Pincushion flower

Pincushion flower Overview

Description These long-blooming perennials—and in some cases, annuals—have long been prized for their old-fashioned charm and versatility. They get their name from their interesting flowers that resemble little pincushions. Their ability to bloom from spring until frost makes them a must in any garden, especially for their use as a cut flower. Because their overall habit is fairly short, pincushion flowers can work well in the front of the border or mixed in with other plants. For the most dramatic effect, plant them en masse to see the blooms dancing in the garden.
Genus Name Scabiosa
Common Name Pincushion flower
Plant Type Annual, Perennial
Light Sun
Height 6 to 12 inches
Width 9 to 24 inches
Flower Color Blue, Pink, Purple, White
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 11, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant

Colorful Combinations

The pincushion plant is a lovely perennial and makes a great companion to many garden plants. Most commonly, the beautiful pincushion flower is found in beautiful shades of sky blue, but keep an eye out for black-purple, lilacs, pinks, and white. Since these soft tones work well with so many different plants, it's easy to find a spot in any garden for the pincushion plant and its flowers. The foliage of pincushion flower is also fairly unobtrusive, forming a nice mat of growth with lightly dissected foliage that works well as a backdrop for this beautiful bloom.

Pincushion Flower Care Must-Knows

The easy elegance of the pincushion flower is matched by its equally easy growth requirements. Pincushion flowers grow best in well-drained soils and are reasonably tolerant of drought. Heavy, wet soils can be the death of pincushion flowers, even if they seem fine during the growing season. If your area has issues with wet soils during the winter, you may want to treat pincushion as an annual.

For the best blooms, give pincushion flowers full sun. They can tolerate part sun, especially in the southern heat, but will perform best in full sun. In anything less, powdery mildew is possible, which isn't fatal but is something to keep an eye out for. In part sun, the flower stalks can also become more stretched and may flop, so plant them around taller plants that they can lean on if needed.

Because these plants are such prolific bloomers, cutting back old blooms can encourage continued buds. Some pincushion flowers can seed about politely in the garden—nothing invasive—so you may find an errant seedling or two in your garden beds. Remember that if you planted a named variety, these seedlings wouldn't be quite the same as their parents.

New Innovations

Despite all of the wonderful attributes of these plants, they've had little work done with them. This may be due to their already exceptional nature. Most work has been on making more dwarf pincushion plants and increasing the color variability. Some varieties have evolved with beautiful reds, pinks, and even soft apricots. Some have been bred specifically for the cut flower industry, with larger blooms on long stalks.

More Varieties of Pincushion Flower

Butterfly Blue pincushion flower

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Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' blooms all summer with lavender-blue flowers on 16-inch-tall stems. Zones 3-8

Pincushion flower

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Scabiosa caucasica bears flat, 2-inch-wide flowerheads with pincushion-like central florets surrounded by larger petal-like florets in pale blues, pinks, and white. These are carried on 2-feet-tall stems. Zones 4-9

Pink Mist pincushion flower

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The compact perennial Scabiosa 'Pink Mist' has airy blooms of light pink from April until frost. Zones 5-9

Plant Pincushion Flower With:

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Phlox is a bounteous summer flower that any large sunny flowerbed or border shouldn't be without. There are several different kinds of phlox. Garden and meadow phlox produce large panicles of fragrant flowers in a wide assortment of colors. They also add height, heft, and charm to a border. Low-growing wild Sweet William, moss pinks, and creeping phlox are effective as groundcovers, at the front of the border, and as rock and wild garden plants, especially in light shade. These native gems have been hybridized extensively to toughen the foliage against mildew problems; many recent selections are mildew-resistant. Phlox need amply moist soil for best overall health.

Veronica 'Purplicious'

Easy and undemanding, veronicas catch the eye in sunny gardens over many months. Some have mats with loose clusters of saucer-shaped flowers, while others group their star or tubular flowers into erect tight spikes. A few veronicas bring elusive blue to the garden, but more often, the flowers are purplish or violet blue, rosy pink, or white. Provide full sun and average well-drained soil. Regular deadheading extends bloom time.

Firewitch cheddar pinks

The quintessential cottage flower, pinks are treasured for their grasslike blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which are often spicily fragrant. Depending on the type of pink, flowers appear in spring or summer and tend to be pink, red, white, rose, or lavender but come in nearly all shades except true blue. Plants range from tiny creeping groundcovers to 30-inch-tall cut flowers, which are a favorite with florists. Foliage is blue-green. Shown above: 'Firewitch' dianthus

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One of the longest bloomers in the garden, coreopsis produces (usually) sunny yellow daisylike flowers that attract butterflies. Depending on the variety, coreopsis also bears golden-yellow, pale yellow, pink, or bicolor flowers. It will bloom from early to midsummer or longer if it's deadheaded.

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