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Scabiosas/pin cushion flowers problems

I had been looking for a long blooming, hardy perenial that could withstand a sun & shade mix (garden facing north) and intense sun/heat in July & August.

I researched it and found that the Scabiosa or Pin Cushion flower met that criteria. Blooming from early spring to frost...a profusion of blue flowers...very hardy...heat & disease known pests. I read reviews from probably 20 people who raved about their performance in similar conditions & zones as mine.

I got four plants and planted them in the spring and they took off and looked great for 6-8 weeks. By mid-July they were done blooming and now the foliage is drying up and is practically gone on a couple of the plants.

Is this common for the first year and they will do better with maturity? Is this unusual and sounds like a disease or pest got them? Or, did I do something wrong? Will they come back next year?

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None of the Scabiosa are particularly long-lived and may need replacing after a few seasons. :( You can help them to bloom and maintain a little longer by keeping them dead headed.

Have you looked into Lewisia cotyledon. I purchased one this last year and am very impressed with the low growing high flowering plant. If kept moist it will bloom three or four times during a growing season. I let mine dry out several times but still got three sets of blooms from it. With all of that it produced a number of offsets (approximately eight) so I have a number of new plants I am starting from the original. :P

If you buy them when they are blooming you are assured of getting the color you want. Mine is a gorgous dark pink. The colors can vary considerably.
My Vegie Gardens ... arden2009#
Zone 7b or Western Gardener's Zone 4
There are fairies at the bottom of my garden~Anonymous

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According to Sunset (both the Western Garden Book and the National Garden Book), Scabiosa caucasica "Pincushion Flower" is a perennial in Sunset Zones 32-43 (among others), which includes all three Sunset climate zones in Indiana.

S. caucasica is a perennial (still relaying Sunset's info), but almost every perennial takes a while to become established. I've heard the saying re. perennials: "First they sleep, then they creep, then they LEAP!" referring to Year 1, 2, and 3. Also, "perennial" doesn't necessarily mean the plant will live forever; the term also includes multi-year plants (5 to 7 years, in my experience).

Dead-heading will definitely induce the plants to produce more blooms; the plant's goal is to make seeds and reproduce itself, completing the life cycle. By dead-heading or even shearing, those flowers are removed from the plant before they go to seed, and the plant tries again. Sometimes it will try as many as three times in one season.

Best wishes!

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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pincushion flower

The definition of a perennial is a plant that had it lived would have come back year after year. :)

For some reason I have not had good luck with scabiosa. I really want one for my butterfly garden, but I have tried three times now and it does well through the season and then dies and doesn't come back the following year. They are supposed to be quite hardy enough for our winters. I don't know if it doesn't like my clay-alkaline-rock soil (how could that be :) ?) or what.

If it doesn't work out for you perennial salvia works for me in similar conditions and blooms all season. Other long blooming possibilities that would be hardy for your conditions include coneflower, black-eyed susans, daisies, coreopsis, yarrow, anise hyssop.

But I hope the scabiosa works out better for you than it did for me. Some day I may do my homework better and try one more time to see if I can figure out what it needs and keep it alive.

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Thanks for your suggestions of other flowers to consider.

For years I planted annuals in this bed. Impatiens did the best but required a lot of back-breaking digging to plant and then daily maintenance (watering) in July & August. I thought a hardy perennial would reduce the labor, inserting a few annuals here and there, but not as many holes to dig or as much watering.

This is the fourth season of pursuing this less labor intensive plan (perennial planting) and the result has been disapointing with an unattractive and bare bed most of the growing season.

Part of the problem with choosing plants (and them doing well) is that the sun only shines on the entire bed in June & July. Other times of the year it is in entire shade or only part of the bed (the front row) gets sun.

I think next year, I'll return to mostly impatiens. If the scabiosas return, great. If not, I'll insert some of your perennial suggestions and see what happens.

Again thanks for your responses and ideas.

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Maybe they didn't get enough sunlight. Mine like the sun and wouldn't do well in a bed that suited impatiens.

I also make sure that I deadhead them every couple days and they bloom all summer.

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
--Margaret Atwood

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I think the lack of sun is a strong possibility, though I'm not convinced of that. They bloomed like gang busters the first couple of months after they were planted in the spring and that was before the sun drenched the bed. They petered out during the sunny stretch of early summer.

If they return next year I may transplant them in a different spot where they would receive more sun.

Thanks for your feedback!

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