This scabiosa has large flowers on long stems for bouquets   

Large blue perennial scabiosa flower covering the palm of a hand
Seed grown perennial Scabiosa.
Home » Grow perennial scabiosa for long-lasting bouquets

Perennial Scabiosa is a fantastic cut flower with long, straight (usually), wiry stems. It’s an easy to grow perennial that blooms mid-spring through late fall. I’ve even had a few flowers into December, surviving frosts and even snow! But don’t count on that.

It’s often referred to as the pincushion flower. This applies more to the annual Scabiosa (Scabiosa atropurpurea), but below you’ll see how the perennial one makes a pincushion, too. You rarely see the perennial one, and that’s surprising because it’s perennial, so you plant it once and it brings you more flowers each year. So once you start it, it’s super easy in your garden.

The annual scabiosa flowers provide a wider range of colors. And other perennial scabiosas are used in landscaping, with shorter stems. But the S. caucasica is the best for cutting. They’re easy care with big flowers, cool colors, and long stems.

Mixed bouquet of flowers with white and blue perennial scabiosas plus orange, and pink flowers.
Bouquet with dark blue and white scabiosas with lavender, alstroemerias, feverfew, and echinacea flowers.

The flowers on this perennial are about 3 in. wide with slightly frilled petals surrounding the center. The center looks like a cluster of beads, the same color as the petals. These little ‘beads’ open to reveal their floral parts. Once the flower has been open awhile it’s stigmas, the female pollen receiving part, elongates and sports a widened top making them look like pins in a pincushion.

Perennial Scabiosa comes in white and a range of blues, from dark blue to pale blue.

The dark blue is a pretty, sought after color and there’s even a named variety that you can buy. It’s called ‘Fama Blue’. It boasts being the darkest blue and the largest Scabiosa flower. There is also a ‘Fama White’. Usually you can buy the plants, but now there are seed sources for these. But see more in My Favorite Varieties below. I actually recommend a seed blend.

The flowers are held on long, slender, but sturdy, stems, about 2 or more ft. long!

What the plants are like

They’re low-growing plants that go dormant in the winter. The leaves form a basal clump. The clump gets up to about 12 in. wide. The flowers grow on stems that have one central flower with branching about a foot down from the main flower. This gives you the main flower or the two side shoots. See more on Harvesting.

White scabiosa caucasica plant in bloom
Perennial Scabiosa caucasica in bloom. Notice the many flower stems on the plant, in flower or in bud. This shows three plants together.

How to grow perennial scabiosa

It’s quite easy to start from seed. And this plant will bloom in the first year! That’s nicebeca use it lets you know which colors you have.

Start the seeds in the early spring with your other seeds. Nothing special about starting them.

Zones:  USDA zones 3-8; full sun: Perennial Scabiosa likes to have good fertile garden soil. Give them deep watering in the summer, not too often. I’ve grown these by watering deeply once every two weeks, once they’re established. But water more often when it’s very hot. Mulch around the plants with compost to keep the soil moist and cooler while feeding the plants.

How to harvest the flowers

Dark blue scabiosa with its stigmas sticking out
This scabiosa is in a bouquet that’s spent. When the flower is older, it’s stigmas stick out like pins, hence the nickname pincushion flowers. Harvest when the center florets are tight like little beads for the longest vase life.

Harvest the flowers when the petals are just open and the centers are still closed up looking like little beads.

The stems on these flowers are so long, cut them right down at the base of the stem and have long-stemmed flowers for your vase.

But as I mentioned above there’s usually some stem branching below the main flower of the stem. This can work for you if you can use it in your flower arrangement.

White perennial scabiosa  flowers on the plant
White Scabiosa caucsica flowers.

But branching becomes a place where the flowers can get tangled up with each other, often resulting in breakage. The branching on scabiosa is far enough down the stem where it’s not always useful. (But sometimes it is!) So I like to remove the side shoots as I’m harvesting the flowers. This gives me one strong flower per stem.

The other thing you can do is to cut the main flower and allow the side stems to develop a little further. The main flower opens sooner that the side shots, so if you want your flowers a little later, this is a good strategy to use. But the side shoots are smaller as well as later.

Pale blue scabiosa flower
Here’s one of my seed grown scabiosa flowers in a nice pale blue

My favorite varieties

Isaac House blend: This seed collection is a blend of white and blue flowers. The blues range from pale to dark and you may hit on an especially dark one. I’ve started a lot of them and some of the blue ones have been darker than the famed ‘Fama Blue’ described below! They’re very pretty.

Fama Blue and Fama White: These have larger flowers, and the blue is a very dark blue, though I have gotten even darker blue by seed, as described above. Both of these are available by seed and plant.

Everybody loves the dark blue flowers. I once bought one plant of ‘Fama Blue’. But in my collection of Scabiosa seeds I grew from seed, the Isaac House mix, I got a darker blues than the plant I bought. Plus with the mix I got a very pretty range of blues plus the white.

So if you’ll want around 10 plants, I suggest the Isaac House seed mix. You won’t know what you have till they bloom, but you’ll be open to nice surprises. Ten plants will only take up about 3 ½ ft. x 3 ½ ft. of your garden space.

Scabiosa flower in a bouquet
Bouquet with scabiosa, lavender golden yarrow, feverfew, and alstroemeria

Sources for perennial scabiosa

Look for ‘Isaac House’ Scabiosa seed mix at your local nursery. Be sure not to confuse them with the many colors of annual scabiosa, Scabiosa atropurpurea.

Here are a few sources for seeds:

Botanical Interests

Kitchen Gardens

Johnny’s Seeds This link is for ‘Fama Blue’ and there is also a ‘Fama White’ there. ‘Fama Blue’ blue is supposed to be the darkest. But in my experience I found the ‘Isaac House’ blend to have even darker blues. I also really appreciate the medium and lighter blues because they’re all nice cool colors to add to hot colored summer bouquets.

Sources for plants for ‘Fama Blue’:

Bluestone Perennials 

Annie’s Annuals & Perennials

Again, I recommend trying the seed blend to get the beautiful array of blues. They’re easy to start with your annuals, they bloom the first year, and you get much more for your money.

Flowers to go with perennial scabiosa

Alstroemeria flowers in a variety of pinks

Alstroemerias

These bloom all season long on long stems like the scabiosa. They come in a wide range of beautiful colors.

Dark blue-purple lavender flower stems

‘Grosso’ Lavender

Grow this lavender for fresh arrangements, and it’s a spectacular one for drying.

Big round orange marigold

African Marigolds

The tallest, richest colored marigolds, excellent for cut flowers. In hot summer colors.

Flat topped yellow flower head

Yarrow

Most varieties work well with scabiosa. Especially the Parker’s variety.

Feverfew: small white daisies in a bouquet

Feverfew

Feverfew grows in clusters on long stems. It blooms in late spring when scabiosa starts to bloom.

Yellow flower with many petals

Perennial Sunflower

This sunny flower yields long-stemmed flowers that last long in the vase.

Mixed bouquet with a dark background, with white and blue scabiosas, feverfew, pink and red bee balm, and veronica.
Mixed bouquet with white and blue scabiosas, feverfew, pink and red bee balm, and veronica.