Butterfly blue pincushion flower

Pincushion flower

Pincushion Flower

These long-blooming perennials—and in some cases, annuals—have long been prized for their old-fashioned charm and versatility. They get their name from their interesting flowers that resemble little pincushions. Their ability to bloom from spring until frost makes them a must in any garden, especially for their use as a cut flower. Because their overall habit is fairly short, pincushion flowers can work well in the front of the border or mixed in with other plants. For the most dramatic effect, plant them en masse to see the blooms dancing in the garden.

<a href=”http://www.bhg.com/gardening/flowers/perennials/reblooming-beauties-for… more reblooming beauties for the garden.

genus name
  • Scabiosa
  • Sun
plant type
  • Annual,
  • Perennial
  • 6 to 12 inches,
  • 1 to 3 feet
  • 9 to 24 inches
flower color
  • Blue,
  • Purple,
  • White,
  • Pink
foliage color
  • Blue/Green
season features
  • Spring Bloom,
  • Fall Bloom,
  • Summer Bloom
problem solvers
  • Deer Resistant,
  • Drought Tolerant
special features
  • Low Maintenance,
  • Attracts Birds,
  • Good for Containers,
  • Cut Flowers
  • 3,
  • 4,
  • 5,
  • 6,
  • 7,
  • 8,
  • 9,
  • 10,
  • 11
  • Seed,
  • Stem Cuttings

Colorful Combinations

This lovely perennial makes a great companion to many garden plants. Most commonly, the beautiful pincushion flower is found in lovely shades of sky blue, but keep an eye out for black-purple, shades of lilac, and pinks and white. Since these soft tones work well with so many different plants, it’s easy to find a spot in any garden for pincushion flower. The foliage of pincushion flower is also fairly unobtrusive, forming a nice mat of growth with lightly dissected foliage that works well as a backdrop for this beautiful flower.

Pincushion Flower Care Must-Knows

The easy elegance of the pincushion flower is matched in its equally easy growth requirements. Pincushion flowers grow best in well-drained soils and are fairly tolerant of drought. Heavy, wet soils can be the death of pincushion flowers, even if they seem fine during the growing season. If your area has issues with wet soils during the winter, you may want to treat pincushion as an annual.

For the best blooms, give pincushion flowers full sun. They can tolerate part sun, especially in the heat of the south, but will definitely perform best in full sun. In anything less, there is a possibility of powdery mildew, which isn’t fatal, but is something to keep an eye out for. In part sun, the flower stalks can also become more stretched and may flop, so plant them around taller plants that they can lean on, if needed.

Because these plants are such prolific bloomers, cutting back old blooms can encourage continued blooms. Some pincushion flowers can seed about politely in the garden, nothing invasive, so you may find an errant seedling or two appear in your garden beds. Keep in mind that if you planted a named variety, these seedlings will not be quite the same as their parents.

New Innovations

Despite all of the wonderful attributes of these plants, they have had little work done with them. Part of this may be because of the already exceptional nature of the plants. Most of the work has been on making more dwarf plants and increasing the color variability. Some varieties have come out with beautiful reds, pinks, and even soft apricots. Some have been bred especially for the cut flower industry, looking for larger blooms on long stalks.

Garden Plans For Pincushion flower

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More Varieties of Pincushion Flower

Butterfly Blue pincushion flower

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Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ blooms all summer with lavender-blue flowers on 16-inch-tall stems. Zones 3-8

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Scabiosa caucasica bears flat, 2-inch-wide flowerheads with pincushion-like central florets surrounded by larger petal-like florets in pale blues, pinks, and white. These are carried on 2-feet-tall stems. Zones 4-9

Pink Mist pincushion flower

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The compact perennial Scabiosa ‘Pink Mist’ has airy blooms of light pink from April until frost. Zones 5-9

Plant Pincushion Flower With:

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Phlox is a bounteous summer flower that any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn’t be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as groundcovers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively, especially to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.

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Easy and undemanding, veronicas catch the eye in sunny gardens over many months. Some have mats with loose clusters of saucer-shape flowers, while others group their star or tubular flowers into erect tight spikes. A few veronicas bring elusive blue to the garden, but more often the flowers are purplish or violet blue, rosy pink, or white. Provide full sun and average well-drained soil. Regular deadheading extends bloom time.

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The quintessential cottage flower, pinks are treasured for their grasslike blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which are often spicily fragrant. Depending on the type of pink, flowers appear in spring or summer and tend to be pink, red, white, rose, or lavender, but come in nearly all shades except true blue. Plants range from tiny creeping groundcovers to 30-inch-tall cut flowers, which are a favorite with florists. Foliage is blue-green. Shown above: ‘Firewitch’ dianthus

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One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Coreopsis, depending on the variety, also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer as long as it’s deadheaded.


