How to Grow Nigella Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Black Cumin, Fennel Flower, and Love in a Mist

Nigella are hardy annuals that grow from 15 to 60 cm (6 to 24 inches) in height.

Their seeds are often used in cooking. Nigella blooms in the summer with blue, pink, or white flowers and have feathery leaves.

Black Cumin

Some common names for Nigella include, Black Cumin, Fennel Flower, and Love in a mist.

When using Nigella seeds for cooking, the seeds can be harvested by placing the pods in a paper bag; allow to dry out completely and then rub the paper bag in your hands to release the black cumin seeds.

Next cut the corner of the bag and retrieve the seeds with use of a sieve. Ensure that the black cumin seeds are completely dry, then store in an airtight container.

Nigella Species and Cultivars

Nigella arvensis: Field nigella, Wild fennel flower

Field nigella
Nigella arvensis photograph by candiru; CC.

Nigella damascena: Love-in-a-mist, Devil in the bush

Nigella damascena photograph by Manu; CC.

Nigella damascena cultivar alba: White Love-in-a-mist

White Love-in-a-mist
Nigella damascena alba photograph by Swallowtail Garden Seeds; CC.

Nigella sativa: Black cumin, kalonji, Black caraway

Black cumin
Nigella sativa photograph by Eran Finkle; CC.

Nigella hispanica: Spanish Love in a Mist

Spanish Love in a Mist
Nigella hispanica photograph by gailhampshire; CC.

Common Gardener's Questions

What is Nigella?

Nigella are annual plants that are grown for ornamanetal and culinary use in the garden. Nigella sativa seeds are ground up as a spice, and are perhaps better known as 'Black Caraway', 'Black Cumin', or Black Coriander'. Other common names include Onion Seed, and Kalonji. Further to their culinary use, the seed heads are often used in floral arrangemaents.

What is a good location in the garden for Nigella?

These plants do best in a sunny area. If you are growing as an ornamental garden plant then they do well in numerous circumstances, such as in containers, as a patio feature plant, in borders, beds, coastal, and cottage gardens. The species Nigella damascena also known as Love-in-a-mist, is commonly grown in gardens.

Nigella by Tie Guy ll.

How tall are Nigella? and When do they bloom?

Plants can reach about 60 cm (2 feet) in height. Love in the Mist ranges from 20 to 50 cm (8 to 20 inches), with Spanish Love in the Mist (Nigella hispanica) being a tad taller at 60 cm (2 feet). Black cumin (Nigella sativa) typically reaches 20 to 30 cm (8 to 12 inches). Nigella blooms in early summer, with pale blue, white, or pink flowers.

Where is Nigella native to?

The genus is native to Mediterranean Europe and Africa through to Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent.

How to Grow Black Cumin (Nigella Plant)

It is best to sow black cumin seeds once a month from just before the last frost of spring until early summer, and then once again towards the end of autumn. This will result in a prolonged blooming period when growing black cumin plants.

Once sown, lightly cover the seeds. It should take about one or two weeks for Nigella species to germinate once the temperature reaches 15 degrees Centigrade (59°F).

Nigella Sativa
Nigella Sativa - Black Cumin by DominusVobiscum; creative commons.

Ideally Black cumin should be grown in a sunny part of the garden that has good drainage, and a soil of pH 6 to 7.

It is possible to grow Nigella species indoors first. It is best to initialy grow them in peat pots, and allow seven weeks or so before transplanting them in the garden in spring or autumn at about 25 cm (2 feet) apart.

Caring for Nigella Plants in your Garden

It is easy to look after Black cumin and other plants from the Nigella genus. Water them during very dry spells, and supply fertiliser.

If you are not growing Nigella for its seeds, then deadhead the flowers for further blooms and to stop them from spreading.

Nigella Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Black Cumin, Fennel Flower, Devil in a Bush, Love in a Mist.
Scientifc names: Nigella Sativa, N. damascena.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual, hardy annual.
Height: 8 to 20 inches (20 to 50 cm).
Native: Europe, Southwest Asia, North Africa.
Growing Region: Zones 2 to 10. UK RHS zone H3 (hardy in mild areas, otherwise start off indoors).
Flowers: Summer.
Flower Details: Pale blue, white, pink. At least five petals. Lacy bracts.
Sow Outside: Cover seed. Sow every three weeks from just before the last frost until the start of summer; and again in autumn (in warm areas). Spacing 10 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).
Sow Inside: Use peat pots. Germination time: two to three weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost or in autumn.
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 6 to 7. Average soil. Can survive in dry soils. Regular feed. Regular watering during prolonged dry periods. Deadhead.
Family: Ranunculaceae.
Miscellaneous: The seeds from Bunium persicum (synonymous with Carum bulbocastanum) are also known as black cumin. In addition to black cumin some other names for the seeds of Nigella sativa include Nutmeg flower; Blackseed; Black caraway; Fennel flower; and Roman coriander.

Nigella damascena
Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-mist) by OliBac.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Nigella plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Anemone hupehensis and Caltha plants.