Cephalaria gigantea, commonly called Giant Scabiosa, is a tall, cheery perennial plant for a sunny spot.
Scabiosas are sometimes called pincushion flowers, as their blooms do truly resemble a pincushion. These flowers are loved by bees and other pollinators.
Where Giant Scabiosa differs from its more commonly found cousins, is in its height–it is a giant!
The blooms bob about on stems that are easily over 6 feet tall. Despite its height, its appearance is very airy. For a time, I grew it at the front of my front garden, as you could easily see through it. Given it’s height, it’s a real attention grabber!
The stems spring up from a bushy, somewhat shrubby plant, that emerges in early spring.
To give you some idea of how fast it pops in spring, take a look at the above photo; you’ll see that the tulips have just finished blooming and the hostas are still unfurling, but the Scabiosa has just about fully emerged.
Cephalaria gigantea isn’t a difficult plant to grow. It’s hardy from about USDA zones 3 to 7, and I haven’t found it to be bothered by any pests or diseases in the years that I’ve been growing it. It seems to likes an average amount of water, although I’ve read it prefers moist soils.
This plant needs full sun in order to grow well, but sometimes, on an extremely hot day it can wilt and look like it’s dying:
Do not be alarmed if you see this. Once the sun recedes and temperatures cool a little bit it will spring back to normal. The above photos were taken on a very hot day. I know the problem wasn’t that it was dry–the garden had been thoroughly watered the day before, it was covered in mulch, and the soil was still good–it was just the heat. I haven’t seen the flowers droop like this once the blooms have opened, only in this budding stage (that doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but I haven’t seen it.)
I always deadhead the finished flowers, snipping just above the next set of blooms or leaves below the flower. I’ve read that Scabiosa will rebloom if you deadhead it, but I haven’t ever seen that happen.
Once all the flowers are finished I cut the stalks off near the base, leaving just the clump of foliage.
Cephalaria gigantea isn’t the most common plant around, but if you can find it at your garden centre, I highly recommend it. If you can’t find plants to buy, you could grow it from seed* yourself.
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