Amazing annuals: Scabious

Fragrant, great for cutting and a magnet for butterflies, annual scabious are a delight

Scabious are best known for perennials, especially in recent years as the low, almost ever-flowering butterfly magnets. Scabious are fairly familiar flowers, making squat domes of petals, often with a ring of larger petals around the edge. The fact that these ‘flowers’ are actually heads of florets. But these are not in the Asteraceae. They are related to teasels or at least they used to be. They were placed in the Dipsacaeae, which made some sense to me since structurally a scabious does look vaguely like a teasel. But now they are in the Caprifoliaceae and are related to honeysuckles. I just don’t see it. Damn that DNA analysis. All these revisions based on DNA are all very fine but the old system was based on what we could actually see!

Anyway, Scabiosa atropurpurea, a south Mediterranean native, is a popular annual. It forms a small rosette at first and then rockets up, producing tall stems with pinnate leaves, branching freely and then producing vibrant or pastel flowers that are loved by butterflies. In theory this is a perennial but it is not very hardy and needs well drained soil to stand any chance of surviving winter. The dark purple kinds are especially popular and are often sold, in bloom, in late summer. If these are planted at that time of year they have very little chance of getting through winter. When these were in their heyday, a couple of decades ago, I was caught out with these. The only places they survived was when in large planters beside the house.

They are easy to grow from seed and can be sown direct where they are to grow. There is a wide range of colours and they do make good cut flowers. They are faintly fragrant too. Most are quite tall, usually in excess of 60cm. They are best grown among other plants or given some brushwood to keep them upright or they are bound to flop over in the rain or wind. They look at their best among ornamental grasses, in my opinion.

I desperately want to love annual scabious but there is something that does not quite fill me with delight. I grow them mainly because I think they will benefit wildlife but do enjoy the flowers too. This is not the only species that can be grown as an annual though and the one I like best is S. stellata. This has smaller and duller flowers but these are followed by round seedheads made up of the large, papery seeds.

One Comment on “Amazing annuals: Scabious”

  1. tonytomeo
    January 23, 2021 at 7:27 am #

    Okay, another one that I would not have guessed the family of. That is just too weird. That is a weird family anyway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sweetgum and Pines

gardening in the North Carolina piedmont

Ravenscourt Gardens

Learning life's lessons in the garden!

RMW: the blog

Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life

Paddy Tobin, An Irish Gardener

Our garden, gardens visited, occasional thoughts and book reviews


un altro blog sul giardinaggio...


four decades of organic vegetable gardening and barely a clue

The Long Garden Path

A walk round the Estate!


Gardening on the edge of a cliff

Uprooted Magnolia

I'm Leah, a freelance Photographer born and raised in Macon, GA, USA. I spent 8 years in the wild west and this is my photo journal on life, love, and the spirit of Wyoming. Welcome to Uprooted Magnolia.

Interesting Literature

A Library of Literary Interestingness

Garden Variety

A Gardening, Outdoor Lifestyle and Organic Food & Drink Blog

For the Love of Iris

Articles, Tips and Notes from Schreiner's Iris Gardens

One Bean Row

Words and pictures from an Irish garden by Jane Powers

Plant Heritage

We are working to save garden plants for people to use and enjoy today and tomorrow


An English persons experience of living and gardening in Ireland

%d bloggers like this: