Dictionary of Flowers: Scabiosa Perennials
(Pincushion Flower, Mourning Bride)

Beautiful Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Tanaka Juuyoh and Flickr

Beautiful Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower). Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Tanaka Juuyoh and Flickr

  • Scabiosa Perennial Species
  • Common name: pincushion flower, mourning bride
  • Family: Caprifoliaceae
  • Category: perennial in USDA zones 4 to 9
  • Height: 12" to 18"
  • Width: 12" to 18"
  • Sun
  • Blooms: late spring to late summer
  • Attracts: butterflies
  • Growth habit: upright, mounding. Used as a thriller or filler in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil:  average, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers. 
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, wildflower garden, cutting garden, cottage garden
  • Diseases: no serious diseases
  • Pests: not bothered by pests

Several species of scabiosa are short-lived perennials in colder zones.

Scabiosa caucasica (to USDA zone 5) and scabiosa columbaria (to USDA zone 3) are the two species more often found in nurseries and in seed catalogs.

Perennial scabiosa forms dense rosettes of gray green foliage from which the flower blooming stems appear. Blooms are blue and blue/violet in most cultivars.

Scabiosa columbaria is somewhat smaller and more delicate looking because of its deeply lobed cut foliage. Butterflies love scabiosa.

Scabiosa grows well in full sun in cooler zones and part sun in hotter areas. It doesn't perform well in humid climates or very hot weather.

Soil needs to be average to fertile, amended with organic matter and it should drain freely to avoid rot during winter months. It prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soil ph. Though it will grow in clay soils, it is important to ensure perfect drainage. 

Water it regularly for best bloom. Remove spent flowers to the basal rosette to prolong blooming period, which can extend all the way to the frost.

Feed scabiosa once every other month during spring and summer with a balanced liquid fertilizer or slow release granular formula at planting time and again in mid-summer.

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Scabiosa is available in nurseries during spring and summer as starter plants. They can be propagated by dividing the clump and by seed.

To divide the plant, every two to three years in early spring, lift the clump, separate into two or three sections with good roots and transplant immediately.

To grow from seed indoors, plant seed in moist starting mix from February to March. Barely cover, as seed needs light for germination. Cover with plastic and keep in a warm place.

When kept at around 70F, seed germinates in about two weeks. After seedlings emerge, provide bright light and cooler temperature. Pinch seedlings after four weeks.

After danger of frost has passed, harden off plants and set outdoors in their permanent position. When planted early, scabiosa will bloom the first year.




IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Scabiosa is not likely to develop diseases if grown in freely draining soil. Insects are not normally a problem either. If spider mites appear, treat as needed with insecticidal soap. Scabiosa is deer resistant.

Popular varieties:

  • Scabiosa columbaria 'Butterfly Blue' - violet blue flowers, about two inches in diameter. Plant grows up to about one and a half feet
  • Scabiosa caucasica 'Fama' - available in white and blue cultivars. The blue is intense, with a silvery center. Blooms are quite showy on plants that grow up to twenty four inches
  • Scabiosa caucasica hybrid 'Isaac House' - Blue, lavender or white varieties available. They grow up to twenty four inches and make a good cut flower
  • Scabiosa caucasica 'Perfecta' series - Blue or white cultivars available. Large flowers up to three inches in diameter. Grows up to two feet tall

IWILLWRITECAPTION. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of NAMEOFFLICKRUSER and Flickr

Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

Go from Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower, Mourning Bride) to the Dictionary of Flowers

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