as a separate color. Shorty Blue and Dwarf Moody Blue are 6- to 8-inch-high cultivars that are just right for edging the front of a border. Both open violet-blue, but Dwarf Moody Blue gradually changes to clear sky blue. Oxford Blue, at 30 inches, is a giant among love-in-a-mist cultivars. Its large, extra-double deep blue flowers followed by dark seedpods make it ideal for cutting, and its height suggests a position at the back of the border. N. d. var. plena, 15 inches tall, is a shorter double with white or blue flowers.

Several other species of Nigella are good garden subjects and well worth growing. N. hispanica, native to North Africa and Spain, is similar to love-in-a-mist but has a more sprawling habit, slightly coarser leaves, and larger deep blue flowers with black centers and maroon stamens. Its pod is greenish and more elongated than that of N. damascena and has chunkier, flaring styles. N. orientalis offers yellow flowers and a seedpod that opens out when dry to form buff-colored “flowers.’’ The blue-tinged whitish flowers of N. sativa are less showy than those of N. damascena, but they are still attractive, and the flavor of the seeds gives an authentic touch to many Indian dishes and spice blends.

Nigellas grow in Zones 3 through 10. The seeds are best sown in early spring or fall where you want them to grow. They can be transplanted, but transplants may not grow as vigorously as direct-sown plants. Just sprinkle seeds thinly over a prepared bed of average, well-drained soil in full sun and pat them in. Thin seedlings to about 12 inches apart.

Love-in-a-mist is a good plant to sow over spring bulbs to fill in the bare spaces that result when the bulbs have finished their show. After the bulbs’ foliage dies back naturally, thin the nigella seedlings as directed above.

To start nigellas indoors, sow seeds in a container of moistened soilless mix in early spring—about April 1 in Zone 5. Barely cover seeds with the mix. Cover the container with a sheet of plastic wrap or slip it into a plastic bag. Seeds germinate fastest at between 65° and 70°F. As soon as the seedlings appear, move the container to a sunny window or under fluorescent plant lights. When the seedlings have two sets of true leaves, about mid-April, transplant them to larger containers, such as small peat pots or 21/4-inch six-pack cells. In mid-May, gradually accustom the young plants to the outdoors, and transplant to the garden during the last week of May.

Flowering can begin as early as June or July and continue until frost. Blossoms make long-lasting cut flowers. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage good-sized later blooms, but leave them on if you want to harvest pods for drying or let some self-sow for next year’s plants. A little benign neglect will ensure a supply of pods for drying for years to come.

Harvesting pods for arrangements when they are firm but before they begin to open preserves their color best. Bunch the stems and hang upside down to dry or dry upright. Leave the foliage on or strip it off as you like.


Nigellas have no serious disease or pest problems. All in all, they’re some of the easiest and most carefree flowers you can grow.


Nigella Seeds for Culinary Use?

I have a friend who uses the seeds from Nigella damascena for cooking … she and her family have survived so far

To check my information I found this

“… The seeds of Nigella sativa, kno wn as kalonji, black cumin (though this can also refer to Bunium persicum) black onion seedor just nigella, are used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. The dry roasted nigella seeds flavour curries, vegetables and pulses. The black seeds taste like oregano and have a bitterness to them like mustard-seeds. From my herb ‘bible’, the excellent “Herbs” – Roger Phillips & Nicky Foy (ISBN 978-0330307253), which I am inclined to trust:

” The seeds of this plant and a similar species have a strong aromatic odour and a spicy taste and are used as a condiment or spice to flavour cakes, breads and curries. In India they also put them amongst clothes and bed-linen to repel moths ans Indian doctors consider the seeds to be a stimulant, an aid to menstruation and milk flow in nursing mothers. They are also used medicinally to relieve digestive upsets and bowel complaints.”

I have seen uncited web references to damascena being toxic, but all references that cited sources referred to the seeds as edible. I would think it fine to use seeds from Nigella damascena in moderation, but if you use this herb in large quantities, buy commercially produced Nigella sativa seeds….”

on this site which I have always found to be reliable.

Of course, if you leave the seedheads on the plants your garden is likely to be invaded by goldfinches

Last edited: 10 August 2017 16:08:32

Growing Love-In-A-Mist

Love-in-a-Mist, Nigella damascena, is a charming Victorian garden annual. I love the blooms that are in watercolor shades of blue, white, rose, red and violet.

The first time I saw it was when my mother grew it in her garden for drying.

The blooms are pretty, plus the seedpods are very interesting as well. They are shaped a little like a dainty balloon and can be dried for crafting.

I used them on woodland wreaths and straw hats I decorated for gifts. The flowers can be used as cut flowers, or pressed for crafting.

