Scabiosa atropurpurea [skab-ee-OH-suh, at-ro-pur-PURR-ee-uh] is a flowering perennial plant apart of the Scabiosa genus in the honeysuckle family.
The plant itself is native to northern Africa and is found in abundance in northern Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
They are also found in southern Europe and western Asia and have been naturalized in southern Australia and the USA.
The name comes from the Latin word scabies referring to the rough leaves on the plant capable of curing the itch.
Atropurpurea, on the other hand, is an epithet meaning “dark purple.
Unlike the more difficult to pronounce botanical name the common names such as “pincushion plant” and grandma’s pincushion are given to the plant because they resemble pincushions full of needles.
You may hear it called by its common names including:
- Grandmother’s Pincushion
- Mournful Widow
- Mourning Bride
- Pincushion flower
- Sweet Scabious
- Egyptian Rose
Pincushion Flower Care
Size & Growth
The pincushion flower produces an abundance of unique flowers in locations with a cool summer or Mediterranean-like climate.
With the right growing conditions, the plant can grow anywhere from 1.5’ feet to 2’ feet in height and have a 1’ foot spread.
The plant grows considerably fast and can grow to ultimate height within 1 to 2 years.
Flowering and Fragrance
This Sweet Scabious species blooms 2” inches wide showy flowers on long wiry stems.
The plant’s bloom time is from late summer into the fall.
While the deep purple or burgundy color of the pincushion-like flowers is widely popular, you will find varieties producing pink and white flower colors.
The contrasting white stamens add ornamental interest to the plant.
The Butterfly Blue pincushion flower looks unique against the foliage of oblong, coarsely toothed basal leaves and pinnatifid stem leaves.
As both houseplants and wildflowers, these plants are known for their showy nature and attract various pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies.
Light & Temperature
The plant loves the full sun.
When planting, choose a location getting at least 6 hours of full sun during the day.
However, it does well in sheltered areas when planted facing south or west.
The Pincushion Flower plant is one of the longest flowering annuals capable of thriving in USDA zones 9a to 11.
Although the plant is hardy, it does not do well in high heat and humid climates.
Hence, it doesn’t thrive in areas south of USDA hardiness zone 7.
Watering and Feeding
The plant has low maintenance needs and doesn’t need to be watered too frequently.
They are tolerant of drought but don’t do well in high heat and humidity.
So make sure you water the plants occasionally during a particularly hot or dry season.
The Pincushion Flower does tend to flop in very rich soils. Avoid using too much fertilizer too often.
If your garden bed is overly rich, plant the Pincushion Flower near sturdier plants for support.
Soil & Transplanting
Pincushion Flower plants do well in light to medium moisture, so make sure to use well-drained soil with a neutral pH.
They can do well in chalky, loamy, and sandy soil.
However, avoid using overly rich soils as it can cause the plant to flop over.
If you’re germinating the seeds indoors, do it in peat pots or cell packs.
Transplant the pincushion flower only when the roots have been established.
Plant them about 9” inches apart from each other in well-drained soil.
Keep the soil moist in the beginning, but don’t overwater as root rot may occur.
Grooming and Maintenance
The best part about planting Pincushion Flowers is their very low maintenance.
The only pruning you need to do is cut back after flowering to promote future blooming.
Deadheading the spent flowers to prolong additional bloom.
However, leaving them in place is very attractive.
This plant is also considered invasive.
It grows rapidly and can cover a lot of ground through self-sowing.
The California Invasive Plant Council has rated the plant as Watch.
How To Propagate Grandmother’s Pincushion?
The Pincushion Flower plants are best propagated through seeding.
- Collect the seeds in the early summer.
- Sow them in the ground in the gentle heat of early to late spring.
- In mild winter climates, they should be planted in the fall.
- Plant them indoors in peat pots or cell packs, approximately 4 to 6 weeks before the last spring frost date.
- The seeds begin germinating once the soil warms up.
- Once the roots have established, plant them in their permanent location, about 9” inches apart.
Mournful Widow Pest or Disease Problems
The Pincushion Flower plant is typically insect, pest, and disease-free.
However, watch out for aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites as they may stipple foliage.
Powdery mildew can create problems. Fortunately, they are easy to deal with.
Find a solution for them by visiting and consulting with your local gardening center.
Suggested Uses For Egyptian Rose
The unique showiness of the Pincushion Flowers is commonly used for ornamental purposes.
The blooms are excellent cut flowers and can last for about four days in containers.
They are also dried and used decoratively.
In gardens, plant them in borders, rock gardens, meadows, and cutting gardens.
Pincushion flowers are excellent in pollinator gardens as they attract hummingbirds and butterflies when in full bloom.