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How to Grow and Care for Nemophila

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Nemophila species are spreading or prostrate annuals with saucer- or bell-shaped five-petaled flowers in shades of blue or white. Their low-growing habit makes them a good choice for edges of borders, rock gardens, and containers.

Nemophila flowers are distinctively marked with spots, blotches, or stripes in purple or black. Nemophila flowers from summer into autumn—most profusely in cool wet weather.

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Baby blue eyes, Nemophila maculata
Baby blue eyes, Nemophila maculata

Get to know Nemophila

  • Plant type: Cool-weather annual
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 3-11 as annual
  • Hardiness: Tender Annual
  • Height and width: 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall
  • Foliage: Pale green, hairy, fern-like foliage have a delicate appearance
  • Flowers: Saucer- or bell-shaped single flowers up to 1 inch across
  • Flower color: Blue and white
  • Bloom time: Spring and summer where temperatures are cool; stop blooming when hot weather arrives.
  • Uses: Mixed plantings or wildflower gardens
  • Common name: Baby blue eyes
  • Botanical name: Nemophila
  • Family name: Boraginaceae

Where to plant Nemophila

  • Plant Nemophila in full sun or partial shade. In hot summer regions, dappled shade is best.
  • Grow Nemophila in humus-rich, well-drained soil.

Nemophila uses

  • Low-growing Nemophila is a good choice for edges of borders, rock gardens, and containers.
  • Add Nemophila to wildflower gardens or cottage gardens. Nemophila is a California wildflower.
Nemophila menziesii
Nemophila menziesii

When to plant Nemophila

  • Set container-grown Nemophila outdoors after the last frost in spring.
  • Start seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost, allowing plants to bloom before hot summer weather arrives.
  • In Zones 7-11, sow seeds in the fall for bloom the following spring. Fall-sown plants tend to b larger and bloom earlier.
  • Sow seeds outdoors 2 weeks before the last frost in spring or in fall.

Planting and spacing Nemophila

  • Sow Nemophila seeds ¼ inch deep. Germination takes 7 to 21 days at 50°F (10°C).
  • Best to sow seeds where plants will grow.
  • Space Nemophila 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) apart.
  • Shelter fragile, succulent stems from the wind.
Nemophila menziesii
Nemophila menziesii

How to water and feed Nemophila

  • Keep the soil evenly moist. Nemophila thrives in moisture-retentive soil.
  • Water generously in dry weather.
  • Fertilize Nemophila lightly with an all-purpose fertilizer at planting time.

Nemophila care

  • Mulch around Nemophila with aged compost to conserve soil moisture.
  • Support Nemophila’s fragile stems with the support of short twigs, especially where there is a breeze or wind.

Nemophila pests and diseases

  • Nemophila is susceptible to attack by aphids. Rinse aphids off plants with a stream of water.
Nemophila maculata
Nemophila maculata

Nemophila propagation

  • Nemophila self-sows.
  • Seeds germinate in 10 to 14 days at 65°F (18°C). Plants will be large enough for transplanting in about 21 days. Flowers usually appear 11 to 12 weeks after sowing.

Nemophila varieties to grow

  • Nemophila maculata, Five-spot. Grows 6 to 12 inches (15-30cm) tall with fleshy stems and pinnate leaves; white flowers with a purple spot on the tip of each petal to almost 2 inches (5cm) wide; cool-weather annual blooms from early summer to mid-autumn.
  • N. menziesii, Baby blue eyes. Annual grows to 8 inches (20cm) tall; usually bears 1.5-inch-wide blue flowers with lighter blue centers; cultivars with white or pale blue flowers are available and spotted, blotched, or striped with dark blue or violet; cool-weather annual. Cultivars include ‘Pennie Black’ which has a deep purple-petalled flower with white edges; ‘Snowstorm’ has white flowers finely spotted with black on the inner petals.

Nemophila requently asked questions

Q: Can I start baby-blue-eye (Nemophila) indoors?

A: Yes, as long as the room is cool, about 55°F. Nemophila will grow quickly indoors, and in early spring as soon the soil can be worked they can be sown where plants are to grow outdoors.

Q: What conditions do baby blue eyes favor?

A; Plant Nemophila in full sun or light shade in light, sandy soil that is well drained. Feed the plants with an all-purpose fertilizer once during the growing season.

Q: Is Nemophila a perennial? Mine bloom every year.

A: Nemophila is an annual. It readily self-sows. That’s why you see it each year.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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