The plants are ferny looking-similar to fennel- which is why it’s been called fennel flower as well as love-in-a-mist.

They will grow to about 2 foot tall. The seeds can be sown outside as soon as the soil can be worked. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil where they will receives at least 6 hours of sun.

The flowers bloom about three months after they are planted. Thin to 8-10 inches between plants. It will reseed the next year. Seed where you want the plants to stay because they don’t transplant easily.

A note on another nigella, n. sativa, which is used as an herb-the seeds are spicy and can be used in cooking. It’s often confused with n. damascena, which also has the edible seeds but is really not used for this purpose as far as I can tell.

They have been used medicinally in some cultures, but n. sativa is the plant used as “black cumin” if you are interested in this.

Nigella damascena was popular in 16th Century gardens. It’s an old fashioned garden annual that is very easy to grow and a charming addition to any garden! Try planting them with strawflowers, bachelor buttons, bell’s of Ireland and globe amaranth for a wonderful everlasting garden.

Images: Wikimedia

Growing Nigella Plants – How To Grow Nigella Love In A Mist Plant

Growing Nigella in the garden, also known as love in a mist plant (Nigella damascena), offers an interesting, peek-a-boo flower to be glimpsed through showy bracts. Care of love in a mistflower is easy and its interesting blooms well worth the effort. Learn more about how to grow Nigella love in a mist so you can enjoy this unusual flower in your garden.

Nigella Plant Info

If you’re not familiar with the love in a mist plant, you may wonder exactly what it is. Flowers of growing Nigella are surrounded by a series of bracts. These are supported by a thread-like leaf structure, known as a ruff, on the cultivar love in a mist plant. This gives the appearance of the flowers being surrounded by a mist, hence the romantic name. Double flowers appear to peek through the mist in colors of blue, pink and white.

Love in a mist plant reaches 15 to 24 inches in height and up to a foot in width when adequate room is left in the garden. Growing Nigella may be used in combination with other annuals in a mixed border or as part of an attractive container display.

How to Grow Nigella Love in a Mist

Learning how to grow Nigella love in a mist is easy. This hardy annual blooms early in spring if planted the previous fall. Simply broadcast seeds into a well draining, sunny area of the garden.

Nigella plant info says this specimen will grow in a variety of soil types, but prefers a rich, fertile soil. Seeds need not be covered.

Nigella plant info also recommends succession planting of the love in a mist plant, as flowering time is short for each plant. When flowers fade, interesting striped seed pods with “horns” appear on the cultivar Nigella damascena. These seed pods may be used fresh or dried as a decorative element in dried arrangements.

Care of Love in a Mist Flower

Care of love in a mistflower is simple and standard: water during dry times, feed regularly and deadhead spent blooms to encourage the growth of more flowers or collect seeds from dried seedpods.

Grow the love in a mist plant to add a little romance to your garden.


Love-in-a-mist is a charming, old-fashioned annual flower.

Susan Mahr, UW Horticulture
Revised: 5/11/2010
Item number: XHT1178

What is love-in-a-mist? Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) is a charming old-fashioned annual in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) that blooms in spring and early summer. One of about 15 species in the genus Nigella, love-in-a-mist is native to southern Europe and northern Africa. In its native habitat, this plant grows in fields, along roadsides, and in rocky or waste ground. The genus name Nigella comes from the Latin “niger” (which means black), and refers to the plant’s intense black seeds. The aromatic seeds have been used for culinary and medicinal purposes (particularly in Turkey, the Middle East and India), although this species is inferior to black cumin (N. sativa), whose seeds develop a slightly bitter, oregano-like flavor and aroma when ground or chewed.

Love-in-a-mist is a small to medium-sized plant that grows 15 to 24 inches high and up to one foot wide (if not crowded). Plants have finely cut, bright green leaves that resemble dill leaves. Light-green, lacy, finely divided threadlike bracts form the “mist” surrounding the plant’s jewel-like flowers. Love-in-a-mist flowers are typically bright blue to very pale blue, but sometimes may be white, pink, or lavender. Each flower is 1½ inches across, with five large, petal-like sepals and small, deeply-divided petals hidden beneath the flower’s stamens. The flowers are followed by attractive, balloon-shaped “seedpods” (actually an inflated capsule composed of five fused true seedpods). These “seedpods” are up to two inches long, and green with purple or bronze stripes.

There are several named cultivars of love-in-a-mist. The cultivars have larger flowers than normal (often with double flowers having extra rows of sepals), and come in a wider range of colors than the species (which is typically blue). Look for common cultivars at your local garden center.

