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Plant Spotlight: Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella Damascena)

Updated on July 14, 2015
LisaRoppolo profile image

Lisa is a writer & gardener with an extensive knowledge of plants and plant care. Her articles focus on easy care tips for home gardeners.

What is Love-in-a-Mist?

Love-in-a-Mist is a very delicate ornamental flower with feathery, almost fern-like leaves. Part of the Buttercup family of plants, they come in colors of white, blue and pink. Native to Southern Europe, North Africa and Southwestern Asia, Love-in-a-mist can be found growing wild in meadows, fields, along road sides and edges of woodlands.

Love-in-a-Mist traditional Blue and White Flowers
Love-in-a-Mist traditional Blue and White Flowers | Source

An Unusual Name for an Unusual-Looking Plant

Nigella Damascena earns its name of Love-in-a-Mist with a tangle of ferny, fennel like foliage that form a "mist" around the flowers.

It is sometimes called Devil-in-the-Bush because of the balloon-shaped seed pods that are produced after the flowers have disappeared. The seed pods have spikey "horns" attached and seem to be hiding behind the ferny foliage.

Love-in-a-Mist is also referred to as Bride-in-Hair from the Renaissance tradition of a bride going to her wedding with her hair down to signify her virginity.

Blue love-in-a-mist flower
Blue love-in-a-mist flower | Source

Have you ever heard or seen Love-in-a-Mist?

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Love-in-a-Mist the Subject of Poems

Love In A Mist

Light love in a mist, by the midsummer moon misguided, Scarce seen in the twilight garden if gloom insist, Seems vainly to seek for a star whose gleam has derided

Light love in a mist.

All day in the sun, when the breezes do all they list, His soft blue raiment of cloudlike blossom abided Unrent and unwithered of winds and of rays that kissed.

Blithe-hearted or sad, as the cloud or the sun subsided, Love smiled in the flower with a meaning whereof none wist Save two that beheld, as a gleam that before them glided,

Light love in a mist.

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

White Love-in-a-Mist flower close up
White Love-in-a-Mist flower close up | Source

Love-in-a-Mist Growing Conditions

Although this plant is considered an annual, if left to go to seed, it will self-sow year after year. So, make sure you plant it in a "permanent" spot. Otherwise, you will be trying to pull it out for years to come. Best in Zones 3 through 11.

Love-in-a-Mist grows from 8 inches to 20 inches tall in full-sun. It blooms early to mid-summer. After blooming, it forms very unusual seed heads. Deadhead the heads or you can leave them on for interest.

How to Grow from Seed

I've never seen these plants for sale at any nursery, so I don't really know if they transplant well. The grow super easy from seed and pests and diseases don't seem to affect them.

  1. After your last frost, sow directly outside 3 to 6 inches apart and 1/4 of an inch deep.
  2. Water moderately.
  3. Seedlings should emerge in one to two weeks.

They don't have any special soil requirements and will also do well in a part-shade area.

To collect seeds, break open the completely dried seed pods, collect the seeds and store in a cool, dry and dark place.

Love-in-a Mist seed pods
Love-in-a Mist seed pods | Source

Did You Know?

Love-in-a-Mist flowers are dedicated to St. Catherine on the 25th of November. It is said that this Christian martyr was tortured on a spiked wheel. The Love-in-a-Mist's "spikey" foliage is a representation of that wheel.

Common Varieties

Love-in-a-Mist comes in a few different varieties. The most common are the blue/white/pink combinations. Hybridizers have taken the common varieties and produced some deeply colored variations. Some of the common mixes are:

Persian Jewels- Blue, White, Rose, Red and Violet colored flowers.

Persian Jewels Indigo- Deep Indigo Blue blooms.

Miss Jekyll- Sky blue blooms.

Love-in-a-Mist blooms in white/blue mix
Love-in-a-Mist blooms in white/blue mix | Source

Applications in the Garden

Love-in-a-Mist is an excellent for naturalizing. It is used in cottage gardens and was commonly used in Victorian times, because it evoked love and romance.

Other applications include:

  • Wildflower Gardens
  • Container Gardens
  • The dried seed pods can be used in flower arrangements
  • Planting along fence rows

White Love In A Mist-another view
White Love In A Mist-another view | Source

Love-in-a-Mist's Common Cousin, Nigella Sativa

It is a common misnomer that the common Indian spice, Black Cumin comes from Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella Damascena). It does not come from the common flower, but does come from Nigella Sativa, a cousin of Love-in-a-Mist. They are very similar in looks and growing habits, which is where the confusion often lies.

Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant that grows to8 to 12 inches tall and is native to Asia and the Middle East. The flowers of this plant are very delicate and pale colored and white, similar to the common Nigella Damascena. The seeds are used in Middle Eastern cooking, such as in their local breads. The seeds are also used for their natural healing abilities.

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© 2014 Lisa Roppolo


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