What is a Knautia Plant and How to Care for It? - Home Stratosphere

What is a Knautia Plant and How to Care for It?

Beautiful purple knautifa flower heads on a grey background

Genus Knautia

Gardening can be a somewhat intimidating thing to get involved in! Each plant is so different and requires so many varying things from you, and getting it wrong can be really discouraging.

If you’re just getting started on greening up your green thumb, may I put forth a suggestion: the knautia plant. Knautia plants are wonderfully carefree perennials that are majorly easy to grow, but simply lovely to look at.

Knautia plants are also commonly known under the names of widow flowers or scabious flowers. They are proud members of the caprifoliaceae botanical family, which is the honeysuckle family! Keep on reading to learn about these charming flowering plants and how you too can grow one in your garden!

Be aware: knautia plants have a creeping growth habit and they can very quickly take over an area. If you’re looking for a wildflower garden look, these are perfect. If you’re looking for more of a manicured look, maybe check out a different flower type in our huge list of Types of Flowering Plants.

Related: Sun-Loving Flowers | Water-Loving Flowers | Shade-Loving Flowers | Types of Flowers | Types of Flowers by Color | Types of Flowers by Alphabet | Types of Flower Colors

What do Knautia Plants Look Like?

Amazing bright purple knautia flowers growing in a field with long stems

Flowers

Knautia plants bear though small, wonderfully lovely perennial flowers. This means that flowers will continue to blossom year after year as long as their growing conditions can be maintained.

Knautia flowers bloom in huge amounts and they also last for a long time! A knautia flower patch will usually bloom in the early summer or late summer and last all the way through autumn as well.

Each individual knautia flower is quite small and is usually made up of small florets. They have been called a pincushion flower because of their overall shape. Flowers are usually a dark pink to deep red color.

Leaves

A neat way to identify a knautia plant is by its leaves as well. They have interesting foliage that changes slightly the higher up the stem it grows.

Deep green leaves grow in basal rosettes at the base of the plant. These lower leaves are slightly lobed, and become divided the higher up the flower stem they grow.

Growth Habit

The general growth habit of the knautia plant gives it that appealing wildflower look. They are upright, clump forming plants that bear branching stems.

These stems can grow to be quite tall, and there are some knautia varieties that can grow to be over 3 feet in height! They become very leggy when they grow in fertile soil, so be aware of this!

Because they are such fast and enthusiastic growers, they can sometimes develop a creeping habit if they are not controlled or pruned. Since they also self seed prolifically, they can very quickly take over an area.

What are some Knautia Species?

Lovely patch of knautia macedonia flowers in deep red with long stems

Macedonia Scabious (Knautia Macedonia)

The Macedonia scabious knautia plant is a herbaceous perennial that is native to the Southeastern parts of Europe, and grow prevalently in mostly Turkey, Romania, Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania.

This is a medium sized knautia plant and can be identified by their inflorescences of dark red pincushion flower bundles. They are also more of a short lived perennial compared to other species.

Meadow Widow Flower (Knautia Arvensis)

K arvensis is a species of knautia plant that is native to the Southeastern parts of Europe. It also goes by the names of field scabious and meadow widow flower.

This is a perennial plant that can be identified by its many small pink flowers borne atop rather tall flower stems that can reach almost 4 feet in height.

These guys love to grow in the wild in sunny and dry sites with infertile soils. They also make for very successful cultivated plants and folks love to snip them to use them as cut flowers.

Hungarian Widow Flower (Knautia Drymeia)

The Hungarian widow flower is a herbaceous perennial variety of knautia plant that is native to central and Southeastern Europe, very specifically growing with enthusiasm in Hungary.

This is a shorter species though it produces stems with many branches and they have an erect and upright growth habit. They can easily be identified because this species produces a basal rosette of leaves which gives rise to those branching stems.

Where is the Knautia a Native Plant?

Members of the knautia genus are native plants mostly to Central Europe. They can be found growing wild in grassy and sunny sites with dry soil. They can be found growing in meadows and along field margins, and pretty much anywhere where the soil is derived from chalky bedrock.

Because they are such non-picky plants, knautias have also become naturalized in many other temperate regions in the world, and can grow successfully in USDA growing zones 5 through 9.

What are the Growing Conditions of Knautia Plants?

Stunning wildflower patch of pink and red knautia flowers

There isn’t any gardener on earth who couldn’t handle growing a knautia plant. They are so low maintenance that you could literally plant it, walk away for a year, and come back and it would be the happiest plant in your garden.

That being said, it is always kind to our green friends to try to make them the happiest home possible, so here are a few tips to help create that plant paradise:

Soil Type

The soil type is probably the thing that knautia plants are most picky about. First thing to remember is that the soil type should be very well drained. If you’re worried about this, simply add some soil to the mix to help with drainage.

