Pincushion Flower Guide: How To Plant, Grow Pincushion Flowers, Care Tips

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Gardening | March 28, 2024

Woman in a field of pincushion flowers after learning how to identify and grow pincushion flowers, and planting and care tips for types of pincushion flowers.

Thinking of growing Pincushion flower? Great choice!

Although they’re relatively small, these unique blooms bring colorful intrigue to flowerbeds.

In addition to being quite striking, the Pincushion flowers are one of those plants that attract hummingbirds and different types of butterflies. They also come in a delightfully diverse color range that adds impact to landscapes.

Here’s everything you need to know about growing these aptly-named plants.

Pincushion Flower

(Scabiosa atropurpurea)

Pincushion Flower image in an oval frame on a green background.
  • Characteristics: Bushy, ornamental, flowering plant that gets its name from flowers with a spiky, ball-like center that resembles pincushions loaded with needles.
  • Family: Caprifoliaceae
  • Genus: Scabiosa
  • Leaf: Basal leaves oval to lanceolate, long-stalked, unlobed or pinnately lobed. Upper leaves are pinnate or pinnately lobed.
  • Seed: 1-1.5 inches long and brown; germinate within two weeks
  • Blossoms: Round, cushion-like, deep-maroon to dark purple flowers; bloom from late spring to mid-summer
  • Native Habitat: Mediterranean
  • Height: 16 to 32 inches in height, 12-inch spread
  • Canopy: Low, bushy growth
  • Type: Annual in cooler climates, perennial in warmer sites with mild winters
  • Native Growing Zone: Hardy from zones 3-7

Image Credit: beauty_of_nature (jhenning)9

How To Identify Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa atropurpurea)

The Pincushion is an annual flowering plant belonging to the Caprifoliaceae family. How can you pick it out of a foliage lineup?

When determining how to identify the Pincushion flower, it helps to focus on the “pins.”

Graphics showing how to identify Pincushion flower plant, with images of Pincushion flower seeds, Pincushion flower, and Pincushion flower leaves in oval frames on green background.

(Leaf Image: Salicyna7, Pincushion Flower Image: Hans8)

True to its name, this Mediterranean native sprouts round flower heads that resemble colorful pincushions. While small, each flower stands out with its spiky central sphere balanced on a slim, sturdy stem.

The flowers bloom in a variety of vibrant hues that lend compelling pops of color to landscapes. The flowers’ unique shapes and dramatic colors also add visual interest and personality to floral arrangements.

Pincushion Flower Leaves

Pincushion flower leaves are simple, lance-shaped, and deeply cut.

Long, graceful two-foot stems grow basal leaves that are oblong or lyrate with toothed margins. Stem leaves are pinnatifid.

Pincushion Flower Seeds

Pincushion flower seeds stand out in appearance. Typically 1–1.5 inches long and pale brown, they have a black, star-shaped center.

Papery, shuttlecock casings enclose the actual seeds. When ripe, the seeds turn papery brown or black, indicating their readiness for harvest.

Growing a Pincushion Flower From a Seed, Cutting, and Seedling

Thinking of adding Scabiosa to your garden bed? It shouldn’t be too difficult under the right conditions.

But there are a few key things to know about growing a Pincushion flower from a seed, cutting, and seedling.

Pincushions usually start from seeds, though container-grown plants are also a viable option. During the spring, you can either plant seeds indoors or directly in your home garden after frost danger has passed.

If you choose to nurture the plants indoors first, expect seeds to sprout within two weeks. You can then transfer the seedlings to the garden around May, spacing each one 10-12 inches apart.

Pincushions can also grow from cuttings. Easy tip cuttings for new plants can be taken in the summer.

Choose a nice, healthy stem cutting with some leaves. This should root well in a warm, moist, bright environment.

Once rooted, the new plant can be transplanted outdoors.

Pincushion Flower Growing Zone

The Pincushion flower growing zone requires climates without extreme heat or cold. The plants thrive in USDA zones 3-7.

They also perform best when grown outside overly wet areas. Pincushions enjoy full sunlight but benefit from afternoon shade in hotter areas.

Pincushion Flower Growth Rate

Best planted in early spring, Scabiosa blooms will grow at a moderate pace. In good conditions, the Pincushion flower growth rate is about 90 to 100 days to full maturity.

Necessary Growing Conditions

If you want to grow Pincushions that thrive, you need specific growing conditions. From light and water to temperature and fertilizer, here’s what it takes to grow hearty, beautiful Scabiosa plants.


Pincushions thrive in full sun exposure (6–8 hours per day), blooming from late spring to the first frost. Their versatility suits flower beds or borders along walkways.


These plants grow best in neutral to alkaline chalky, well-drained loam. While they like nutrient-rich soil, very damp or heavy clay conditions will lead to root rot.2


Although they have decent drought tolerance, Pincushions need moderate, regular watering. That said, soggy soil will lead to rot, so avoid over-watering, especially during the spring.

Temperature and Humidity

Cooler climates are best for Scabiosa annuals. Perennials, on the other hand, can live on for years with mild winters and moderate heat and humidity below Zone 7.


Extra feeding isn’t generally needed through mid-season, but 10-20-10 fertilizer can boost flower production. But this isn’t necessary if your soil is nutrient-rich.

Companion Plants For Growing Pincushion Flowers

Scabiosa looks great by itself, but there are some popular companion plants for growing Pincushion flowers that stay healthy and beautiful throughout the summer.

Closeup of a single Pincushion Flower with delicate lavender petals.

(Image: stilfee5)

Pincushions shine en masse for a colorful blanket look. But their diversity also allows pairing beside other short cottage garden plants like alyssum, salvias, sedum, and low rose shrubs.

