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How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Nigella Flowers | Almanac.com

Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist)

Nigella damascena, love-in-a-mist, or devil in the bush, is an annual garden flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae.
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LifeisticAC/Shutterstock
Botanical Name
Nigella damascena
Plant Type
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Hardiness Zone

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Growing and Caring for Love-in-a-Mist Flowers

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This beautiful old-fashioned flower goes by many names! But whether you call it Nigella, love-in-a-mist, fennel-flower, bishop’s-wort, or old man’s beard, this annual makes a stunning addition to your gardens and containers. Learn how to plant, grow, and care for Nigella.

About the Nigella Flower

Nigella damascena is an easy-to-grow annual best known for its lacy foliage; jewel-like blue, pink, lavender, and white flowers on 1-1/2- to 2-foot-tall stems; and uncommonly striped and spiny seed capsules. A cool-weather annual plant hardy in Zones 2 to 11, Nigella, is suitable for in-ground and container planting.

Both the flowers and seedpods, fresh or dried, make eye-catching additions to bouquets and arrangements. See more flowers that make great additions to cutting gardens.

Nigella is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and a cousin to the delphinium

Its genus name comes from the Latin word niger, meaning “black”—a reference to the color of its seeds. The plant’s species name refers to Damascus, Syria, where the plant grows in the wild.

Planting

Nigella (Love-in-a-mist) grows easily from seed in the ground or soil. Seeds can be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost, but this is not recommended, as nigella generally dislikes being transplanted.

For best results, direct-sow in full sun in spring as soon as the soil can be worked (some growers recommend when the soil reaches 60°F). Average, well-draining soil is suitable. Germination occurs in 2 to 3 weeks.

Provide consistent moisture. Learn how to properly water your flowers for healthy growth.

Thin seedlings to be up to be 8 to 10 inches apart. Too-close plants will become tall and spindly as they reach for sunlight.

Growing

Fertilizer is not necessary. Excessive nitrogen can cause spindly plants, as can excessive watering and/or standing water.

Deadheading will prolong the bloom period but eliminate the seedpods. Nigella will self-seed. To prevent this, remove the seed heads before they mature.

Growers’ only disappointment may be that Nigella is short-lived: Once established, it will flower for several weeks beginning in late spring. However, in moderate climates (65° to 70°F), successive sowings (every 3 to 4 weeks until midsummer) will keep plants and flowers coming well into the fall. (Note that high heat may cause plants to wilt.) 

love-in-a-mist flower and seeds in the garden
Love-in-a-mist flowers, seed pods, and seeds.
Photo: Martina Unbehauen
Harvesting

At the end of the season, dry the seedpods: Cut them while green and fresh. Bunch the stems with string or a twist-tie and hang them upside down in a cool, dry, dark location for several weeks.

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Wit and Wisdom
  • Nigella damascena bears many names. One is Katharine’s flower, after the saint who suffered martyrdom on a wheel, which is a reference to the way in which the plant’s flower parts spread like the spokes of a wheel. A few of its other names include devil-in-a-bush (a reference to its seedpods), fennel-flower (a reference to its foliage), bishop’s-wort, old man’s beard, and kiss- me-twice-before-I-rise.
  •  Do not confuse N. damascena with its cousin N. sativa, whose seeds produce edible black cumin.

About The Author

Carol Connare

As the 14th editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Carol Connare works with writers and other editors to develop “new, useful, and entertaining matter” for the annual Almanac as well as books, calendars, and other publications. Read More from Carol Connare

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