The Q&A Archives: What Is Cephalaria

Question: I purchased seed of what I thought was Yellow Scabiosa, they were over $1.00 each, and when they arrived they did not resemble any other Scabiosa seeds that I had ever seen. The botanical name Cephalaria was not in any book that I have. The description says it is a shrub and will grow 5 to 6 feet. What is this plant actually? Thank you, love your Web site!

Answer: Cephalaria is in fact yellow Scabiousa. These hardy perennials are natives of Europe and grow up to 6 feet high with a spread of 4 feet. Cephalaria gigantea, the Giant or Yellow Scabiousa, is a vigorous growing plant with dark green leaves divided into lance-shaped sections. The beautiful, large, pale yellow flowers are borne atop wiry stems in mid-summer.

Cephalarias should be grown in fertile, moist, but well-drained soil, in full sun. They are suitable for large borders and for naturalizing in a wild garden.

You may have confused Scabiosa, the pincushion flower, (family Dipsacaceae)with yellow scabiousa (Cephalarias). It happens often when we use common names instead of botanical names when referring to a plant.

Hope you enjoy your plants, regardless of their botanical name!

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