Scabiosa also looks beautiful in backyard garden alongside columbine, pinks, and similar petite perennials.

How To Stop Pincushion Flower Disease

If you’re wondering how to stop Pincushion flower disease, focus on drainage. Excess moisture and humidity tend to set the stage for problems.

Leaf spot, root rot, or powdery mildew outbreaks indicate that drainage needs improving. In most cases, Pincushion flower disease prevention involves careful site selection and proper soil prep that will ensure long-term health.

Pincushion Flower Facts

When growing plants, it helps to know as much as possible. Here are some key insights into the Scabiosa plant, as well as some tips for promoting optimal growth.

Is the Pincushion a Perennial Flower?

From the perspective of many gardeners, one of the most important Pincushion flower facts centers on whether the flower will re-grow each year. Bear in mind that while annuals complete growth cycles in just one season, perennials live three years or more.

So, is the Pincushion plant a perennial flower? Well, yes and no.

Pincushion grows best yearly in cool areas but can persist as a perennial in warmer climates with mild winters.1

Other Scabiosa Flowers: From Black Knight To Butterfly Blue Pincushion Flowers

There are several different types of Scabiosa flowers available, most of which differ in color and flower appearance. Some of the most popular varieties include:

  • Butterfly Blue Pincushion flowers: Lavender-blue tinged, popular for weddings
  • Black Knight: Deep burgundy flowers with bright white stamens
  • Fama White: Large white blooms favoring cooler weather
  • Pink Mist: Feminine pink flowers, near-translucent blooms

Other plants that resemble Pincushions include:

Scabiosa caucasica

Commonly referred to as a Pincushion, Scabiosa caucasica originates in the Caucasus Mountains.

Now officially renamed Lomelosia caucasica,3 the clump-forming perennial reaches 18–24 inches in height and blooms from late May to mid-summer.

Two white Scabiosa caucasica flowers, with white petals and pale yellowish green centers.

(Image: Sonja Kalee (Sonja-Kalee)6)

The 2–3 inch flowers appear solo on firm stems. Frilly outer petals surround a cushiony center with protruding stamens, similar to a Pincushion.

Shades range from lavender to blue flowers, and sometimes white. Gray-green leaves may be lance-shaped or lobed along the base and stems.

Pincushion Flower Protea

Commonly referred to as Pincushion flower protea, Leucospermum proteas have cone-like heads of long, tubular blossoms. In some species, stiff, colorful bracts surround the base in a cup shape, filled with a mass of 1-2 inch stamens.

The flowers bloom in dense groups, where they resemble Pincushions or fireworks.

These showy, enduring flowers shine in shades of pink, red, white, cream, and yellow. Bear in mind that the Pincushion flower protea is from the Leucospermum genus, meaning it is not a Scabiosa plant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pincushion Flowers

What Do Pincushion Flowers Symbolize?

Pincushion flower symbolism centers on love, purity, and peace.4 This makes the flower a lovely addition to meaningful bouquets.

How Fast Do Pincushion Flowers Grow?

In general, the plant will grow at a moderate pace, reaching full maturity at 90 to 100 days. That said, how long it takes to grow Pincushion flower depends on general weather conditions, with unseasonably cool weather delaying production.

Where Does Scabiosa Grow Best?

Growing zones for Pincushion flowers are 3-7. For more planting tips for Pincushion flowers, consult this reputable source,1 which includes information on proper soil prep.

How Should You Space Seeds?

When deciding how far apart to plant Pincushion flowers, it’s best to provide more space than too little. That said, these plants generally flourish best when given at least 10-12 inches of space on all sides.

Do Scabiosa Flowers Require a Lot of Sunlight?

How much sunlight does a Pincushion flower need each day to survive? While six hours is a good minimum, eight will generally yield better results.

How Can You Protect Flowers From Pests?

Common pests of the Pincushion flower include aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, and powdery mildew. While insecticides are effective, natural pest control for Pincushion flowers includes healthy soil and proper care, companion planting, neem oil, and insecticidal soap.

How Often Should You Water Scabiosa Flowers?

Watering needs for Pincushion flowers depend on climate and time of year. In general, you should not water unless the soil is dry about an inch below the surface to avoid root rot.


1N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2023). Scabiosa atropurpurea. NC State Extension. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from <>

2Hudelson, B. (2011, May 20). Root Rots in the Garden. Wisconsin Horticulture Division of Extension. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from <>

3N.C. Cooperative Extension. (2023). Lomelosia caucasica. NC State Extension. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from <>

4Cushing, P. (2020, June 13). Pincushion Flower: Love at First Sight! UC Master Gardeners of Tulare & Kings Counties. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from <>

5Pincushion flower, Flower wallpaper, Flower Photo by stilfee. (2021, June 4) / Pixabay Content License. Resized and changed file format. Pixabay. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from <>

6Scabiosa caucasica alba, Small scabious, Flowers Photo by Sonja Kalee (Sonja-Kalee). (2021, October 7) / Pixabay Content License. Resized and changed file format. Retrieved December 29, 2023, from <>

7File : Scabiosa atropurpurea 2021-09-01 0070.jpg Photo by Salicyna. (2021, September 1) / CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED | Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International. Cropped and remixed with image, text, shape, and background elements. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved January 9, 2024, from <>

8Field scabious, Blossom, Bloom Photo by Hans. (2013, July 30) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and remixed with image, text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved December 27, 2023, from <>

9Wallpaper, Mac wallpaper, Free wallpaper Photo by beauty_of_nature (jhenning). (2020, May 9) / Pixabay Content License. Cropped and remixed with text, shape, and background elements. Pixabay. Retrieved December 26, 2023, from <>