Meadow of scabious

How to grow scabious

Discover all you need to know about growing scabious, in our practical Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Sow
Sow

Do not Sow in January

Do not Sow in February

Do Sow in March

Do Sow in April

Do not Sow in May

Do not Sow in June

Do not Sow in July

Do not Sow in August

Do Sow in September

Do Sow in October

Do not Sow in November

Do not Sow in December

Plant
Plant

Do not Plant in January

Do not Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do Plant in April

Do Plant in May

Do Plant in June

Do Plant in July

Do Plant in August

Do Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do not Plant in November

Do not Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does not flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Divide
Divide

Do not Divide in January

Do not Divide in February

Do Divide in March

Do Divide in April

Do not Divide in May

Do not Divide in June

Do not Divide in July

Do not Divide in August

Do not Divide in September

Do not Divide in October

Do not Divide in November

Do not Divide in December

Scabious is a summer flowering annual or perennial plant. It’s sometimes known as the pincushion flower for its pretty blooms.

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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.

More Grow Guides:

Browse our handy guide to growing scabious, below.


Where to plant scabious

Tortoiseshell butterfly on field scabious
Tortoiseshell butterfly on field scabious

Scabious should be grown in full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, in moist but well-drained soil.


How to plant scabious

Sowing scabious seeds in drills
Sowing scabious seeds in drills

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.


Propagating scabious

Scabious planted with achillea, alchemilla, stachys and artemisia
Scabious planted with achillea, alchemilla, stachys and artemisia

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

Common carder bee on field scabious
Common carder bee on field scabious

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

Scabious 'Barocca'
Scabious ‘Barocca’

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

Giant scabious, Cephalaria gigantea
Giant scabious, Cephalaria gigantea
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  • 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