How To Grow Pincushion Flowers

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The pincushion flower, also known as Scabiosa, is a flower family that contains both annual and perennial blooms. It was named for its medicinal usage of treating itching for many decades. Here is the guide on how to grow pincushion flowers at home successfully.

The perennial Scabiosa species grow best in deep, rich soil. This is not a plant for clay soils, as the perennial Scabiosa species will die off during the winter. A lighter sandier soil with generous applications of compost will grow a perfect pincushion flower.

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Flower heights range from 12″ right up to 36″ depending on the variety. The flowers can be fragrant depending on the variety. Still, all look like miniature pincushions with spiky petals (hence the name) in colors of reddish-purple (almost black, but it’s a tender annual), pink, salmons, rose, or blue tones.

How To Grow Pincushion Flowers

Deadheading or picking off the dead pincushion flower heads (take all the stem, too) will keep the plant blooming for most of the summer. If you let the pincushion flower go to seed, it will slow down cut flower production. The flowers make excellent fresh-cut flowers.

How To Grow Pincushion Flowers


Generally, the shorter plants are planted 8-12 inches apart, and the taller plants are spaced at 18″ apart in the full sunshine.

Part shade locations will increase the incidence of powdery mildew, a serious disease for this plant.

Powdery mildew starts as a white powder on the leaves of the pincushion flower plant rapidly expands to the entire plant. It is usually severe, and the subsequent weak condition of the plant usually kills it during the winter.

Powdery mildew is severe enough that although pincushion flower blooms all summer, it is not a good candidate for container growing; the restricted air movement in the container leads to problems.

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Seeds of annual pincushion plants or perennial species can be sown 10 weeks before the desired planting date. Sow the seed and barely cover them. Keep the soil at 70F, and germination will happen within 14 days. You can also sow them outdoors after the danger of frost, but they will be very late to bloom.

Older clumps can be divided easily in the spring; simply dig them up and separate them into smaller chunks making sure each chunk has some roots. If you have an older struggling, straggy plant, a renovation will work marvels at restoring the blooms.

Scabiosa columbaria’ Butterfly Blue’ was voted perennial plant of the year by the Perennial Plant Association in 2000. If deadheaded, this plant will bloom from early spring until late fall. It also enjoys full light and heat; however, it is prone to powdery mildew if restricted airflow around the plant.

Stem cuttings are the only technique to reproduce this plant. It does not come true from seed, although it can also be divided. Important! When planting it from a container, put the crown of the plant at the same depth in the soil as it is in the pot. Do not sink the plant, or you’ll wind up with crown rot.

Pincushion plant - Propagation

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Other Varieties

‘Pink Mist’ is a soft pink version of ‘Butterfly Blue.’

‘Walminiblue’ is a more compact plant than ‘Butterfly Blue’ pincushion plant with lavender flowers.

‘Walminipink’ and smaller, tighter plant than ‘Butterfly Pink.’

Scabiosa’ columbaria var. ochroleuca is a yellow flowering pincushion plant that is quite hardy as well.

I strongly recommend reading other posts on perennial plants before you leave.

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