Love-in-a-Mist is a charming cottage garden flower that is incredibly easy and rewarding to grow. It’s one of only a few flowers that bloom with a true blue color and brightens up both the garden and flower arrangements.
With just a packet of seeds, you can easily grow Love in a Mist in your own garden. It’s short-lived but reseeds itself, so you can keep it coming back for years.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow and care for Love-in-a-Mist successfully.
What is Love in a Mist?
Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena) gets its fascinating name from the appearance of the plants. Delicate flowers bloom in a “mist” of feathery, dill-like foliage that gives plants a very ethereal quality.
Native to areas of southern Europe and northern Africa, the botanical name “Nigella” comes from the Latin word Niger, which means black. This refers to the dark black seeds of the plant that appear in seedpods when the flowers fade.
A true annual, anyone in USDA hardiness zones 2-11 can grow Love-in-a-Mist. Plants propagate themselves by seeding easily, and may return as “volunteers” in your garden next year.
Love in a Mist is a low-growing to medium height plant, usually topping out at 20 inches tall but sometimes staying around 8-10 inches tall.
Though blue is the traditional color for the flowers, there are also cultivars that come in shades of purple, pink, and white. They bloom for several weeks in the cool weather of spring and may bloom later in the season if allowed to reseed.
Though the traditional color of Love in a Mist is blue, today you can find cultivars in varying shades of pink, purple, and white. They look the most charming in a mix of different colors.
Even though the bloom time is mostly in the spring, Love-in-a-Mist offers two or three seasons of interest. After the flowers disappear, intriguing seedpods form and give your garden a quirky look. If the seeds are allowed to drop, you can have a second round of flowering in the fall.
Attractive to pollinators, this plant is also great for a cut flower garden because its blooms are long-lasting when cut.
There used to be only one or two standard varieties of Love in a Mist, but several new and excellent cultivars have been developed. Here’s a look at your top choices:
- ‘Miss Jekyll Blue’– This is the classic cultivar with sky blue flowers. It dates back all the way to 1895 and was named after the famous British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll.
- ‘Miss Jekyll Alba’– This is a white-flowering Love-in-the-Mist that has double blooms. It looks great mixed in with blue varieties.
- ‘Miss Jekyll’ Mix– If you like variety, this mix will give you several different shades of flowers: blue, purple, pink, and white.
- ‘Persian Jewels Indigo’– This cultivar features dark purple-blue blooms that are very striking.
- ‘Cambridge Blue’– If you are looking for a great cutting flower, ‘Cambridge Blue’ has long stems that are good for this purpose as well as double blue flowers.
- ‘Mulberry Rose’– This is a gorgeous cultivar with flowers that open up pink and deepen to a dark rose color. Heirloom variety.
How to Grow Love in a Mist
The best way to grow Love in a Mist is to start seeds directly in your garden. Plants develop long taproots and don’t transplant well, so buying plants or starting seeds indoors will often not be successful.
All you really need to successfully grow Love-in-a-Mist is a packet of seeds and a good space in your garden. The plants grow best from seed and don’t like being transplanted, so be sure to start them in their permanent place.
The good news is that plants are very easy to grow from seed and will cost you only as much as a packet of seeds.
When to Plant
Sow seeds in the spring when the soil temperature has warmed to about 60°F. If you live somewhere that has mild winters where the ground doesn’t freeze, you can sow seeds in the fall.
Because Love-in-a-Mist is a relatively short-lived plant, you may want to plant several rounds of seeds to get a continuous bloom period through spring and into summer. Sow seeds every few weeks until early summer to achieve this.
Plants grow best in cool weather (65-72°F), so you should stop planting seeds once the weather gets too hot in summer.
Where to Plant
Love in a Mist grows best in full sun, although you can grow it in partial shade as well. If you are growing it in partial shade, expect to get fewer flowers than you would if plants were getting full sun.
Plants aren’t overly picky about soil, but they do prefer well-drained soil and can tolerate somewhat dry conditions. Mix in some compost before planting to improve both the drainage and nutrient content of your soil.
