How To Grow And Care For Pincushion Flowers

The pincushion is a long-blooming flower that adds pretty garden color.

Scabiosa is a genus of flowers that look a little like sewing accoutrements. These flowers are also called pincushion flowers, and they belong to the family Dipsacaceae. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, they "resembl[e] a pincushion full of pins, [and] each Scabiosa flower has stamens that protrude well beyond the curved surface of the flower head." They're noted for their appearance, but they're also prized for their long blooming season, as they can bloom from spring to frost in the right conditions.

Plant Attributes

Common name Pincushion flower
Botanical name Scabiosa
Family Caprifoliaceae
Plant type Perennial / Annual / Biennial Flower
Mature size 16 to 32 inches in height, 12 inch spread
Sun exposure Full sun
Soil type Well drained, alkaline
Soil pH 7-7.5
Bloom time May to September
Flower color Blue, lavender, pink, white
Hardiness zone 3 to 7
Native area Africa, Europe, Asia
How To Plant Pincushion Flowers

Pincushion Flower Care

Scabiosa species get their common name from the fact that they resemble pincushions. Their protruding stamens look like pins pushed into the flower head. According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, Scabiosa "bloom begins in midsummer [and] continues until frost if flowers are deadheaded or cut regularly. [They are] good in mixed or mass plantings, excellent cut flowers, and are not usually browsed by deer." They can grow to a foot tall and wide. Due to its long stalk, this plant may need support or staking to keep an upright habit.


The flowers thrive in full sun and can be grown densely in beds or in ‘single file’ for colorful edging of walkways. The Pincushion Flower blooms from late spring to mid-summer sometimes through to the first frost. It makes a good cut flower or an attractive addition to a dried flower arrangement. Consider letting your pincushion go a little free range in order to grow the blooms for these uses.


Pincushion thrives in chalky, loamy soils that have a neutral pH tending to alkaline. Soil must be well drained. Scabiosa like rich soils but cannot tolerate heavy soils or clay soils. Soil that retains dampness will cause the plant to start rotting.

Scabiosa pincushion "fama white" flower with ruffled white petals closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


The pincushion needs moderate to regular water, though they can tolerate drought conditions. But this flower will not thrive in extremely wet conditions, and in fact will lean toward root rot if the soil is not well drained. Water once a week when there is no rain and twice a week during drought-like conditions.

Temperature & Humidity

Humidity and dampness play a large part in how well Scabiosa thrive – they do not prefer very wet or humid climates. While it grows best as an annual in cooler climates, pincushion can persist as a perennial in warmer sites with mild winters. However, it does not perform at its best in areas that experience high temperatures and humidity south of USDA Zone 7.


These plants do not need any fertilizer but an early- or mid-season application of a 10-20-10 will promote blooming. This plant species is known to attract butterflies, and those blooms will serve to make your garden active with pollinators.

Types of Pincushion Flowers

Scabiosa columbaria is a related perennial and produces lavender, blue, white, and pink flowers. They're popular plantings in the South because they bloom all year long. Of this species, 'Butterfly Blue' and 'Pink Mist' are popular hybrids to plant. Scabiosa atropurpurea is also known as mourning bride. It's an annual that's sometimes sold as S. grandiflora. It has a wide variety of flowers in a shade range from deep purple to bright pink and white. Scabiosa caucasica is a perennial with blue, lavender, and white flowers.

Pincushion Flower
Achim Mittler/Getty Images


To ensure the plants bloom from season to season, it's important to deadhead the flowers, remove spent foliage, and cut them regularly. They make for good cut flowers, so that shouldn't be too much of a gardening challenge. 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.

Propagating From Seed

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 to 12 inches apart. Perennial varieties can also be planted in fall. Water Scabiosa thoroughly after planting. Both annual and perennial types will usually flower in their first year.

Once they've been seeded in the garden in a spot with plenty of sun, water them regularly and keep an eye on their progress.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

These remarkable plants are among the most disease-free and pest-resistant. This is another eason why they are so low maintenance. Some species may succumb on occasion to powdery mildew, but this plant is not known to attract pests or infestations.

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