If you’re looking for color and whimsy in your landscape, or you want to attract pollinators to your wildlife garden, baby blue eyes is the plant for you.
There comes a moment when a gardener discovers they’re also a magician. When you plant the seed, water just right, and watch the tiny sprout emerge from beneath the soil, you feel the power of participating in nature.
Every plant is enchanting, but there’s something extra special about growing wildflowers, found in abundance in storybook magical meadows.
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Delicate underfoot, native wildflower baby blue eyes conjures incredible bright blue blooms that will captivate visitors to your garden.
Indigenous to the Willamette River Valley and coastal ranges of Oregon, all the way south through Baja, California, this beautiful flower is moderately drought tolerant and attracts beneficial insects.
Perfect for garden beds, containers, borders, and hanging planters, these annuals are easy to grow. Creating the right conditions with partial shade and appropriate soil, you will be able to cultivate your own baby blue eyes.
You’re really only a few steps away from having your own magical meadow.
Get ready for the magic! Here’s what we’ll cover:
What You’ll Learn
Ready to learn your next trick? Here’s what every garden magician needs to know about growing baby blue eyes.
What Is Baby Blue Eyes?
A member of the Boraginaceae family, and the Hydrophyllaceae subfamily, this dainty annual is found in meadows, chaparral, moist woods, and cool slopes, mostly on the American West Coast, in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Alaska.
Its common name, baby blue eyes, tells the story of its bright and attractive features.
Reaching a mature height of six inches with a spread of one foot, it has five-petaled flowers that are white in the center with brilliant baby blue hues from the mid-petal out to the tips.
The flowers grow in a cluster from the branch tips, on green or purple stems thick with white hairs.
Baby blue eyes is easy to grow from seed and requires only moderate maintenance. An ornamental native wildflower, it can self-seed and produce new plants the next year.
A lovely companion plant, baby blue eyes grows well with succulents, cacti, and other wildflowers like the California poppy. An important ally in wildlife gardens, it attracts bees, butterflies, moths, and other beneficial insects.
Like many indigenous plants, it makes an excellent addition to a pollinator garden. Many winged insects will fly in to eat the flower’s nectar and help promote biodiversity. Baby blue eyes is an excellent forage source for native bees, which are suffering a population crisis.
Cultivation and History
No doubt its alluring appearance has made baby blue eyes a popular wildflower. It’s easy to find seeds online and they’re often found in commercial wildflower seed mixes.
Its latin genus name Nemophila means “woodland-loving.” Specifically, this comes from the Latin word “nemos,” which refers to a glade, also known as a wooded pasture or a grove, and the Greek word “philos,” which translates to loving.
Menziesii is attributed to Scottish naturalist and physician Archibald Menzies, who brought back many new varieties of plants on his way home from a fur-trading sea voyage around Cape Horn in 1786.
Cultivated for over a century in Europe, baby blue eyes is a native species of the Pacific Northwest, ranging from coastal regions of Oregon and California south into Baja California. It grows wild at elevations up to 6,500 feet above sea level, and it has naturalized in parts of Arkansas and Nevada as well.
Happiest in cool summer climates with nighttime temperatures consistently below 65°F, baby blue eyes loves biospheres like the temperate Willamette River Valley in Oregon and chaparral in Baja California, which spans parts of the State of California and northern Mexico.
This species will thrive in Zones 7 to 10, growing quickly, blooming in spring, and self-seeding for the next season.
Most gardeners grow baby blue eyes from seed. It’s best to sow in early spring, though this species can handle a fall planting if left undisturbed through the winter.
Seeds will germinate in spring or fall in warm temperatures between 59 and 70°F.
Broadcasting or direct sowing individually will work with these small wildflower seeds.
They should be pressed lightly – by about one-sixteenth of an inch – into the surface of slightly moist, organically rich soil that’s free of any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.
Packed with minerals and microorganisms, rich and healthy soil feeds your plants with its carbon-rich nutrients.
Signs of nutrient-rich soil are a dark color, and the presence of thriving earthworms and fungi. If your soil needs amending, just top dress with an inch or two of organic compost – there’s no need to dig it in.
You can also plant seeds directly into a container with holes for drainage, filled with organically-rich potting mix. Any size pot with a capacity ranging from one to five gallons will make a perfect container for baby blue eyes cultivation.
The soil needs to stay warm and moist, and germination can take a total of seven to 30 days.
For an earlier start, particularly if you live in a colder climate, you can start seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Using seed-starting mix and containers with holes for drainage, plant the seeds in the soil and keep them in a warm location.
Small recycled plastic containers are great for this, or you may like to use biodegradable pots to ease the transition when transplanting. You can also plant directly into the containers or hanging planters where you wish to keep your baby blue eyes for the duration.
