Scabious is a summer flowering annual or perennial plant. It’s sometimes known as the pincushion flower for its pretty blooms.
Although a meadow flower, scabious look as happy in manicured borders, cottage gardens or gravel gardens as in a wildflower mix. They come in a wide range of colours, from white through blue to darkest burgundy. Scabious makes an excellent ‘filler’, looking good planted among grasses or mixed flowering perennials and annuals. The nectar-rich flowers are very attractive to pollinators and the seeds are good for birds. Scabious make lovely cut flowers, too.
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Browse our handy guide to growing scabious, below.
Where to plant scabious
Scabious should be grown in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, in moist but well-drained soil.
How to plant scabious
Sow annual scabious seeds in autumn and over winter under cover. Sow seeds in a tray and pot on seedlings when large enough to handle. Plant out in situ in spring.
Follow our guide to sowing annual seeds.
Many varieties of scabious set seed freely. A single field scabious plant can produce around 2,000 seeds and the seeds can remain in the soil for a number of years. Save seeds from some of your annual plants to sow in autumn. Perennial varieties can be propagated by division, and clumps should be divided every three-to four years in early spring.
Follow our guide to sowing freshly collected seed.
Scabious: problem solving
Scabious suffer little from pests and diseases. In hot summers they can be affected by powdery mildew. Remedy this by mulching around plants with well-rotted organic matter, which helps seal in moisture around the roots.
Caring for scabious
Some taller scabious plants may need staking. Deadhead plants regularly to encourage more flowers and extend the season. In autumn you can collect seed and cut plants back, or leave seedheads in place for the birds.
Scabious varieties to grow
- Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Burgundy Beau’ – an annual variety with stunning plum coloured flowers
- Scabiosa caucasica ‘Perfecta Alba’ – a clump-forming perennial with pure white flowers on tall stems. It’s one of the Perfecta Series, with distinctive frilly outer petals. It makes a good cut flower and, as is typical for scabious, is loved by pollinating insects
- Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Knight’ – one of the annual types, this has fully double, pin cushion flower heads are very dark, almost black in colour. A very popular choice
- Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ – a long flowering, perennial scabious, producing huge numbers of purple-blue pincushion-like flowers from July to September. A sterile hybrid, it won’t self-seed
- Scabiosa ‘Burgundy Bonnets’ – a form of Scabiosa atropurpurea, it was found by chance in a Suffolk garden. The flowers vary from dark burgundy red through to shades of pink and mauve. The blooms appear from July to September and grow to around 60cm tall
- Scabiosa incisa ‘Kudo’ – a compact perennial scabious, with large bright pink flowers from spring to autumn