Attractive group of annuals and perennials, with showy flower heads that resemble pincushions on slender stems. These dainty blooms flower over a very long period (from summer into autumn), so are an extremely useful addition to the herbaceous border.

Attractive to wildlife. They encourage bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies, moths and other pollinators into the garden.

Family: caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle family), dipsacaceae (teasel family)
Botanical Name: Scabiosa
Common Names: Scabious, pincushion flower, sweet scabious
Foliage: Deciduous or evergreen leaves, small and pinnately lobed.
Flowers: Pincushion like flower-heads with enlarged outer florets. In a wide variety of solid or pastel shades. Single, double or semi-double forms are available.
Flowering Period: July to September.
Soil: Moist but well-drained. Chalk, sand or loam. Acid, alkaline or neutral pH. Ensure soil is well drained in winter. Drought tolerant.
Conditions: Full sun. South, west or east facing aspect. Exposed or Sheltered location. Support the taller varieties with twigs against summer winds.
Habit: Clump forming.
Type: Mainly evergreen perennials but can also be annuals, biennials or herbaceous perennials.
Hardiness: Hardy in most areas of the UK.
Origin: Native to Europe, Asia and Africa.

Planting and Growing Scabiosa

Popularly grown in garden borders for their button like pincushion flowers, which provide a bright display. Plant in a sunny site with a moist but well-drained soil that contains a little lime. Especially good in chalky soils, but will tolerate well-worked clay. Plant at the front or in the middle of summer flower beds, borders, raised beds and rock gardens.

An ideal choice for coastal, city and courtyard gardens. Also good for cottage, wild and informal gardens. Ideal plant for pots and containers.

Plant out in early spring and cut stems down in late autumn.

Excellent as cut flowers. Also, if the flower heads are allowed to run to seed, they are ideal for flower arranging when dried.

Taking Care of Scabiosa

Pruning Scabiosa

Deadhead spent flowers to prolong flowering period. Cut back again in the autumn.

Pests and Diseases

Generally pest and disease free. May be susceptible to snails, slugs and powdery mildew. Root rot can occur on heavy soils.

Propagating Scabiosa

Grow annuals from seed sown where they are to flower in spring and grow perennials from seed sown in autumn. Increase perennials by taking basal cuttings in summer or by division early in spring. Note: sterile hybrids will not self-seed.

Scabious ‘Kudos Collection’

Popular Varieties of Scabiosa Grown in the UK

There are many different cultivars of Scabiosa available from annuals, biennials to herbaceous perennials. Scabiosa Mixed Giant hybrids, in mixed colours with large flowers, are some of the easiest to grow from seed.

S. caucasica ‘Clive Greaves’ is a hardy perennial with attractive, blue-violet or mauve flowers on long stems appearing all summer long. Height and spread 2ft (60cm).
S. caucasica ‘Miss Willmott’ and ‘Bressingham White’ have white flowers.
S. caucasica ‘Moerheim Blue’ is a rich violet-blue.

S. graminifolia evergreen perennial with lilacy pink flowers, from late spring to early summer. Silvery grey grassy foliage. Good rock garden specimen or front of the border. Height: 10in (25cm), spread: 1ft (30cm).

Scabiosa stellata (paper moon, starflower) a group of annuals with more rounded flower heads on wiry stems. The papery bracts of S. stellata make excellent dried flowers.

More Information About Scabiosa

Scabiosa is a genus of 100 species of flowering perennials native primarily to the Mediterranean but also to Africa, Asia, and Europe. The genus name, Scabiosa, and the lesser known common name, scabious, derive from the Latin word for “scab” or “itch” because the plants were used in medieval medicine to treat the disease, scabies. An old-fashioned common name, mournful bride, refers to the fact that scabiosa was used in funeral wreaths and symbolizes mourning, widowhood, and unfortunate love. We prefer the happier, less itchy and more garden-centric name, pincushion flower, which perfectly describes the wide, flat, frilly flower clusters in a variety of colors that are held at the end of wiry stems. Scabiosa is a valuable garden perennial because the showy flowers (great for arrangements) bloom over a long period of time, attracting birds, bees and butterflies and they are both drought-tolerant and deer-resistant.
We grow the perennial scabiosa but it can also be found as an annual or biennial.. Scabiosa prefers full sun, rich, well-drained soil and looks great along the edge of a border or grown in mass groupings. Deadheading will increase flowering. Try pairing scabiosa with other sun-loving, low-growing perennials like campanula, hemerocallis, dianthus, agave, and sedum. When you are ready to buy scabiosa for your garden, check out our online list of scabiosa for sale.

