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Nigella damascena - Growing Love-in-a-Mist in Your Garden

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Nigella - Double Flowered Blue

Nigella - Double Flowered Blue

Photo: © Marie Iannotti (2008) licensed to About.com, Inc.

Overview:

Nigella earns its common name of Love-in-a-Mist with a tangle of ferny, fennel like foliage that form a mist around the flowers. I'm not sure why anyone would call Nigella Devil in the Bush. Nigella flowers start off as interesting puffs, open into rich toned, straw-flower like blossoms and change into equally attractive seed pods.

Latin Name:

Nigella damascena

Common Name: Nigella, Love-in-a-Mist, Devil in the Bush, Persian Jewels

USDA Hardiness Zone:

Annual. Self-sows freely, but not aggressively.

Exposure:

Full Sun to Partial Shade

Mature Size:

H: 15" (30-40 cm) x W: 3-6" (7-15 cm)

Bloom Period:

Late Spring through Fall.

Description:

Once you see Nigella in bloom, you will always recognize it by its unique mist of airy bracts and foliage. The foliage is ferny, the flowers are fluffy and the seed pods are intriguing. Best known for the vivid blue blossom variety, Nigella also blooms in purples, pinks and white.

FYI - Nigella seeds, sometimes called Black Cumin, are from a related plant, Nigella sativa.

Design Suggestions:

Nigella is a wonderful cottage garden plant and a great filler. The airy foliage makes a nice complement to broader leaved plants. The flowers keep well as cut flowers. The seed pods can be dried and used in arrangements. To dry the pods, cut while the pods are still green and somewhat fresh. Tie the stems into a bundle and hand upside down to dry. You can cut the seed pods in half to display the interesting seed chamber structure.

Suggested Varieties:

  • 'Miss Jekyll' - This is perhaps the most popular series with flowers in shades of white, blue and rose.

  • 'Persian Jewels' - This is a mix of colors that grows 12 - 18" (5 -7cm).

  • 'Blue Midget' - A dwarf variety that grows to only about 10" (25cm). Nice for edging.

  • 'Cambridge Blue' - A long-stemmed variety, with double blue flowers. Nice for cutting.

Growing Tips:

Nigella does not like being transplanted and does best if direct seeded outdoors. Seed can be sown from early spring, throughout the summer and even in fall, in climates with mild winters.

Choose a site that gets either full sun or at least morning sun. Nigella is not particular about soil quality, but it doesn't like to remain wet.

To sow, simply scatter the seed and rake it in. You don't really need to cover the seed with soil, but it does need to be pressed down slightly.

Maintenance: Nigella is a short lived plant and probably won't make through an entire growing season. For a continuous bloom, repeat sow every 4 weeks. Once your plants have begun to scatter seed, you won't need to continue sowing.

Cutting and deadheading will keep your plants flowering a bit longer, but you'll sacrifice the seed pods.

Pests & Problems: Virtually pest free, once established.

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