How to Grow Scabiosa Plants

Guide to Growing Pincushion Flower & Scabious

The Scabiosa genus is large, and thus plants grown in the garden may be hardy annual, half hardy annual, hardy biennial, or Hardy perennial in nature.

Scabiosa plants range in height from 15 to 60 cm (6 to 24 inches).

Scabiosa – Pincushion Flower by Photofarmer.

They bloom from Summer through to the first months of autumn. Scabiosa carry domed flowers of red, white, blue, purple, or yellow. These display atop long stems.

Scabiosa africana
Scabiosa africana by Easterbilby; Both photographs under creative commons.

As they are often mat forming, they make ideal plants for use in garden borders or for cover.

Some of the common names for Scabiosa include, Scabious, Sweet Scabious, Pincushion flower, and Mourning-bride.

Commonly Grown Scabiosa Species

Scabiosa atropurpurea

Scabiosa atropurpurea
Scabiosa atropurpurea (Sweet Scabious / Mourningbride / Mournful Widow / Pincushion Flower), photograph by gailhampshire; CC.

Scabiosa columbaria

Scabiosa columbaria
Scabiosa columbaria (Small Scabious / Dwarf Pincushion Flower), photograph by Ralf Wimmer; CC.

Scabiosa caucasica

Scabiosa caucasica syn. Lomelosia caucasica.

Scabiosa caucasica
Scabiosa caucasica (Caucasian Pincushion Flower / Caucasian Scabious), picture by 阿橋 HQ; CC.

Scabiosa Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Pincushion Flower, Scabious: Sweet; Mediterranean Sweet; Small; Glossy; Yellow; Southern. Egyptian Bride, Mourning Bride, Carmel Daisy, Starflower Pincushion.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual, hardy annual. Hardy biennial. Hardy perennial.
Height: 6 to 30 inches (15 to 75 cm).
Native: Europe, Asia, North Africa.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 10.

Family: Caprifoliaceae.
Flowers: Summer and autumn.
Flower Details: Blue, cream, lilac, red, yellow, purple/black. Multiple small flowers on a single stalk.
Foliage: Herbaceous. Odd Pinnate.

Sow Outside: Cover seed.
Annuals: following the last frost (cool areas) or in autumn (warm areas). Spacing 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm).
Perennials: beginning of spring or in autumn (warm areas). Spacing 14 to 18 inches (35 to 45 cm).
Sow Inside: Germination time: two weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C).
Annuals: Five weeks before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.
Perennials: two months in advance. Transplant outdoors just before the last frost or in autumn.

Scabiosa Care Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 6.5 to 8. Humus. Moist soil. Provide protection or support for winds. Deadhead. Water to keep soil moist. Mulch with bark to maintain moisture. Perennials should be cut back to the ground in autumn. To maintain strength divide regularly. Propagate perennials: dividing at the start of spring or summer cuttings.
Miscellaneous: Produces a lot of nectar making it a very useful plant in a butterfly garden.

How to Grow Scabious and other Scabiosa in the Garden

The timing of the sowing of Scabiosa depends on their nature. Annuals are usually sown after the last frost, perennials may be sown at the start of spring or autumn.

Scabious seeds should be lightly covered once sown, and spaced at about 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches) apart.

They like to grow in sunny areas that have good drainage.

Ideally the soil that Scabious grows in should be humus rich, slightly alkaline (pH 7 to 8), and moist.

The germination of Scabiosa seeds usually takes about two weeks, and can be done indoors at a temperature of 20 to 25 degrees (68 to 77°F).

If growing indoors first, then sow annuals five weeks in advance. Sow perennials about 10 weeks in advance.

Transplant annual Scabiosa following the last frost of spring. Put out perennial varieties in late autumn, or before the last frost of spring.

Caring for Scabiosa Plants such as Scabious

It is easy to look after members of the Scabiosa genus such as Scabious and Pincushion flower

They should be staked in windy areas, as they have delicate wiry stems. Keep the soil moist in summer.

Deadhead flowers once they have finished blooming. Cut the Scabiosa plants back at the end of the growing season in autumn.

It is necessary to divide the plants every two or three years to maintain vigorous growth.

If you require more plants then divide perennial Scabiosa at the start of spring, or take cuttings in the summertime.

Common Questions

How many members does the Scabiosa genus have?

The Scabiosa genus, commonly known as Scabious or Pincushion flowers, contains about 80-100 species.

Do members of Scabiosa make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, Scabiosa species are widely used in gardens and landscaping for their attractive, butterfly-attracting flowers, extended blooming period, and easy care requirements.

Which Scabiosa species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The most commonly grown species by gardeners are Scabiosa columbaria (Dove Pincushion) and Scabiosa atropurpurea (Sweet Scabious).

Are members of the Scabiosa plant genus fragrant?

Scabiosa flowers are not typically known for their fragrance but for their beauty and their ability to attract butterflies and other beneficial insects.

What is the perfect location to grow Scabiosa?

Scabiosa prefers full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. They are suitable for a wide range of USDA zones, typically 3 to 9.

Is Scabiosa invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

At present, Scabiosa is not classified as invasive in the USA. As always, it's important to check with local guidelines and regulations.

How do I remove Scabiosa plants from my garden?

To remove Scabiosa, carefully uproot the plant, ensuring the entire root system is removed. Using a trowel or a garden fork can help with this process.


The Scabiosa genus includes perennial and annual plants native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are loved for their delicate, pincushion-like blooms that come in a variety of colors.

Plant Scabiosa seeds or young plants in early spring in well-drained soil. They prefer full sun to light shade. Regular watering is essential, particularly in dry conditions. Deadheading spent blooms can prolong the flowering period and help the plant to maintain vitality.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Scabiosa plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Weigela florida, Valeriana officinalis, Cephalaria, and Patrinia plants.