Vibrant, Unexpected Color From a Classic Annual

Fine Gardening – Issue 203
Photo: Rachel Warne/

While you’re perusing seed catalogs or the annual section at your local garden center this year, don’t overlook this jaw-dropping plant if you see it. ‘Fire King’ pincushion flower is a wonderful change of pace from the common pastel shades of purple, producing striking deep raspberry-red blooms in summer. Widely adored as a cut and dried flower, pincushion flower is at home in the midsection of herbaceous plantings in the company of other great cut-flower favorites such as flowering sages (Salvia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–11), yarrows (Achillea spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9), and zinnias (Zinnia elegans cvs., annual). Pincushion flower can be a rambunctious seeder in California. Plants may also need a little additional support (or a sturdy neighbor) to help keep stems upright, but the rich color that ‘Fire King’ adds to plantings as well as a vase is well worth the effort.

‘Fire King’ pincushion flower

Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Fire King’

Zones: Annual

Size: 24 to 36 inches tall and 9 to 15 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; rich, well-drained soil

Native range: Mediterranean


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