Maintain moisture in the soil after the seeds sprout. When the seedlings are big enough to move you can transplant them outdoors, as described below.
Seedlings will develop green leaves and a small stem. The stems develop white hairs all over them and are almost succulent-like as they get bigger.
Baby blue eyes seedlings don’t transplant easily because they are delicate, so be sure to handle them carefully. When the seedlings are at least an inch tall with two sets of true leaves, they’re ready.
The soil you are moving seedlings to should be similar in quality to what you started the seeds in, to avoid shocking the plants. Make sure it’s moist and loamy, handle the plants carefully, and the transition should be flawless.
Make a small hole in the soil for the roots to move into, loosen the soil they’re in, place into the hole, and backfill gently.
Larger holes can be dug for biodegradable containers that you will plant without removing the seedlings first, and some cardboard or peat pots may benefit from having their bottoms gently removed first to allow for root growth.
How to Grow
Overall, this plant has a short growing season of up to five months, depending on the location, and a medium growth rate.
This wildflower is happiest in partial shade. If you plant yours in a brighter location, try to limit sun exposure to two to six hours per day.
If planted in full sun, these plants must have consistently moist soil. Otherwise, it is moderately drought tolerant once mature. Think about recreating that Pacific Northwest coastal environment where these flowers like to grow.
Keep the soil somewhat moist as the plant matures, and don’t ever let it dry out completely. Only plant in soil that drains well, and don’t drench the dirt. A slightly acidic to slightly neutral soil pH of 6.0 to 8.0 is best.
If you don’t know the pH of your soil, you can do a soil test. Most commercial potting mixes will provide a sufficient pH within this range.
This plant does like to spread and it has a trailing habit – let it have the space required to flourish if you can. Pruning of any kind is not required, and you will be rewarded with generous blooms in early spring, starting at a minimum of 60 days from germination.
Plants will self-seed if they are pollinated and sprout again if they like their living conditions.
If you want to save the seeds, you can cut the seed heads off before the first frost, or in warmer climates, cut them off before the flower completely falls over.
The seed pods will turn brown as the plant dies off and once they are completely dry, they will open easily to allow you to harvest the seed inside.
Dry the seed heads out in a paper bag, harvest the seeds, store them in a small envelope or plastic container, and keep them in a cool place out of direct sunlight. The process is practically effortless! Saved seeds can be planted the following spring.
- Broadcast seed or direct sow individually, and lightly cover with soil.
- Provide moist and loamy soil, and plant in partial shade to partial sun.
- Do not allow the soil to dry out.
Once your baby blue eyes has gained some height, and the stems and leaves are established, plan to irrigate a few times a month in the absence of rain, or whenever the soil is dry a few inches down.
This species is moderately drought tolerant, but be sure to pay attention and keep the soil moist without drenching it.
Note that the soil in containers and hanging planters will often dry out more quickly than the ground, particularly in warm weather.
Baby blue eyes can tolerate cool temperatures above freezing, but not for very long. A cold snap might kill your plants, so keep an eye on the weather forecast.
You can make a small cover out of plastic or thin fabric like a bedsheet to provide some warm protection in advance of cold weather.
When the flowers are spent, you can deadhead them yourself to avoid self-sowing. Simply cut off or pinch each flower stem below the spent flower, and right above the first set of full leaves.
Varieties and Cultivars to Select
N. menziesii var. menziesii seeds are widely available for purchase.
You can buy them in packet, one-ounce, quarter-pound, and one-pound sizes from Eden Brothers.
They can also be found in popular California wildflower seed mixes, such as the California Color Flower Mix available from Botanical Interests.
Nemophila menziesii var. atomaria is another variety of the species commonly known as “white form” baby blue eyes.
Recommended cultivars of this variety include ‘Snow White,’ which has white petals, and ‘Snowstorm,’ which has saucer-shaped white flowers with purple spots.
‘Snow White’ seeds are available in packet, one-ounce, and quarter-pound sizes from Eden Brothers.
Cloud 9 – White Flower Seed Mix
‘Snow White’ seeds are also found in Cloud 9 – White Flower Seed Mix from Eden Brothers.
Nemophila menziesii var. integrifolia features blue flowers with very prominent deep blue veins.
A Nemophila seed mix of various species in the genus is available in packet, one-ounce, and quarter-pound sizes from Eden Brothers.
Managing Pests and Disease
Baby blue eyes has a short growing season, which means there’s less time for disease or pests to take hold than what you might see with perennials.
But be vigilant nonetheless about checking in on your plants daily to see if anything looks different so there is time to take action.
Aphids, powdery mildew, and downy mildew may strike. If another plant nearby is under siege, there is a chance that the disease or infestation could spread.
In shade or partial sun, there is often opportunity for moisture to build up that could aid in spreading disease.
