Nigella damascena, love-in-a-mist, is an annual garden flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. It is native to southern Europe, north Africa and southwest Asia, where it is found on neglected, damp patches of land. Apart from Love in a mist it is also known as devil in the bush, bird’s nest, blue crown, blue spider flower, chase the devil, garden fennel, jack in prison, jack in the green, Katherine’s flower, kiss me twice before I rise, lady in the bower, love in a puzzle, love in a tangle, St Catherine’s flower, nigella, ragged lady, Spanish fennel flower, Wild fennel and Damascus hellebore. The plant is found growing in stony, sunny positions, dump sites, waste places, fields, meadows, roadsides and in rocky ground. Love-in-a-mist can tolerate somewhat dry conditions, as well as other types of soil, including loam, clay-loam, and gravelly soil. The common name “Love-in-a-mist” is given because the flowers are surrounded by a ruff of similar leaves, giving the appearance of the flowers being surrounded by a mist.
Love in a Mist is an upright growing, small to medium sized, annual garden flowering plant. The stem can be branched or unbranched, erect, slender, about 10-75 cm long and glabrous. The leaves are primary or secondary pinnately lobed and finely lobed. The lower stem leaves are stalked, 2-3 mm long, and the upper leaves are sessile. Plants have finely cut, bright green leaves that resembles fennel leaves. The flowers, blooming in early summer, are most commonly different shades of blue, but can be white, pink, or pale purple, with 5 to 25 sepals. The actual petals are located at the base of the stamens and are minute and clawed. The sepals are the only colored part of the perianth. The four to five carpels of the compound pistil have each an erect style. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule, growing from a compound ovary, and is composed of several united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. This is rather exceptional for a member of the buttercup family. The capsule becomes brown in late summer. The plant self-seeds, growing on the same spot year after year.
Table of Contents
8 - 24 inches
3 - 12 inches
6.0 - 7.5
Growth Nutrition of Love-in-a-Mist
Love In A Mist need 3 main nutrients to grow and blossom.
Nitrogen (N) – This helps with root and steam growth and provides a firm base for the plant
Phosphorus (P) – This helps with roots absorbing nutrients better
Potassium (K) – This protects love in the mist against diseases and helps with love in the mist color.
Love In A Mist also need:
Magnesium – Helps plants better process sunlight
Sulfur – Provides love in the mist with additional protein, which is needed for a strong life.
Iron – Helps Love In The Mist have a strong base.
Manganese – Helps love in the mist growth and process of sunlight.
Types of Love-in-a-Mist
'Miss Jekyll', a popular and common variety with flowers in shades of white, blue, and rose
'Miss Jekyll Alba', a double, white-flowered cultivar with bright green seed pods
'Persian Jewels', a mixture of purple, pink, lavender, blue, rose, and white shades that grows 12 to 18 inches tall
'Blue Midget', a dwarf variety that grows to only about ten inches tall; suitable for edging
'Cambridge Blue', a long-stemmed variety with double blue flowers and best for cutting
'Moody Blues', is an attractive mixture of different blue shades
'Delft Blue', is a pretty mix of blue and white shades
'Midnight', has darker flowers of a striking shade of velvety-blue
'Mulberry Rose', a deeper pink selection.
'Oxford Blue', a tall variety with dark seed pods and deep blue flowers.
How to Grow Love-in-a-Mist From Seed
The seeds are best direct-sown outdoors which avoids disturbing the roots during transplanting.
Seeds can be sown from early spring throughout the summer and even into fall in climates with mild winters where the plants might be able to overwinter.
When sowing seeds in early spring, do so when the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scatter the seeds in a sunny location. Rake them in. You don't need to cover the seeds with soil, but they do need to be pressed down slightly. Cover lightly with soil because light is required for germination.
Keep the soil moist. Germination takes from two to three weeks.
Thin seedlings so they're spaced eight to ten inches apart.
How to Get Love-in-a-Mist to Bloom
If this plant is struggling to bloom, make sure it has adequate water and fertilizer, and thin the plants to create more room between them. Consider sowing them in a brighter area next time. Take the time to deadhead the flowers to encourage more blooming.
Love-in-a-mist is a wonderful cottage garden plant and a great filler. The airy foliage makes a nice complement to broader-leaved plants.
Nigella is a short-lived plant and probably won't make it through an entire growing season. For continuous blooms throughout the summer, make succession plantings every three weeks. Once your plants have begun to scatter seeds on their own, you won't need to continue sowing.
For the most blooms, plant love-in-a-mist in full sun; it will do fine in partial shade but will produce fewer blooms.
N. damascena is not overly particular about soil quality, but it will grow and bloom best in nutrient-rich, fertile soil. When it grows in native areas, the plant prefers moist sandy soil, though it doesn't like to sit in wet soil and does best with a neutral soil pH. Love-in-a-mist can tolerate somewhat dry conditions as well as other types of soil, including loam, clay-loam, and gravelly.
Love-in-a-mist likes consistent moisture, Water it slowly but deeply until the top couple of inches of the soil are well-saturated.
Temperature and Humidity
Sow in the early spring months when the soil temperature has reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The plant thrives in temperatures between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add a general-purpose fertilizer to the soil when planting Nigella damascena, and then fertilize it once a month afterward. For the amount to use, follow the product label instructions.
Pruning and Propagating Love-in-a-Mist
Cutting flowers for bouquets and deadheading will keep your plants flowering a bit longer, but you'll sacrifice the fascinating seed pods. Love-in-a-mist easily self-sows, so you can thin the seedlings to prevent overcrowding. Harvest for bouquets when flower buds have fully colored or pods have begun to develop.
As an annual that does not like to be transplanted, love-in-a-mist is best grown from seed. The plant easily reseeds itself and if you are lucky, the seeds overwinter in the garden and burst to life in the spring.
Potting and Repotting Love-in-a-Mist
You can grow love-in-a-mist in pots if the pot is large and deep enough for the size of the mature plant. For a single plant, use a one-gallon container with large drainage holes. Clay and terracotta containers are usually best because excess moisture evaporates through the material quickly.
Repotting is not recommended because of the plant's taproot.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Luckily, N. damascena is virtually problem-free once established, probably because the plants don't live long enough to be bothered by pests or disease.
Benefits of Love-in-a-Mist
It has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-parasitic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In Eastern traditional medicine it is used for the treatment of high temperatures, regulation of menstruation or catarrhal affections.
Love-in-a-mist seeds are said to have an expectorant effect in small doses (which is used to treat coughs).
Herbal healers grind these seeds into a paste and mix them with honey for treatment of flu, asthma and upper-respiratory conditions.
These seeds if consumed in moderation can help digestion.
It is also used to fight diabetes, cholesterol and reduce pain.
Love-in-a-mist has the effect of removing gastrointestinal parasites and prolactin.
Seed can be consumed raw or cooked.
Normally it is used as a condiment and has a nutmeg flavor.
Seeds have been used as a condiment and in confectionery, to flavor wines and snuff.
It can be found in baked goods, pickles, and can also be used as a substitute for pepper.
Love in a mist makes an excellent and long-lasting cut flower, and the seed heads can also be dried and used in flower arrangements.