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Pincushion Flower, A Butterfly Magnet


Pincushion Flower, A Butterfly Magnet

Butterfly Blue Pincushion Flower

Photo © Jack Wolf
Although large flowers like dahlias and sunflowers can be attention hogs in the flower garden, you should make room for the small but mighty scabiosa in your landscape. Pincushion flowers wave merrily in the breeze, flowers held aloft on wiry stems; they attract legions of butterflies; and they bloom all season long with very little maintenance required.

Latin Name:

Genus Scabiosa, Family Dipsacaceae

Common Names:

The flowers earned the nickname pincushion flower for the prominent stamens that emerge from the compact, round blooms like pins in a pincushion.


Grow as a hardy perennial in zones 5-9.


When in bloom, the plants average a foot in height. Mature plants are about a foot in diameter and three inches tall.


Full sun; some afternoon shade is fine

Bloom Period:

Pincushion flowers will bloom from spring until frost, but the heaviest bloom occurs in May. Keep the flowers deadheaded for the best repeat blooming.


Scabiosa plants form a low mound of foliage in a rosette shape, with medium green, serrated leaves. Healthy plants may produce 20-50 blooms, each held individually on thin stems.


Although pincushion plants are easy flowers to care for, you must plant them in soil that drains very well. They can fool you by blooming happily in clay soil for one season, but wet soils during dormancy will turn your carefree perennial into an annual. Raised beds are necessary for gardeners with heavy or boggy soils.


Provide pincushion flowers with an inch of water while they’re establishing their root systems. After that, the plants can tolerate periods of drought. Deadheading is laborious on plants that have so many small flowers on individual stems, so you can shear the plant in midsummer when the blossom output is low to encourage a new flush of blooms in early fall. Pincushion flowers are light feeders; a bimonthly feeding with a balanced flower fertilizer during the growing season will keep the flowers coming.

Design Tips:

If your soil is intractably heavy, don’t fight it; make pincushion flowers the star of your butterfly container garden. Edge your rock garden or perennial flower border with alternating pink, white, and blue pincushion flower plants.


  • Black Knight: Burgundy flowers with prominent white stamens look striking when paired with green or white flowering companions
  • Butterfly Blue: Very common in the trade; flowers are more lavender than true blue
  • Fama White: White flowers are twice as large as Pink Mist or Butterfly Blue; this variety thrives in areas with cool summers
  • Kompliment: Similar in appearance to Butterfly Blue, but hardy to zone 3
  • Pink Mist: Clear pink flowers look so feminine in your fairy garden
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