The plants need to dry adequately after rain or irrigation, and you should always be sure to water at the soil line to avoid sprinkling the flowers or foliage.
Baby blue eyes are suited to coastal conditions where the air is moist, but available sunlight is key for stopping any mildew that’s hanging around in its tracks. Proper spacing between plants is also important, to avoid potential fungal issues.
Let’s explore the most common pests and pathogens you may come across when growing these charming wildflowers.
Aphids are attracted to baby blue eyes. They’re unwelcome as they can totally stall a plant’s growth and hinder its ability to reach maturity.
Use a strong stream of water from the hose to spray them off, spray an organic soap and water mixture on the stems, or grab a paper towel and wipe them off the plant to get rid of them.
This species serves as a host plant to Annaphila depicta moths, and if enough larvae hatch, the caterpillars could destroy your plants by eating both the leaves and the petals. If you see caterpillars, pick them off by hand.
Other moths that have been observed with baby blue eyes are the funereal duskywing (Erynnis funeralis), alfalfa looper (Autographa californica), Viridiseptis marina, and Stamnodes albiapicata.
Any plant grown in coastal conditions and in a temperate climate like what you’d see in this species’ native environment in the Pacific Northwest may also have issues with the spread of powdery and downy mildews.
The pathogens that cause these diseases usually travel through the air, and sun is the best antidote.
If you do start to see mildew, cut the affected leaves off immediately. Sometimes you can stop it from spreading – see our guide to homemade remedies for powdery mildew for suggestions.
Spend time in the garden daily, even if it’s just a quick check-in to see how your plants are doing. That is the best way to prevent diseases from striking or spreading.
Baby blue eyes are truly meant to be admired if you spot them in the wild.
Imagine driving along the coast and seeing a meadow of colorful wildflowers out of your window. Don’t try to cut a bunch of them for a vase, whether seen outdoors or grown in the garden, because this won’t do them justice.
Perhaps one for your hair. Though some wildflowers are suitable for cut arrangements, these are so delicate, they won’t last long.
N. menziesii makes a wonderful complement to larger plants when planted in borders, and it’s suitable for use as ground cover because of the way it spreads. A small plant, its trailing, whimsical habit brings life to the small, intimate spaces between larger plants. Its tendency to spread helps it to fill out any space it inhabits nicely.
Like most wildflowers, it’s in their nature to flow freely and find what position suits them best. It really makes an excellent ground cover for this reason. Baby blue eyes can tolerate light foot traffic, but it is delicate.
As an understated highlight, it will accentuate larger or more established plants that serve as a focal point while retaining its own soft appeal.
Perfect for garden beds, borders, and hanging planters, N. menziesii can be sown with other annuals in a meadow or wildflower garden, or on their own in the intimate borders and ground cover spaces between trees and shrubs.
Explore growing it with companion flowers like the California poppy, and mix colors to create a kaleidoscopic patch within your landscape.
Its petite form is also perfect for containers and hanging baskets.
Quick Reference Growing Guide
|Plant Type:||Flowering annual||Flower / Foliage Color:||Blue, bicolored, white/green-gray|
|Native to:||California, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska||Tolerance:||Drought, full sun|
|Hardiness (USDA Zone):||7-10||Soil Type:||Loamy|
|Exposure:||Part shade||Soil Drainage:||Well-draining|
|Spacing:||12 inches||Attracts:||Native bees, bumblebees, Annaphila depicta moths|
|Planting Depth:||1/16 inch (seeds), 2 inches (transplants)||Companion Planting:||Other cool-weather flowering annuals including California poppy, pansy, calendula, dianthus, Johnny jump up, sweet alyssum|
|Height:||9 inches||Uses:||Borders, containers, hanging baskets, wildflower meadow|
|Time to Maturity:||60 days||Subfamily:||Hydrophyllaceae|
|Water Needs:||Low once established||Genus:||Nemophila|
|Common Pests and Diseases:||Aphids; powdery mildew, downy mildew||Varieties:||Atomaria, integrifolia, menziesii|
Wildflowers Worth Growing
Make magic in your garden and learn to cultivate baby blue eyes. Easy to grow from seed, just provide the right conditions and have fun watching it mature and bloom with pretty springtime flowers.
Bees and butterflies will spend more time in your garden to eat the flower nectar and encourage other wildlife to stop by too.
You’re sure to appreciate watching baby blue eyes grow and spread out between trees or large shrubs, or in a three-gallon container on the porch.
You can even move your container around your garden, playing with the blue hues in different locations to complement other plants!
Add this magic trick to your gardening lineup today.
Please share your experience growing this cool wildflower in the comments below, and let us know if you have any cultivation questions.
If you enjoyed learning how to grow baby blue eyes, you’re sure to enjoy reading about more native wildflowers, starting with these: