Scabiosa

Scabiosa is a cottage garden classic, they have many small flowers like pincushions on wiry stems. The flowers typically have enlarged outer florets. Scabiosa flowers are nectar rich and attract a wide variety of insects including moths and butterflies. The flowers are also good as cut flowers.

Scabiosa is a member of the teasel family Dipsacaceae. The first scabious introduced to gardens was the small flowered Scabious atropupurea in 1591. Some species of Scabiosa, notably small scabious (S. columbaria) and Mediterranean sweet scabious (S. atropurpurea) have been developed into cultivars for gardeners.

Quick Facts

Family Dipsacaceae
Botanical name Scabiosa
Common name Sweet scabious / Pincushion flower
Flowering time June to August
Planting time Spring
Height 0.5m - 1.0m
Spread 0.1m - 0.5m
Aspect Full sun
Hardiness Hardy

Where to Buy

Plants

The widest selections of Scabiosa plants are available from Hardy's Plants and Crocus.

If you're after a specific variety then check out the individual plant pages "Where to Buy" section.

Seeds

Scabiosa can be grown from seed. It is possible to buy seed of specific named varieties although seed companies often sell mixtures of white and dark, or plummy forms under names such as 'Musical Score' and 'Beaujolais Bonnets'.

Thompson and Morgan have a good selection of Scabiosa seeds and Chiltern Seeds have a wide range including more unusual varieties.

How to Grow

Caring for Scabiosa

All Scabiosa (scabious) grow best in well-drained soil (anything but acidic soil is fine) and a sunny position, they don't like hot, humid weather so do best in temperate conditions. Wet winters and poor drainage will kill off the plants so add a layer of grit around the plant in autumn to aid drainage.

Deadheading Scabiosa will encourage the plants to produce more flowers and if you keep deadheading then they'll keep producing flowers. Scabiosa caucasica flowers on the end of long stems, which initially produce a single flower, if you cut the dying flower stem back to the lowest buds then two shorter stemmed flowers will grow from the bud.

Growing New Plants

Scabiosa can be grown in three main ways:

  • Seed - Many scabiosa will set seed easily if not deadheaded Collect the seed in the autumn and sow from late winter to early summer in a good seed compost. Germination usually takes 10 - 30 days at 21 - 24C. Transplant into 7.5cm pots when large enough to handle. Both scabiosa caucasica and scabiosa atropurpurea should flower in their first year if sown by March
  • Cuttings - Take cuttings of young, basal growths in summer.
  • Division - Divide in early spring, scabiosa are best lifted and divided every three years.

Pests and Diseases

Scabiosa are generally pest and disease free, although some varieties can be affected by powdery mildew.

Grows Well With

Scabiosa look great alongside plants with silver leaves, try lambs' ears, artemisia and snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum). Scabiosa are also good with late flowering roses.

Penstemons grow well with Scabiosa, try darker flowered penstemons such as 'Blackbird' or 'Evelyn' with Scabiosa caucasica 'Clive Greaves'. This also goes well with dark purple foliage of an upright sedum like 'Purple Emperor'.

Varieties