Working with Nemesia

NEM Sunglow
Nemesia ‘Sunglow’ provides an extra 4 weeks of early summer performance

Opening early is a strategic move. Retailers, landscapers, gardeners, and other early birds often look to work the soil as soon as it signals that it is ready. For the professional there is the added benefit of re-starting the revenue stream a little earlier.

Behind that decision lays the question: “What do I have to work with?” One obvious answer is Pansies and Violas; a not-so-obvious one is Nemesia. Let’s take a look at how you might start the season with a different look, plus a few dos-and-don’ts. Whether you bother with Nemesia depends on whether you like what you see.

NEM Momento White
'Momento White' shows us the bubbly, frothy appearance of Nemesia

ADVANTAGE 01: Pansy Companions

Nemesia likes the same climate as Pansies, but backed off just a little. It can handle chilly weather and bad storms, but a little less than Pansies. When a frost rolls in, it can tolerate the chill but a cover is needed over the blooms to protect them from blemishes caused by the bite.

More importantly, Nemesia looks nothing like Pansies. It has a bubbly, frothy appearance that gives off a vibe somewhere between Callibrachoa and Snapdragon. Colors and bicolors are very close to Pansies so it’s easy to work in color relationship while playing up the very different textures.

NEM Aromatica Rose Pink 01
‘Aromatica Rose Pink’ was bred to add fragrance to the garden or containers


Emerging from their cabin fever, customers are hypersensitive to all that they’ve missed. For example, all Nemesia varieties have some scent but it varies among cultivars. That fragrance takes on extra meaning in the beginning—it’s a Nemesia specialty and it generates a lot of comments.

If you plan to make fragrance a part of your offerings, consider working with ‘Aromatica Royal Blue’ and ‘Aromatica Rose Pink’. They were bred especially for fragrance with a sweet, close-to-honeysuckle scent. If you work with containers, hangers or even small mixed gardens, adding a touch of Aromatica Nemesia to the mix is like spritzing on a little perfume or cologne before a date.

NEM Aromatica Royal Blue
Apply ‘Aromatica Royal Blue’ to a design as you would cologne before a date

ADVANTAGE 03: Wider Tolerance

Nemesia bred in the past decade or two has a broader range of blooming weeks than older varieties. For example, the Aromatica series we just discussed can handle colder temperatures better than the usual varieties because it was bred about a decade ago specifically for better cold tolerance.

On the other hand we have ‘Sunglow’, released by Ball Ingenuity just this year. It lasts an astounding four or more weeks in the heat of summer. Nemesia, like other plants, shuts its blooms down when the night temperatures rise above 65 degrees. This usually puts the kibosh on the Nemesia garden by the end of May or mid-June.

Last year, however, ‘Sunglow’ bloomed through a string of 80-degree nights in its Chicago trials. That means it would probably last an extra four or so weeks in a Nemesia bed, giving the landscaper an extra month’s leeway to schedule the replacement beds before the color quits.

NEM Sunsatia Lemon
‘Sunsatia Lemon’ shows the typical success that beginners have with Nemesia

ADVANTAGE 04: Easy Success

Nemesia is one of the easier plants to deploy because it has no special pH or mineral requirements and there aren’t any key soil conditions that it needs. As long as there is a regular source of water, Nemesia is content to bloom.

Roots on this plant are thin and fine like those of Pansies and Heuchera. Most early material has roots like this (except the strapping roots of Osteos) so it can go into shallower bowls, troughs, or planters—but regular water? Those roots are the reason why. Once planted, Nemesia pretty much jumps up and gets to work producing color. This makes it a great choice for beginner gardeners or those who want easy-and-successful solutions right from the start.

NEM Momento Burgundy Frost
‘Momento Burgundy Frost’ adds a unique look to the start of the season

ADVANTAGE 05: The Ability to Mix and Match

Nemesia doesn’t look like Pansies or Violas. This fact opens up more design avenues when constructing a look—whether in a container or bed, or on a retail bench. Nemesia’s unique appearance is especially valuable as the season first opens, when the design choices are so few.

You can, of course, do mass plantings in a single color or bicolor. To vary up your Pansy work, it’s pretty easy to find a contrasting, complementary, or complex bicolor Nemesia to use in conjunction with the Pansies. For containers and hangers, Nemesia is an excellent choice to go into that first batch of offerings because of its low temperature tolerance, ease of care, and wide range of color choices.

NEM Sunsatia Coconut
‘Sunsatia Coconut’ is clean white with a dot of butter yellow in the center

 Getting into Trouble

Of course, knowing what a tool should not do helps us to use it correctly—a screwdriver should not hammer nails, for example. In this case, Nemesia is not a hot-weather plant. All Nemesia varieties will shut down when sustained summer heat blasts into the picture. You can extend the back end of Nemesia by freshening the bed with a second planting of Nemesia to squeeze more time out of the back end, but that’s it.

Keep in mind that night temperatures are the tipping point. Around 65 degrees (sustained), most Nemesias start to shut down their bloom cycle for the season. ‘Sunglow’ looks like it will be the exception. Its higher tolerance seems like it might allow us to escape the night temperature trap, but this variety is very new on the market.

NEM Opal Innocence
‘Opal Innocence’ is the pastel version of Nemesia

Another problem is running out of gas. Nemesia is so trouble-free that it is often neglected. When the soil runs out of fertilizer, Nemesia quits. You can get an extra boost of performance and long life by giving it a general feeding about a month after planting, or around the end of April.

One other variability is habit; no two haircuts are quite the same. All Nemesia plants have a generally upright habit, but some are wider, others are taller and yet others are open. Each is a little bit different, more like your high school yearbook than the army where everyone wears the same buzz cut.

NEM Bluebird
‘Bluebird’ broadens our range of colors and bicolors in the Nemesia category

Better Options for Early Openings and Deployments

These are the reasons why we’ve beefed up our own Nemesia options. Longtime customers will notice that we have a much broader selection of both colors and bicolors in the category. Nemesia makes our Pansy selection more competitive because we are now offering another look that’s safe to buy and deploy in Cincinnati’s March weather. These plants grow right next to Pansies but they look nothing like Pansies, though they do share the same color palette.

NEM Aromatica Rose Pink 03
The Aromatica series is more open than the Sunsatia series

Most Nemesia varieties have a small eye, so the colors below refer to the petals themselves—all are available in the 4.5-inch pot:


  • White: ‘Sunsatia Coconut’ (yellow eye); ‘Momento White’ (pale eye)
  • Blue/Purple: ‘Bluebird’ (Medium); ‘Opal Innocence’ (Lavender); ‘Aromatica Royal Blue’ (Dark)
  • Yellow: ‘Sunsatia Lemon’
  • Pink: ‘Aromatica Rose Pink’


  • ‘Momento Burgundy Frost’
  • ‘Sunglow’

NEM Aromatica Rose Pink 02