How to Plant Seeds
Once you have a spot in your garden picked out, prepare it by weeding and adding amendments like compost as needed. Also, rake the top of the surface smooth so that the seeds will have a good place to sit.
Love-in-a-Mist seeds should be sown on top of the soil and gently raked or pressed in. You don’t want to cover them with soil (they need light to germinate), but you do want them to be pressed in slightly so that they don’t get washed or blown away.
Water the area where you sowed seeds, and be sure to mark it somehow so that you don’t accidentally plant over your seeds. Germination should take 10-14 days.
Once your plants have sprouted and are a few inches tall, thin them to a spacing of 4-9 inches depending on the mature size of the cultivar you’re growing. Try to keep the healthiest looking plants when possible, and snip off the others at ground level to avoid disturbing the roots of your other seedlings.
Love in a Mist is beautiful when it blooms and needs little care once established. You seedlings will need a little extra attention as they grow, especially weeding, watering, and a good thinning out.
Keep your seedlings watered as they grow, but avoid getting the leaves wet as much as possible.
Growing Love in a Mist in Containers
Love in a Mist can be grown in containers as well as in the ground. You can even get a headstart with container planting by starting seeds indoors. Just remember that you’ll need to start them in their permanent containers, since they don’t like to be transplanted.
Choose pots that have drainage holes in the bottom (or drill your own) and use a quality potting soil that drains well. Sow the seeds like you would in the ground: on top of the soil and pressed in.
Keep the soil moist as the seeds germinate, and thin them to a proper spacing so that plants aren’t overcrowded.
The one tip to remember with a container garden is that pots need to be watered more frequently than plants in the ground. Be sure to water before the soil completely dries out.
Love-in-a-Mist Plant Care
Because it’s a short-lived annual, Love in a Mist is incredibly easy to care for. You really won’t need to do much beyond watering and weeding.
Though they may look delicate, plants are actually very hardy and don’t need much attention during the growing season. Fertilizing isn’t required and deadheading is completely optional.
Fairly tolerant of dry conditions, you should still water your plants once or twice a week during long dry spells. They may need a little extra water during the hottest months because they really grow best in cool weather.
Deadheading is optional and not necessary in most cases. By letting the flowers alone, you’ll allow seedpods to develop that add interest to the garden.
Love-in-a-Mist does reseed readily. Most gardeners welcome this because it means you’ll get free plants popping up in your garden, but if you don’t want this to happen, cut off dead flowers or seed heads before the seeds drop.
Pests and Problems
Another thing that makes Love in a Mist a very low maintenance plant is that it’s virtually pest and disease free. Once again, this is mainly because plants have such short lifespans and are finished blooming before pests can attack.
Occasionally, you may notice fungal problems or unhealthy plants if you plant in ground that is too soggy or crowd plants together. Give them plenty of space and good drainage to avoid any problems.
Though perhaps most at home in a cottage garden, Love in a Mist has many uses in the landscape. It makes a good filler and can be used as part of a border. It’s also great for cut flowers in the spring.
Using Love in a Mist in the Garden
There are many places for Love-in-the-Mist in the garden. It’s a classic cottage garden plant, but can be used in many other creative ways. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use as part of a cut flower garden
- Add to a meadow garden with other annuals and perennials grasses
- Grow in containers or window baskets
- Sow over spring bulbs to cover bare spaces after they finish blooming
- Plant next to broad leaf plants for a contrast of foliage
- Don’t forget to use both the flowers and seedpods in floral arrangements
Enjoying the Show
Once you get Love in a Mist going in your garden, it tends to hang around for a while. You can enjoy its appearance each spring (and fall) and plant new seeds as necessary. You can even collect the dried seedpods and harvest the seeds from inside.
Many people end up falling in love with Love-in-a-Mist, especially those who enjoy putting together flower arrangements and bouquets. You can easily discover its beauty for yourself, and plant it next to other easy to grow annuals.