The next thing to remember is that they actually prefer to grow in soil that is infertile. The less fertile the soil, the less uncontrolled and leggy the plants will be. Soil should also be closer to neutral or acidic than alkaline on the pH scale. Alkaline soil can be damaging to the plant.

Here’s another hot tip: if you happen to be growing your knautia plants in a container, add a layer of pebbles or gravel to the bottom of the container to guarantee properly well drained soil.

Additionally, if you’re feeling worried about the low winter temperatures, you can also add a thick layer of mulch to the top soil to help insulate the roots and keep them slightly more warm during those harsh winter temperatures.

Sun Exposure

Knautia plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they should be receiving a bear minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight. Being in direct sun also helps ensure that any extra moisture in the soil will quickly dry up.

These plants are capable of tolerating partial shade, though they tend to perform far better in open spaces, such as in sunny meadows or along forest margins.

Single light purple knautia flower growing in a field

Water Level

Knautia plants like to be dry. They perform far better when they have soil that is dry for extended periods of time rather than wet for extended periods of time. They are very drought tolerant.

It is much better to under water a knautia plant than to over water it. Also, make sure to try and avoid overhead watering. Getting too much water on the leaves of the plant can cause some humidity problems both in the roots and the leaves of the plant.

Watering should only occur if there has been a very long period of drought. Otherwise, natural precipitation should be more than enough water for the plant.

Temperature

Knautia plants aren’t too picky about the temperature that they grow in. Seeing as they are hardy perennial plants, they will simply fade away once the first frost of late winter approaches, and sprout back up once the last frost of the spring passes. They can exist in USDA growing zones 5 through 9.

Pruning

Alright I lied. There is one aspect of knautia plant care that may be a little bit time consuming, and that is pruning. These plants will commonly become quite leggy and unruly if left alone for long periods of time, and they should be heavily cut back after they’ve blossomed.

Additionally, deadheading the plant (which means snipping away spent flowers after they have blossomed) will help keep the plant healthy, as well as encourages those spent flowers to be replaced by an entire new set of flowers!

Fertilizer

And here comes the least time consuming aspect of knautia care: fertilizing! Just don’t do it! They don’t need it, they don’t want it, if anything, they tend to become overzealous if they live in fertile soils, so avoid fertilizing entirely. And don’t even think about adding any compost!

Intolerances

As you can see, there isn’t anything to be worried about when it comes to keeping a knautia plant happy. All you have to remember is to avoid over saturating their soil, and they will be happy happy campers.

How do you Propagate a Knautia Plant?

Beautiful wild field of light pink knautia flowers growing in the sun

Now that we know how to keep a knautia plant happy, you’re probably about ready to start taking notes on some of the ways to get your hands dirty and grow your own! Propagating your own specimen can be done either by sowing seed or through basal cuttings.

Sowing Seed

The way to guarantee successful germination is by starting your knautia seeds in a cold frame. It’s really simple: sprinkle some seeds, very lightly cover them with soil (as seed heads need sun exposure in order germinate) and wait!

Once seedlings have gained about 2 inches in height they can be moved to their more permanent home in the garden or in another container. The optimal time to start this process is in the early spring.

Basal Cuttings

Another very easy way to start your own specimen is through basal cuttings. Simply visit an existing plant and use some sharp scissors to snip a healthy looking stem away at the node.

The stem should have at least 1 or 2 leaves on (for photosynthesis purposes) and should be snipped close to the base. Take your stems and place them a few inches deep into some potting soil.

Maintenance

Only when the plants are first being established should they live in moist soil. Soil should still be well drained, but ensure that they are watered frequently in this growing season period.

How are Knautia Plants Used?

Macro image of single knautia flower with details

Ornamental Plant

The knautia plant is an awesome perennial variety that for whatever reason, is often overlooked by gardeners! It’s low maintenance and has a long blooming season.

It makes for an excellent cut flower variety, as it grows from long stems and blossoms can last for a few weeks in a vase. They’re also great for cottage garden plantings and are awesome as a container plant as well! Just make sure that that container has proper drainage.

Planting a knautia patch amidst some ornamental grasses makes for a really wonderful wildflower garden look. Also use them as a perennial border planting that will be both low maintenance and effective.

Wildlife Ecology

Let’s not forget the real purpose behind flowering plants: providing nectar for various pollinating species. A plant with so many long lasting blooms that last through early autumn and beyond and sweet smelling nectar, a knautia patch is sure to attract bees and butterflies to your property. Who wouldn’t want a butterfly garden!

This symbiotic relationship also ensures that pollen is distributed throughout the garden and further, making sure all of those shrubs and plants living in pots are visited by bees and butterflies as well!

Charming patch of light purple knautia flowers growing with tall grasses

FAQs

Are knautia plants deer resistant?

Another very appealing aspect of the knautia plant is the fact that it is entirely deer resistant! Along with it being lovely and easy to grow, it also isn’t plagued by over grazing by deer and rabbits.

What are the damaging agents to knautia plants?

