Nigella damscena flowers

Colour Change: Nigella

Since my post about colour-changing spring peas, I’ve been looking out for more flowers that change colour. There’s been one practically right in front of me but I hadn’t noticed it until now.

Nigella damascena (probably ‘Miss Jekyll’) has been seeding itself around our garden for a few years. It becomes covered in lots of soft blue flowers and some that are white with blue veins. I’d always liked the pale-coloured buds best as a subject to photograph because of the extra detail of the delicate blue veins on the bluish-white petals.

Nigella damascena bud about to open.
This light-coloured bud of a nigella flower is just about to open.

Despite photographing them fairly frequently, I hadn’t realised that these pale flowers were the immature colouration. I had thought that they were a variation and that the flowers just came in a mix of blues on each plant. However, I’ve just read online comments by other gardeners who say the lighter coloured flowers gradually darken to give the beautiful sky-blue of the mature flower.

I don’t know why I didn’t notice this before. Even now I’m wondering if it is really true. I’ve just been out in the garden to look at the plants and all the buds I could see were light-coloured. There were no darker blue buds. So it seems that all the flowers do indeed start off as a white slightly flushed with a pale blue and with the blue and green veins as shown above.

Most of the mature flowers were blue but I could see one or two that were still pale. Maybe they will darken to the same blue as the rest if given time. Or will they? It will be difficult to tell because the seed pods develop quickly, so the whole plant is always changing. Perhaps some flowers simply don’t mature as fully as others before their petals drop. Trying to find the answer will give me a very good reason to look at these pretty flowers more often!

Blue Nigella damascena flower
This nigella flower has matured to a lovely blue.

22 thoughts on “Colour Change: Nigella

    1. I think they must like poor soil and dry conditions – like we have here. They would easily take over if allowed to! But then there are so many things that don’t like growing here…

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    1. It’s intriguing to watch out for the unexpected in your garden. There are tiny mysteries to be explored! Most of my nigellas are starting to go over – there are lots of big fat pods appearing.

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    1. Thank you Indira! It was enjoyable to watch out for the changes and now I’m seeing lots of seedpods appearing.


  1. I have a friend who grows these in her Texas hill country garden: white, pink, and blue. I remember hers emerging as that deep blue color, so I was surprised to see the difference in yours. Do you think it’s a difference in cultivars? Or just a natural variation? One of the sites I looked at listed light blue, dark blue, medium blue, and blue violet as possible colors (along with various pinks), but I didn’t find any information about the color change. I’ll have to ask my friend if I remembered her colors correctly, or if she sees the same transformation.

    I really like the veining you’ve captured here. It will be interesting to see what you discover as you watch them develop.

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    1. There are a number of different cultivars, some that looks rather exciting to photograph, so I must try growing them. In the past we have grown a mix that came up in pink, blue and pure white, like those in your friend’s garden. The variety here is probably the commonest one. I must try some of the others next year… 🙂


  2. Really pretty flowers in this Nigella plant. Are they really tiny? They look really delicate. I have a hibiscus plant that sometimes has brighter colored blossoms than at other times – I thought it was due either to the amount of water or fertilizer it was getting or the angle of the sun from my porch. I wonder if older plants give darker blooms. Just contemplating. Anyway, your blooms have a really nice color to them.

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    1. I wouldn’t say they were tiny – probably about 3-4 cm but the buds can be very small at first. I love the delicate look of them – like a little fantasy flower! Our blue hardy hibiscus can have flowers that vary in brightness too. I think it’s the age of the flower, with them getting duller and darker as they age, but I’m not sure. I should really make an effort to watch them properly, but they do go over and get replaced by new flowers very quickly.

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    1. These are annuals but have come up every year after they were first sown. They like sun and good drainage – if you can give them that they should be very happy. I have quite a few blue flowers here because it’s one of my favourite colours but I think pink and yellow are possibly more common, especially in the wild. Campanulas are great for blues and there are good blue geraniums, though they have often got a pinkish tone to them. There’s not so many really ‘true’ blues.

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  3. Thank you for posting about this! Just a couple of years ago, we noticed that our Nigella flowers were starting off completely white, and then over the next few days, first the edges would turn pink and gradually darken, followed by the rest of the flower until it was solidly coloured. We’ve been letting ours self-seed ever since the late 70s, and we never noticed it before the last couple of years, so it’s good to know that other people have spotted this too.

    I find it hard to believe we (myself and my mother) would have missed this, considering that I planted them (under her guidance) when I was a tot and we’ve always watched out for the first blooms and (over the last couple of decades) have taken and sent digital photos of them. So I’m not sure if this has always been a thing, or if this is a novel mutation that’s developed over time.

    Sadly, we ended up having to replant about a decade ago using a fresh packet of seeds – such a shame, as there was something special about knowing that the flowers were all direct generations from those first ones that I had planted so long ago as a toddler) but I’m not sure what cultivar my mum purchased to replant with. I’ll ask her if she can remember.

    As for the mechanism, our initial hypothesis is that it’s perhaps related to the amount of sunlight the flower receives – almost as though the flower is getting a “sun tan”, as it were. I might ask my mum if she can run a quick-and-dirty experiment and cover one of the newly opened and still completely white (or barely coloured at the edge) flowers with something that blocks the sunlight, and see if the colour continues to deepen and spread on that individual bloom…

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    1. It’s really interesting to read about your experience with the pink Nigella. It’s behaving in the same way as my blue ones – so good to have the confirmation that I wasn’t somehow imagining it! 🙂 It’s strange that you so rarely see anyone comment on this colour change – I wonder if it’s because the seeds are so often sold in packs of mixed colours and folk think they are just seeing flowers that should be white.
      It’s a shame that you had to replant – there’s something lovely about having generations of a plant that come from your childhood planting. Maybe one or two will survive amongst the new plants.


      1. That’s what I hope, too. We managed to collect the seeds and replant them in a handful of properties through the years, and it’s nice to think that even if somehow none of them made it through at my parents’ current home, perhaps they’re still busily self-seeding themselves around the various homes we had in the past. 🙂

        I actually spoke to my mum about it yesterday – she confirmed that when she replanted, it was with straight pink seeds, and it only started to happen in the last few years. I know that when we first planted them when I was a kid, they were all blue, but over the years we managed to get pretty much all colours just from the self-seeding, so I can only assume that there were some sneaky recessive alleles hiding away in those blue flowers!

        She actually said that after getting flooded by the deluge a few weeks back, and then being left to dry out again, despite it being winter, somehow some of them have started to flower, despite it being a month away from Christmas! She’s currently moved them into the garage for warmth, so when those go to seed, I’m going to get her to send me some of the colour-changing seeds and plant some with me, too. I feel like I will always have a soft spot for them, even if they’re not the same plants that are descended from way back when.

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      2. I love the idea of the Nigella seeding itself around your former homes! Some of the other plants in my own garden (especially the forget-me-nots) were probably here for a long time too and I like the feeling that they’ve been passed down to me by a previous gardener.
        Interesting that some of your mother’s plants are already starting to flower. I have tiny Nigella seedlings here but it will be a long time before they flower – possibly late spring if it’s warm and sunny.


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