by Matt Gibson
The pincushion flower (scabiosa atropurpurea and scabiosa caucasica) gets its name from the interesting geometric shape of its flowerheads and stamens. The flowerheads consist of tiny florets framed by petals that, when taken together as a whole, resemble a pincushion. The stamens that protrude from the center and spread out in every direction do look like pins sticking out of the spherical center. Overall, the pincushion bloom is a strange looking but beautiful natural gem, even if it looks a little alien. Similar to a sea anemone or jellyfish in appearance, as well as the pincushion from which it gets its name, of course, the pincushion flower comes in a wide range of colors. Blue, purple, and white are the the most common, with other colors available, but the most popular varieties (and those easiest to find) come in these three shades.
The pincushion plant grows up to one or two feet in height, and the spiny flowers bloom atop each plant on a lush and sturdy stem that’s thickly covered in dark greenish-grey to blue-green foliage. This flower’s popularity has grown among gardeners due to its versatility in different growing environments, making it a great choice for beds and containers across much of the world. Pincushion flowers are available in both annual and perennial varieties.
The pincushion plant has also become a common choice for gardeners due to its hardiness and hands-off quality, because once established, pincushion flowers require very little care to keep them healthy. Pincushion is a noninvasive flower that works well planted in just about any garden plot location, as well as in containers, and it is also generally exempt from struggles with pests and diseases. While it doesn’t have struggles with troublesome insects, the pincushion flower’s blooms will attract beneficial pollinators. For example, the pincushion blossom is a beacon for butterflies, a pleasant guest in every garden.
Every garden needs a showstopper—a big, boastful bloomer that steals the attention of everyone who passes. These showy flowers are the crown jewel of the garden, so to speak. While smaller flowers like the pincushion may not often be recognized by gardeners as the stars of the show in their flower beds, these blooms are bound to change your mind. From a distance, pincushion plants won’t steal the show from your other focal point flowers, but they will add a lasting beauty, and the uniquely shaded foliage will provide a nice backdrop for the larger blossoms of your other plants. When examined in detail, your pincushion flowers will leave a lasting impression on viewers who take the time to move up close.
Varieties of Pincushion Flower
Scabiosa Atropurpurea—The Annual Pincushion:
In some areas, the annual pincushion flower, or scabiosa atropurpurea, will reseed. However, in most conditions, you will have to replant them each year. The annual pincushion flower is slightly smaller than its perennial cousins, and it is also available in a wider range of colors. This pincushion flower variety offers extra shades, including burgundy, rosy pink, and blue-tinged lavender, along with the standard blue, purple, and white. The many varieties of annual pincushion flowers exist thanks to the breeding efforts of horticulturists, who have produced more dwarf-sized cultivars as well as more choices for gardeners when it comes to color options. Unlike the perennial variety of the pincushion flower, which has true green leaves that stay green, the foliage of the annual pincushion comes in many hues as well, and a few types are bred especially for their foliage, which changes color throughout the blooming season.
Scabiosa Caucasica —The Perennial Pincushion:
Scabiosa caucasica is most often found in blue and white, but you can also find this breed of pincushion flower in a perennial pink. These plants have an extended blooming period that will make your beds explode with dashes of brilliant color that sticks around after other flowers would have faded. If deadheaded often, the unique blossoms will keep on coming—from late spring throughout the entire summer and on into the fall, until the first few frosts of winter finally quell the blooming. Unlike its annual cousin, the perennial pincushion flower is hardy enough to survive most winters. It will come back strong after the winter thaws to yield colorful blooms year after year. The perennial pincushion flower also produces a larger and more showy bloom than its annual counterpart, with flowerheads that usually measure up to two and a half to three inches.
Growing Conditions for Pincushion Flower
The pincushion flower is hardy in USDA growing zones 3-7, but these plants can be adapted to flourish in most temperate conditions. As long as you keep these plants in an area where they will not be exposed to extreme heat or cold and plant them in a spot that’s free from overly wet or humid conditions, they will perform beautifully. Pincushion flower enjoys full sunlight in most areas, but when it’s planted in warmer climate areas, it benefits from partial shade in the afternoons. These flowers prefer a well-draining and organic-rich soil. Prior to planting, treat the soil with moss, manure or compost. In the second year after you start your pincushion flowers outdoors, begin treating them once per year, always in early spring, with a time-release granular fertilizer for flowering plants. Each time you feed the soil for your pincushion flowers, you will want to take special care to work the fertilizer thoroughly into the surrounding ground as well.
How to Plant Pincushion Flower
Start pincushion seeds indoors during early spring, or sow seeds directly into your garden beds after the threat of frost has passed, when spring breaks on the horizon and the soil begins to warm to the touch. The seeds typically germinate in two weeks and should be spaced at least 10 to 12 inches apart. Perennial pincushion flowers can be planted in either spring or fall. Water the young plants thoroughly after planting to help them adjust to their new homes. Once the pincushion flowers start to mature, mulch around the base of the plants to keep weeds and other invasive species from growing too close to them.
Care of Pincushion Flower
Care needed for the pincushion flower is minimal, as very little attention from the gardener is needed to keep the pincushion plants thriving. Other than supplementary watering during dry periods, the only help these flowers need to thrive is a bit of deadheading of spent blooms and a fertilizer boost once per year. Deadheading is the act of cutting down the flowerheads as they start to fade or wilt so that new blossoms can grow in their places. Deadheading pincushion flowers is especially important if you are growing the perennial version of the plant, as doing so can really extend the blooming period and help you get the maximum possible enjoyment out of these flowers each year.
Garden Pests and Diseases of Pincushion Flower
The pincushion flower has no significant issues with diseases or pests. This worry-free aspect is one of the many reasons why people keep picking pincushions for their garden plots and containers. Pincushion flowers seem to be resistant to insects that plague other plants, and they stand strong against diseases—even when their neighbors are having symptoms. If a infestation or illness does occur in your pincushion flowers, treat it as early as possible with an insecticidal soap and/or a fungicide.
Pincushion Flower for Indoor Bouquets
Pincushion flowers were not created by Mother Nature to work well indoors, especially not after being cut for arrangements, but that didn’t stop flower breeding specialists from cultivating new versions of the pincushion flower to do just that and more. Just do a little research before purchasing seeds or seedlings, and look specifically for varieties that were made for cutting gardens. These special alterations of the original pincushion genus were specifically engineered for gardeners to cut the blooms and enjoy them indoors for seven to 10 days. Be sure to feed the bouquet and change the water frequently to extend your time of enjoyment.
Videos About Growing Pincushion Flower
Watch this video for grow and care tips for pincushion flower:
Check out this video to learn how to save seeds when propagating pincushion flower:
This video is filled with interesting facts about the pincushion flower: