Scabiosa

Scabies is a contagious skin infection caused by tiny mites, which is accompanied by intense itching. At one time, people thought that the leaves of this plant, Scabiosa, could cure the infection. As it turns out, they were wrong about that, but the name has stuck.

Native to Europe and Asia, Scabiosa belong to the family Dipsacaceae. Of the 80 or so species in the genus Scabiosa, only a few are actually used in gardens. Some are annuals, some perennials, though they may be short-lived perennials. They smell pleasant and make long lasting cut flowers, and attractive dried flowers. The plants form a low mound, with attractive leaves. They can be 1-2 feet tall, and 12-18 inches wide, with flowers 2-3 inches across.

Also called pincushion flower, common scabiosa and mourning bride, these flowers are actually made up of many smaller flowers. The stamens resemble pins in a pincushion. Appearing in many shades of lavender, lilac, white, pink, red and yellow, they have tall, naked stems, each with a single flower on top. Scabiosa are rich in nectar and attract insects, including moths, butterflies and bees, but not deer.

Scabiosa can be grown in zones 3-9, in a sunny spot, or part shade. Water them regularly, but do not overwater. The soil should be dry to moist, and well drained. Scabiosa will tolerate some drought, but will not stand for heat and humidity. Blooms will appear from summer until the first frost. After the flowers are spent, they should be removed, along with their stem.

The rootball should be divided every few years in the spring or early summer to keep the plant healthy. Scabiosa can also be planted from seed, directly outdoors in the fall, indoors in the spring, and outdoors in the spring after the last frost. Seedheads can be allowed to dry, then removed and the seeds collected. Keep in mind that planting these seeds may result in a plant that does not come true to the mother plant. You may also take cuttings in the summer and root them.

This is one of those plants that I have in my yard, but never really notice. I have 2 plants that I bought about 4 years ago. They are planted in a spot that gets sun only about ½ the time. I suspect that my neglect is the reason they don’t really seem to grow much, and they bloom, but not profusely. I never realized that I should be dividing the rootballs, and deadheading the spent flowers. Not much time left in this year, but I can certainly pay more attention next summer.

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One Response to “Scabiosa”

  1. Kem Says:

    I think it would be too hot here for them. The USDA says we’re zone 7, but that always seems more a measure of cold than of heat. We regularly have humid 90+ days during the summer.

    The flowers are too pretty to be named after scabies!

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