Botanical Name: Scabiosa

Category: Perennial

Divisible: Yes

Common Name: Pincushion flower

Evergreen: No


Division,  seed


Family: Caprifoliaceae (Honeysuckle)

Invasive: No

Size: 12-18″ tall x 15″ wide

Scabiosa is one of the most beautiful and interesting small flowers available to gardeners. While there are perennial and annual varieties they can both be treated as short lived perennials in the high desert garden. Scabiosa come in a variety of colors and are easy to grow successfully with lots of light and well draining soil.

Scabiosa plants form a low mound of foliage, and produce blooms high above on their thin stems. They bloom from spring until fall making them a valuable addition to any garden.

Because the base of the plant is fairly short and has beautiful frilly leaves, pincushion flowers can work well in the front of the border or mixed in with other plants. For the most dramatic effect, plant them in drifts to see the button-like blooms flutter in the breeze. As well as looking beautiful and unique, scabiosa flowers also attract useful pollinators to the garden, such as bees and butterflies.

Pincushion flowers are light feeders and can do well without being treated with fertilizer. You can give your plants an extra boost by feeding them bimonthly with a balanced flower fertilizer during their growing season.

My Experience:

Such a delicate and beautiful flower to find that will thrive in a high desert garden – scabiosa is one of my favorites! The only maintenance they require is deadheading for the best chance at repeat blooming. With diligent deadheading mine are in bloom constantly throughout the summer.

I grow both perennial and annual varieties and have good luck with both surviving winter in the high desert. I rarely find that they get large enough to divide but it is easy to do if needed.


Growing Scabiosa from Seed

Scabiosa is easy to start from seed, either from purchased seed or from the seed heads you collect in the fall.  Seeds do not need to be cold stratified for germination.

Scabiosa seeds can be sown directly into the garden or started in pots at any time.

Direct Sowing:

  • Direct sow in full sun in poor but well-drained soil in the fall or spring after danger of frost.
  • Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
  • Sow seeds evenly and thinly and cover 1/4″ with fine soil.
  • Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.

Indoor Start

  • Start the seeds 4-6 weeks before spring planting time in cell packs or other containers with three seeds per cell, cover them with 1/4″ of soil or seed starting medium.
  • Keep seed trays warm and moist. Soil temperature should be between 70° and 75°.
  • Seeds will germinate in 10 to 21 days.

Buy Scabiosa seeds from my Etsy Store

Practical advice from a home gardener

I am Deborah Valiquet – artist and obsessive gardener. Here you will find my advice for creating a garden oasis in the high desert. I’ll share my experiences – successes and failures over the last 10+ years. 

Even if your garden isn’t in the high desert you will find lots of valuable information here. Let’s dig in!