•’Miss Jekyll’ is the most commonly offered cultivar and has soft blue, semi-double flowers.
•’Miss Jekyll Alba’ has pure white semi-double flowers.
•’Mulberry Rose’ has deep pink flowers.
•’Oxford Blue’ is a taller variety with deep blue flowers and dark seed pods.
•The Persian Jewels series includes plants with double flowers in a mixture of shades of mauve, lavender, purple, rose, light blue and white.

Where do I get love-in-a-mist? Love-in-a-mist is easily grown from seed, which usually can be purchased wherever garden seeds are available.

How do I grow love-in-a-mist? Love-in-a-mist does best in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. Sow the deep-black, sharp-cornered seeds about ⅛ inch deep wherever you want the plants to grow. Seeds should germinate within two to three weeks under most conditions. Begin sowing seeds as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring. Thin emerging seedlings so that there are eight to 10 inches between plants. Seeds also can be started indoors four to six weeks before they are to be transplanted outdoors, but they should be sown in individual peat pots and transplanted with extreme care. Love-in-a-mist does not transplant well because of its long taproot. Once established, love-in-a-mist readily self-sows. Thin the seedlings while small to prevent overcrowding or encroachment on neighboring plants. Deadhead regularly or remove seedpods early to reduce the density of volunteer seedlings.

Love-in-a-mist should begin to bloom about three months after seed germination and has a short bloom period (only a month or two). Make successive plantings every three weeks for continuous bloom all summer. Seeding in the summer or fall often will produce seedlings that will overwinter and bloom the following spring. Deadheading will prolong flowering, but will eliminate the plants’ decorative seedpods.

How do I use love-in-a-mist most effectively in my garden? Love-in-a-mist works well mixed with other annuals in informal or cottage gardens. It is good for filling gaps in flower borders and for short-term massed beddings. Individual plants can be added to hanging baskets, window boxes or containers where the finely-cut foliage provides an interesting texture until the plants begin to bloom. Love-in-a-mist can also be used as an edging plant, in a mass planting, or in combination with silver-leaved plants such as dusty miller (Senecio cineraria) or lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina). You can extend the usefulness of love-in-a-mist and bring its beauty indoors by planting it with strawflowers (Helichrysum spp.), bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus), bells-of-Ireland (Molucella laevis), globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa – see University of Wisconsin Garden Facts XHT1171) or other flowers that dry well.

Both the flowers and the decorative green and burgundy seed pods of love-in-a-mist can be used in fresh or dried floral arrangements. Cut flowers last longer if the leaves are removed from the lower part of the stem. To dry the seed pods, harvest when stripes are still visible and hang pods upside down in a dry, dark, airy place. Tie a paper bag around the pods to contain the seeds. Dividing the pods into small batches in separate bags will facilitate more rapid drying than placing them all in one large bag.


Additional Images

Love-in-a-mist typically produces blue flowers
Tags: annual Categories: Flower Selection

How to Grow Love in a Mist

Love in a mist, also referred to as Nigellas, are a classic cottage garden flower. This flower is a favourite for filling in any gaps in flower borders. They are extremely easy to grow with low maintenance required. For many years ‘Miss Jekyll’ was the only variety available which is a beautiful sky blue colour. This is still extremely popular, but there are also other varieties available such as ‘Allsorts’.

Even though these flowers are not particularly scented, they make a stunning cut flower in an arrangement but also dry very well. Once cut they normally last for around 7 to 10 days, making your arrangement look brighter for longer.

When to Sow

The seeds can be sown any time from March to September. Between April and August they can be sown directly into the garden soil. However, if sowing at any other time, you need to start sowing undercover. Their normal flowering period is July to September with flowers lasting for about 8 weeks. If you want earlier flowers, you can sow in the autumn. However, they will need to be grown in a cold frame or something similar, before planting out in the border.

Growing Tips

Love in a mist is best grown with very good exposure to the sun, and it is best to plant in either south-facing or west-facing sites. The soil needs to be well-drained too.

If you are sowing the seed directly into garden soil, you will need a relatively fine consistency. This makes it easier for shoots to push out into the light. When planting, be careful not to overcrowd, as the plants will compete for food, water and light. Sow your seeds thinly. Thin your plants out once they are about 2 to 3cm (1 inch) tall, leaving 10cm (4 inches) between them to prevent overcrowding. With Love-in-a-mist, the more space you give them, the longer they will continue ti bloom. Thinning out again after 6 weeks is probably a good idea. Aim to have the plants about 6 inches apart.

They are a fairly hardy flower, which is why they require low maintenance. However, if you have planted them in a particularly windy location, it is best to support the stems with a cane. To maximise the flowering feed with Gro-Sure All Purpose Plant Food and remember to dead- head regularly.

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