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Butterfly bait

Pincushion flowers attract beautiful visitors

Calling all butterfly lovers: The pincushion flower is a perennial worth adding to your garden. The name comes from the flower’s resemblance to a velvet pincushion. Truthfully, I don’t see the resemblance, but I do think it’s a beautiful flower, and it’s the perfect type to attract butterflies. 

THERE ARE OVER 60 VARIETIES OF SCABIOSA, but only a few are commonly found. Varieties like ‘Butterfly Blue’ and ‘Pink Mist’ are widely available. One new series, Scabiosa Giga, comes in blue, pink, purple and silver. Its claim to fame is the size of the flowers, with the Giga series boasting 3-inch blooms. They do seem larger than ‘Pink Mist’ or ‘Butterfly Blue,’ but not a whole inch larger. I am sure size is influenced by growing environment; maybe the flowers would be that large in a slightly cooler climate.

Giga Silver. Photo: Shelly Nold

THE PLANTS OF THESE CULTIVATED PINCUSHION FLOWERS are compact and grow on average 12 to 18 inches tall, including the flowers; they are about equally as wide. They need to be planted in well-draining soil, which is particularly important in the winter months. Full sun is ideal for maximum blooming, but in our hot and humid summers a little shade is preferred. 

THEY HAVE AN INTERESTING GRAYISH-GREEN FOLIAGE, but because they start blooming early and bloom for most of the summer, the flowers get all the attention. Or should I say, the butterflies all over the flowers get all the attention. 

Butterfly Blue. Photo: Shelly Nold

PLANT THE PINCUSHION FLOWER TOWARD THE FRONT of your landscape beds and perennial borders so you can enjoy the airy presence of this plant and the butterflies that follow it. You can plant just one, but I would suggest planting several to make a stronger statement. 

SHELLY NOLD is a horticulturist and owner of The Plant Kingdom. Send stories and ideas to her at The Plant Kingdom, 4101 Westport Road, Louisville, KY 40207

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