Guided by experiment and band structure, we introduce and study a phenomenological Landau theory for the unusual charge and spin ordering associated with the Mott transition in the perovskite nickelates, with chemical formula RNiO3, where R=Pr, Nd,Sm, Eu, Ho, Y, and Lu. While the Landau theory has general applicability, we show that for the most conducting materials, R=Pr, Nd, both types of order can be understood in terms of a nearly nested spin-density wave. Furthermore, we argue that in this regime, the charge ordering is reliant upon the orthorhombic symmetry of the sample, and therefore proportional to the magnitude of the orthorhombic distortion. The first order nature of the phase transitions is also explained. We briefly show by example how the theory is readily adapted to modified geometries such as nickelate films.