Also called love-in-a-mist, nigella has fine, airy foliage that frames its multilayered, soft blue flowers. And after the petals drop, the plant still looks attractive, thanks to its long-lasting seed pods that resemble tiny fairy lanterns. This easy-to-grow annual works especially well in a cottage garden design, where it can be allowed to reseed itself and help fill open spots in the garden.
Nigella Care Must-Knows
Nigella is easiest to grow by seeding directly into the garden. Choose a full sun location with well-drained soil. Sow seeds into finely textured soil in early spring as soon as the ground can be worked. In mild climates, sow in cool fall weather for spring bloom. Sow seeds 2-3 inches apart and cover with 1/4 inch of soil. For an informal, cottage garden planting, broadcast seeds thinly in a garden bed and cover with ¼ inch of fine soil. Thin young seedlings before they get too crowded. Thin or transplant seedlings to 4-5 inches apart.
Sow a new crop every three weeks or so from early spring through early summer for season-long cottage flowers. Nigella's self-seeding nature is often appreciated in cottage garden settings, and young seedlings are easy to pull or remove if desired. You can reduce self-seeding by deadheading plants as soon as the petals fall.
Related: Our Favorite Fall Annuals
Nigella seed pods can be dried for use in arrangements. Cut the seed pods shortly after the petals drop and before the pods mature and split. Gather stems into loose bundles and hang them upside down out of direct sun to dry.
More Varieties of Nigella
Nigella Companion Plants
If you love morning glories, try this low-growing cousin, which has even more gorgeous sky blue flowers. Like the morning glory that grows upward, this more earthbound beauty produces striking blue flowers all season long. And like its cousin, the flowers tend to close in the afternoon hours. In Zones 8-11, in the warmest part of the country, this tropical is a perennial; farther north, it's grown as an annual. Its spreading habit is perfect for spilling over baskets, window boxes, and other containers. Plant established plants outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Evolvulus likes rich, well-drained soil and needs just average water. It's somewhat drought-tolerant, so don't overwater.
Pentas is one of the best butterfly-attracting plants around. It blooms all summer long, even during the hottest weather, with large clusters of starry blooms that attract butterflies by the dozens as well as hummingbirds. The plant grows well in containers and in the ground -- and it can even make a good houseplant if you have enough light. It does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Pentas is grown as an annual in most parts of the country, but it's hardy in Zones 10-11. Plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
From tiny, cheerful Johnny jump-ups to the stunning 3-inch blooms of Majestic Giant pansies, the genus Viola has a spectacular array of delightful plants for the spring garden. They're must-haves to celebrate the first days of spring since they don't mind cold weather and can even take a little snow and ice! They're pretty planted in masses in the ground, but also cherished for the early color they bring to pots, window boxes, and other containers. By summer, pansies bloom less and their foliage starts to brown. It's at this time that you'll have to be tough and tear them out and replant with warm-season annuals, such as marigolds or petunias. But that's part of their charm—they are an ephemeral celebration of spring!