March 2022 Plant of the Month (from our monthly newsletter):  “Pincushion flowers”

I don’t know about you, but in general I like plants with common names that are the same as their botanical names: “hosta” for the genus Hosta, “begonia” for the genus Begonia, and so on (I’m still annoyed that “coleus” was reclassified out of the genus Coleusseveral years ago 🙃). 

Here’s an exception though, Scabiosa caucasica, commonly called “perennial pincushion” rather than Scabiosa, which sounds like some sort of illness. 

In any case, “perennial pincushions” are one of the easiest, and most generous plants we can grow in Chico. The low rosettes have nicely divided green leaves (evergreen, locally), and they toss up very pretty pincushion-like flowers (Google “pincushion”, young people) in lavender or white, depending on variety. They flower heavily from mid-spring until late summer, but toss up occasional random flowers all year long. All they ask is for full or partial sun, and fairly regular water. Even their seed heads are attractive.  

Propagating perennial pincushions is as easy as it can be. If you dig up an established plant, you can easily tease it apart and find several new plants forming where stems have touched moist soil. Each rosette can be separated and planted for a new plant (or a larger plant can be divided into sections each with several rosettes). Stems placed in water usually root easily too. There is an annual pincushion flower (known botanically as Scabiosa atropurpurea) which comes in a wider range of colors, although by definition they don’t survive the winter. 

If you aren’t already growing it, I hope you will give perennial pincushion plants a try, and I hope you’ll let me know what you think of them.  

Happy gardening!

Submitted by Member and Club President (2020-2022) Grant Meyer