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'

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. atropurpurea (sweet scabious) erect annual with dark crimson flowers and narrow mid green leaves. Easy to grow from seed. Height: 3ft (1m), spread: 9in (23cm).

S. caucasica free flowering herbaceous perennial with pale blue blooms. Long flowering period. Good for cutting. Lance-shaped grey-green leaves. Height: 2ft (60cm), spread: 2ft (60cm).

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. columbaria evergreen perennial with lilac-blue flowers. Mat forming grey-green leaves. Height: 1ft (30cm), spread: 1ft (30cm).

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).

S. lucida evergreen perennial with pale carmine to purple flowers. Mat forming grey-green leaves. Height: 1ft (30cm), 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.