Scabiosa (“Pincushion Flower”)

I’m a sucker for old-fashioned looking flowers like the kind you see in a typical English Cottage Garden.  However, England’s climate isn’t all that similar to mine.  In fact, not at all.

20180601_184521(All links open a new page, so you won’t lose your spot when you look around!  Get information on gardening and cultural traditions, recipes, stories, and more!)

*A handy growing summary chart is at the end of the article.*

My zone 9 garden sees highs in the summer that easily reach 105° F and above, and then drops down below freezing in the winter.  We easily go 6-7 months each year without any rain, so water-intensive plants are not really suitable, even with irrigation.  Not only has this plant made it, it has flourished and thrived providing me with ample blooms to grace my garden each year.

20180611_180811Scabiosa, also known as “Pincushion Flower”, are prolific producers of tightly packed blossoms that can be nearly two inches across.  They come in colors in the blue and purple range, as well as burgundy, shades of pink, and white.  All are magnets for pollinators like butterflies.  The shape of the plant will depend on the variety you have.  Some have low lying clusters of leaves, while others may be more elongated and tall.  All produce flowers on long, leafless stems that are perfect for cutting and putting into arrangements.

This is the seed head left after the flower petals have dropped.

The taller varieties are perfect for the middle of the flower garden, and may flop over without other plants to support them.  The more compact forms can be moved further to the front.  Scabiosa will bloom starting in spring and continue off and on until the temperatures drop in winter.  If winters are mild, they may bloom all year.  Trimming off spent blooms will help encourage more flower production.  If the seed heads are allowed to stay on the plant, they will self seed easily helping to fill open spaces in your garden with more lovely blooms of varying colors.

20180601_184542Our scabiosas have been growing in a mostly clay soil and have been thriving.  Be sure not to overwater, especially if your soil is heavy.  They can tolerate very dry conditions, but will flower more if more regularly watered.  Being primarily native to the Mediterranean, they are very well suited to our conditions here.

20180601_190725Plant Summary:

  • Annual, Biennial, or Perennial: Depends on variety
  • Height: depends on variety, 1 – 3 feet
  • Width: depends on variety, 1 – 1 1/2 feet
  • Sun: full sun, can tolerate morning or afternoon shade in hot areas
  • Water: light
  • Soil pH: neutral to slightly acidic
  • Soil type: can tolerate various types, but does better in soils that are not too dense
  • Key nutrients: fertilize as you would for other flowers
  • Planting time: spring after danger of heavy freeze
  • Zones: 5-9




6 thoughts on “Scabiosa (“Pincushion Flower”)

  1. It seems like years ago, they were only available in the color of the first picture or white. I do not remember any of the odd colors that I see them in now. I sometimes look closer to see that they really are what they are supposed to be.


      1. If they are self sowing, they must be somewhat genetically stable. That would be nice. I have not noticed them self sowing, but they are not very common either. We have a few in a newly landscaped area, so if a few self sow in the spring, that would be just fine.


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