Plant Finder

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower flowers

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower flowers

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Plant Height: 6 inches

Flower Height: 12 inches

Spacing: 10 inches


Hardiness Zone: 4a

Other Names: Scabious


This variety is a low, evenly mounded perennial with low stems that bear small lacy pincushion flowers of violet with a flush of blue; long blooming and perfect for edging, rock gardens, or containers

Ornamental Features

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower features unusual violet pincushion flowers with blue overtones at the ends of the stems from early summer to early fall. The flowers are excellent for cutting. Its deeply cut ferny leaves remain grayish green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower is an herbaceous biennial with tall flower stalks held atop a low mound of foliage. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.

This is a relatively low maintenance plant, and should be cut back in late fall in preparation for winter. It is a good choice for attracting bees and butterflies to your yard, but is not particularly attractive to deer who tend to leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Container Planting

Planting & Growing

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower will grow to be only 6 inches tall at maturity extending to 12 inches tall with the flowers, with a spread of 12 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 10 inches apart. It grows at a fast rate, and tends to be biennial, meaning that it puts on vegetative growth the first year, flowers the second, and then dies.

This plant should only be grown in full sunlight. It prefers to grow in average to dry locations, and dislikes excessive moisture. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America. It can be propagated by division; however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Ritz Blue Pincushion Flower is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor pots and containers. It is often used as a ‘filler’ in the ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container combination, providing a mass of flowers against which the larger thriller plants stand out. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.

Growing Conditions For Scabiosa Flowers – How To Care For Scabiosa Pincushion Flower

Looking for a new addition to the flower garden? Try scabiosa, also known as pincushion flower. This easy-care plant works well nearly anywhere and its interesting flowers are a stunning sight to behold. They are especially attractive to butterflies. This plant is suitable for bed and border plantings or in containers. The long stems and flowering season also makes it ideal for use in cutting gardens.

What are Pincushion Flowers?

The pincushion flower is part of the Scabiosa genus of flowering plants. Its common name derived from the flower’s cushion-like center and pin-looking stamens, which resemble that of a pincushion. This attractive summer bloomer can be found in a variety of colors with blue, purple and white being the most notable. Flowers may reach up to a foot or two (.3-.6 m.) in height above the lush gray to blue-green foliage. In addition, there are both annual and perennial types of scabiosa:

Annual pincushion (Scabiosa atropurpurea) – This type must be replanted each year, though in some areas they may reseed. Generally, the flowers of annual pincushion are somewhat smaller than their perennial counterparts and may include more color variety as well, ranging in shades of deep maroon, lavender-blue, rose, pink and


Perennial pincushion (Scabiosa caucasica) – Perennial scabiosa plants are most often found in shades of blue or white, though pink varieties are available as well. Flowers are also larger, up to 2 ½ to 3 inches (7-7.5 cm.) and will normally bloom from late spring/early summer until the first frost. Unlike the annual type, their foliage remains green year round and will return each year.

How to Grow a Pincushion Flower

So what are the growing conditions for scabiosa flowers? These plants are hardy to USDA plant hardiness zones 3-7 and most suitable to temperate conditions. They do not like to be cold, nor do they like overly wet conditions. Scabiosa plants also dislike hot, humid weather.

Regardless of the type planted, these flowers perform best in full sun and require well-draining, organic-rich soil. The addition of compost, well rotted manure or peat moss will help enrich the soil.

Pincushion flowers are normally grown by seed, though container-grown plants may also be available. They can be started from seed indoors during early spring or sown directly in the garden after the threat of frost has passed. The seeds germinate within two weeks and can be individually potted and transferred to the garden by May. They should be spaced at least 10-12 inches (25-30 cm.) apart. Perennial varieties can also be planted out in fall. Water scabiosa thoroughly after planting. Both annual and perennial types will usually flower in their first year.

How to Care for Scabiosa Plants

Their overall care is minimal, with exception to watering during unusually dry conditions, as rainfall is normally adequate in meeting their needs. Water once a week when there is no rain and twice a week during drought-like conditions.

With adequate growing conditions and soil, pincushion flowers require little, if any, fertilizer.

Caring for pincushion plants does involve some upkeep, however. Deadheading spent blooms is necessary to keep the plants flowering and also improves their appearance. Pruning can be performed as well, especially with perennial plantings. Cuts should be made just above a leaf joint, or the stems can be cut back to the bottom leaves in fall.

Perennial types can be propagated through both seed and division. Overcrowded plants should be divided every three to four years in early spring.

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