The main damaging agents that affect knautia plants usually occur when they are improperly watered. Watering the plant overhead can sometimes result in leaf rot, powdery mildew on the leaves, or root rot. This can easily be fixed by just watering close to the soil instead of overhead.

Do knautia plants grow from bulbs?

Knautia plants grow from widespreading root systems, not from underground bulbs.

Are knautia plants cold hardy?

Knautia plants aren’t too picky about the temperature that they grow in. Seeing as they are hardy perennial plants, they will simply fade away once the first frost of late winter approaches, and sprout back up once the last frost of the spring passes. They can exist in USDA growing zones 5 through 9.

Should a knautia plant be divided?

A great way to propagate new plants and keep old plants healthy is by dividing them. This gives them room to breathe and grow freely! This can be done through basal cuttings. Simply visit an existing plant and use some sharp scissors to snip a healthy looking stem away at the node.

The stem should have at least 1 or 2 leaves on (for photosynthesis purposes) and should be snipped close to the base. Take your stems and place them a few inches deep into some potting soil.

What do knautia leaves look like?

A neat way to identify a knautia plant is by its leaves as well. They have interesting foliage that changes slightly the higher up the stem it grows.

Deep green leaves grow in basal rosettes at the base of the plant. These lower leaves are slightly lobed, and become divided the higher up the flower stem they grow.

Can a knautia plant be grown indoors?

The knautia is actually a plant that is not well suited for the indoors. It requires too much sunlight and other growing conditions that are far more easy to attain simply by letting the plants grow outside!

How do you pronounce knautia?

The term knautia is pronounced like NAW-TEE-AH.

Should a knautia plant be deadheaded?

There is one aspect of knautia plant care that may be a little bit time consuming, and that is pruning. These plants will commonly become quite leggy and unruly if left alone for long periods of time, and they should be heavily cut back after they’ve blossomed.

Additionally, deadheading the plant (which means snipping away spent flowers after they have blossomed) will help keep the plant healthy, as well as encourages those spent flowers to be replaced by an entire new set of flowers!

Do knautia plants like sun?

Knautia plants are sun loving creatures. This means that they should be receiving a bear minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight. Being in direct sun also helps ensure that any extra moisture in the soil will quickly dry up.

These plants are capable of tolerating partial shade, though they tend to perform far better in open spaces, such as in sunny meadows or along forest margins.

What USDA growing zone should a knautia plant grow in?

Knautia plants can grow in USDA growing zones 5 through 9.

How tall do knautia plants get?

The general growth habit of the knautia plant gives it that appealing wildflower look. They are upright, clump forming plants that bear branching stems.

These stems can grow to be quite tall, and there are some knautia varieties that can grow to be over 3 feet in height! They become very leggy when they grow in fertile soil, so be aware of this!

Because they are such fast and enthusiastic growers, they can sometimes develop a creeping habit if they are not controlled or pruned. Since they also self seed prolifically, they can very quickly take over an area.

What is the ideal soil type for a knautia plant?

The soil type is probably the thing that knautia plants are most picky about. First thing to remember is that the soil type should be very well drained. If you’re worried about this, simply add some soil to the mix to help with drainage.

The next thing to remember is that they actually prefer to grow in soil that is infertile. The less fertile the soil, the less uncontrolled and leggy the plants will be. Soil should also be closer to neutral or acidic than alkaline on the pH scale. Alkaline soil can be damaging to the plant.

Here’s another hot tip: if you happen to be growing your knautia plants in a container, add a layer of pebbles or gravel to the bottom of the container to guarantee properly well drained soil.

Additionally, if you’re feeling worried about the low winter temperatures, you can also add a thick layer of mulch to the top soil to help insulate the roots and keep them slightly more warm during those harsh winter temperatures.

How often should a knautia plant be watered?

Knautia plants like to be dry. They perform far better when they have soil that is dry for extended periods of time rather than wet for extended periods of time. They are very drought tolerant.

It is much better to under water a knautia plant than to over water it. Also, make sure to try and avoid overhead watering. Getting too much water on the leaves of the plant can cause some humidity problems both in the roots and the leaves of the plant.

Watering should only occur if there has been a very long period of drought. Otherwise, natural precipitation should be more than enough water for the plant.

Do knautia plants need fertilizer?

And here comes the least time consuming aspect of knautia care: fertilizing! Just don’t do it! They don’t need it, they don’t want it, if anything, they tend to become overzealous if they live in fertile soils, so avoid fertilizing entirely. And don’t even think about adding any compost!

Are knautia plants invasive?

Because of their enthusiastic growth habit and creeping manner of growing, knautia plants can very quickly take over an area. They also self seed very successfully, further increasing their population. That being said, they are not considered as being an invasive species as they do not cause detriment to other plant life.

When do knautia flowers bloom?

Knautia flowers bloom in huge amounts and they also last for a long time! A knautia flower patch will usually bloom in the early summer or late summer and last all the way through autumn as well.

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