How To Care For Nigella Flower

Nigella damascena [ny-JELL-luh] [dam-ASK-ee-nuh] is an annual flower in the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. 

It’s native to Europe, southwest Asia, and northern Africa. 

blooming nigella flower

The plant often grows in damp areas and is named after the city of Damascus in Syria. 

You may hear it called by the following common names including:

  • Love-in-a-mist
  • Devil in the bush
  • Ragged lady

The names come from the ring of lacy bracts around the flowers. 

Along with these common names, the plant is called the nigella flower. 

Nigella Flower Care

Size and Growth

Nigella damascena reaches a height of about 8″ to 20″ inches with light green foliage and fern-like leaves. 

Flowering and Fragrance

Love-in-a-mist blooms in the early summer. 

The flowers come in shades of blue, pale purple, pink, and white. 

Each flower contains between 5 and 25 sepals.

After the bloom, the plant produces an inflated seed capsule. 

The capsules eventually dry and drop to the ground, allowing the annual to self-seed on the same spot each year.

Light and Temperature

  • Grow the plant in full sun in the garden. 
  • Place potted plants near a bright window, such as a south-facing or west-facing window. 
  • If the direct sunlight scorches the leaves, move the plant further from the window.
  • Nigella flowers are annuals that grow well outdoors in almost any climate. 
  • It’s suitable for USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11. 
  • The ideal temperature range is between 65° and 72° degrees Fahrenheit (18° – 22° C).
  • As an annual, it won’t survive the winter, but it tends to self-seed in the garden.

Watering and Feeding

Make sure seeds receive frequent water. 

Water the soil when the top 2″ inches of soil become dry. 

After the plant is established, it only needs water during dry spells. 

Add a liquid fertilizer once per month to promote fuller growth. 

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Soil and Transplanting

  • Sow the seeds in average soil with good drainage. 
  • Don’t cover the seeds with soil. 
  • Simply scatter the seeds and run a rake over the top. 
  • Nutrient-rich soil provides the best results. 
  • As it prefers slightly dry conditions, overly moist soil may need some sand or gravelly material to increase drainage. 
  • The plant has a relatively weak root system and doesn’t respond well to transplanting. 
  • Sow the seeds in the location where the plant will grow for the rest of the season, such as the garden or a container.

Grooming

  • Deadhead spent flowers to prolong the bloom. 
  • Pinch or prune the flowers just above the bud. 
  • Removing the flowers prevents the plant from producing the seed pods. 
  • If you plan on propagating the plant with seeds, avoid excessive deadheading.
  • After the flowers fade and the stems start to wilt, remove dying plants to provide room for nigella flowers sown later in the season.

How to Propagate Love In A Mist

Propagate love-in-a-mist from seeds. 

The plant produces many seeds after the flowering season. 

Collect the seed capsules before they drop to the ground.

Allow the capsules to dry and open them to remove the seeds. 

Sow the seeds in the garden after the last threat of frost.

The seedlings should appear in six to eight weeks, providing a fresh bloom of flowers at the start of summer. 

Use additional sowings every three to four weeks to enjoy bright flowers throughout the rest of summer and fall.

NOTE: It’s possible to sow the seeds indoors before the start of spring, but transplanting the seedlings may kill the plants. 

Love In A Mist Pest or Disease Problems

Nigella damascena rarely suffers from pest or disease problems. 

Whiteflies, thrips, and other common pests may still find their way into the flowers.

Use a jet of water from a hose to wash these pests away without damaging the plant. 

The water may not completely remove the pests. 

Continue spraying once per week to get rid of whiteflies and thrips.

If the infestation continues, try using insecticidal soap or Neem oil. 

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Spray the flowers each week until the pests are gone.

TIP: Make a DIY insecticidal soap with two teaspoons of baking soda, two teaspoons of dish soap, two teaspoons of white vinegar, and one gallon of water.

Check out our DIY insecticidal soap here.

Potted plants may suffer from fungal infections if planted in a pot or container with poor drainage. 

As the plant is short-lived, the best solution is to save the seeds and try again the following spring.

Is Nigella Love-In-A-Mist Toxic?

Another concern is the toxicity of the plant. The seeds contain a toxic alkaloid called damascenine.

The toxin causes mild symptoms when ingested by humans, including diarrhea and vomiting.

Damascenine isn’t toxic to animals, but ingesting the flowers or seed capsules may cause digestive discomfort or nausea. 

Suggested Nigella Damascena Uses

Use love-in-a-mist in mixed flower beds and borders. 

Place in front of taller plants to create more dimension. 

It’s also a great plant to grow on its own in a container.

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