Pigeon scabious – info, planting, care and tips

Pigeon scabious (Scabiosa columbaria
Pigeon scabious (Scabiosa columbaria

This pretty wild perennial has certain requirements for the location, but rewards with months of flowering. Here are tips for planting and care of the pigeon scabious.

Profile of pigeon scabious:

Scientific name: Scabiosa columbaria

Plant family: honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae)

Other names: dove pincushion, pincushion flower, small scabious

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring to autumn

Flowering period: June to October

Harvest time: leaves from spring to autumn

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, calcipholous, low in nutrients

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: metabolism boost, scabies, scurf

Use in: flower beds, flower meadows, planters, borders, flower garden, natural garden, rock garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of pigeon scabious

Plant order, origin and occurrence of pigeon scabious

The pigeon scabious from is a wild perennial from the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae). The plant with the long flowering period can be found in the wild in Europe, except for the Atlantic regions and northern Scandinavia. In wild habitats, the perennial mainly colonizes warm, moderately dry and poor calcareous loam soils. Since these are becoming rarer and rarer, the population of the pigeon scabious has also declined sharply in some regions. The botanical name, Scabiosa columbaria, probably refers to the dove-blue flowers (columba = dove) of the pure species.

Characteristics of pigeon scabious


The hardy perennial pushes 30 to 70 centimeter (12 to 28 in) high shoots out of the ground in spring from the deep-reaching, underground roots. The shoots form a bushy semi-rosette due to their abundant branching. Towards autumn, the above-ground plant parts of Scabiosa columbaria die off.


The deciduous leaves of the pigeon scabious sit opposite on the stems. Only the edges and the veins are hairy. The basal leaves of the plant are oval shaped and have a notched edge. The foliage, which sits higher up, is more filigree and pinnate in one to two lobes.


The blue-purple flowers of the wild species open from late June to October. They are basket-like, with many small, lighter inner flowers and larger petals on the edge. As insect and bee pasture, the flowers of the plant are not only popular, but also very valuable due to their long presence. Various wild bees, butterflies and insects love Scabiosa columbaria and buzz around its flowers at flowering time.


The spherical seed heads of the pigeon scabious are very decorative and are often eaten by native birds. If seeds remain and the location is right, the plant likes to spread in the garden by self-seeding.

Pigeon scabious – cultivation and care


A full sun and warm place is essential for the pigeon scabious.


The soil can be dry to fresh, but not wet. It is important that the soil is well-drained, calcareous and, above all, poor. The pigeon scabious will quickly disappear from nutrient-rich sites in the garden.


It can be planted from spring to autumn with a distance of about 30 centimeters (12 in).


In the right location, the plants do not need much care. There is no need watering the plants, as they survive summer dry periods well, also thanks to their taproot, which reaches up to 1.5 meters (5 ft) deep in the ground. Fertilizing is also not necessary. If you want an even richer bloom, you can regularly cut off any flowers that have faded. However, this also prevents the pigeon scabious from forming fruits and seeds.


Pigeon scabiosa may or may not be divided in the spring.


The wild species willingly self-seeds in locations that suit it. But you can also seed directly to the desired location in spring.Varieties of pigeon scabious you can propagate by dividing the clumps in the spring.

Diseases and pests

Scabiosa columbaria is most troubled by soils that are too nutrient-rich and wet. The plants then become susceptible or quickly die. Pests are very rarely encountered on the pigeon scabious.


In the right location, the plants are completely hardy.

Use in the garden

Scabiosa columbaria fits in meadow-like green spaces and beds, on the tops of walls and in rock gardens. If you want to keep them in containers, you need to give their roots, in particular, a lot of downward space. If you want to do something good for bees and butterflies in your garden, then this is a great plant.

Other perennials that harmonize with pigeon scabious include yarrow (Achillea millefolium), red valerian (Centranthus ruber), sea holly (Eryngium), viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare), spiny restharrow (Ononis spinosa), Carthusian pink (Dianthus carthusianorum), meadow sage (Salvia pratensis), or woodland sage (Salvia nemorosa). Dainty grasses such as hairy melic (Melica ciliata) or didder (Briza media) also fit in.


There are several cultivars of Scabiosa columbaria that grow more compact overall than the wild species. ‘Butterfly Blue’ opens pale blue flowers from May to October and grow 40 centimeters (16 in) tall. In a darker purplish blue shines ‘Mariposa Blue’. At 30 centimeters (12 in), the snow-white flowering ‘Flutter Pure White’ remains somewhat lower. There is also a pink variant: ‘Pink Mist’ grows about 40 centimeters (16 in) high.

Use as a medicinal herb and in the kitchen

Furthermore, Scabiosa columbaria is an ancient medicinal plant whose roots and leaves help internally with respiratory problems and stimulate the metabolism. Wraps made from the plant parts were used in the past for scabies and other skin diseases caused by parasites. The young leaves of pigeon scabious are also considered a delicate ingredient for salads and have a metabolism-stimulating and tonic effect.

Pigeon scabious can be used for these ailments and diseases

  • metabolism boost
  • scabies
  • scurf

Medicinal properties

  • boosts metabolism

Side effects

Not known.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

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