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Dianthus

Dianthus

The dianthus plant is the quintessential cottage flower. Dianthus pink is treasured for its grasslike, blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which are often spicily fragrant. Depending on the type of dianthus pink, flowers appear in spring or summer and tend to be white, pink, red, rose, or lavender, but come in nearly all shades except true blue. Dianthus plants range from tiny creeping groundcovers to 30-inch-tall cut flowers, which are a favorite with florists. The “pink” part of their name has a two-fold meaning: Plants are often pink in color, and the petals have a fringed look as if someone took pinking shears to their edges.

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Light:

Part Sun, Sun

Type:

Height:

Under 6 inches to 3 feet

Width:

4-18 inches wide

Flower Color:

Foliage Color:

Seasonal Features:

Zones:

3-10

Propagation

Colorful Combinations

Dianthus plants come in all shapes and sizes, including miniature varieties that form a tight little lump of foliage and blooms, and giant species reaching up to 3 feet tall with almost no basal foliage. These plants are typically mat-forming perennials that form very tight-knit spreads of foliage. As they continue to grow, you may sometimes get dead spots within the center of the foliage. When this occurs, divide the plant and re-plant to encourage new growth and to remove any old, dead foliage.

Flowers of the dianthus plant are extremely variable and offer something for everyone. Many of the blossoms include interesting patterns and colors with large blotches of deep reds, or rings of color on the outside of the petals. There are also many blooms that have fully double blossoms. Others still are born in clusters at the tip of the stalk, creating the look of a mini bouquet. Blooms of some, like D. superbus, have an extremely long and exaggerated fringe on the edge of the petals, like they have streamers flying off each tip. Blooms are also quite fragrant and smell like cloves, with a spicy-sweet floral scent.

No matter what dianthus you grow, it is important to remove any spent blooms. This will encourage them to continue flowering, and prevent them from wasting energy on producing seed.

Interested in companion planting? Check out these tips.

Several species of dianthus blossoms are edible. They offer a similar taste to their smell and have a clove-like spiciness. Note: Check to see if species are safe to consume and take care before tasting dianthus. (In addition to confirming edibility, make sure flowers are chemical free, too.)

Dianthus Care Must-Knows

If you are thinking of planting dianthus, look for a location that boasts a good amount of sun. In too much shade, you can lose portions of the mat-forming types to rot. These types also prefer well-drained soil. If the base of the plant stays too moist, the crown can rot. Taller forms, like carnations, also need full sun to prevent them from flopping over. However, even in full sun, some of the tall types may need additional support. 

Removing old blooms on all types of dianthus encourages reblooming. Depending on what type you have, make sure you are familiar with whether the plant is a true perennial or a biennial. If biennial types are blooming, this will most likely be their last year.  If you leave some of the spent blooms on the plant, they will most likely seed around your garden so that you still have plants next year. 

New Innovations

The most common dianthus is carnations. Carnations are one of the oldest cut flowers, with their documented use reaching back as far as 2,000 years ago. With the continued breeding and improvements made to this flower today, there are a wide variety of colors and sizes available, although much of the scent that used to be so potent in dianthus has been bred away.

Another common dianthus is Sweet William. Sweet Williams are dianthus that bear their flowers in clusters at the tips of the stems. These flowers often have patterns or circles of many colors on their petals creating quite a stunning effect. In the garden, these plants tend to be either biennial or short-lived perennials.

The Best Perennials for Your Yard

Fruit Punch 'Apple Slice' Dianthus

Dianthus superbus flowers have extremely exaggerated fringed petals.

'Arctic Fire' Maiden Pinks

Dianthus deltoides 'Arctic Fire' is a mat-forming plant with dark green foliage and white flowers with a pink eye ringed in red. Flowers partially close in the evening.

China Pink

Dianthus chinensis is most often grown as a cool-season annual flower, although it can be a short-lived perennial in Zones 5 and warmer. Its common name comes not from the pink color of its flowers, but rather from the jagged edge of the flower petals, which look as though they have been cut with a pinking shear.

'Firewitch' Cheddar Pinks

Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Firewitch' has fringed, fragrant magenta blooms and grows just 6 inches tall. The major flush of bloom is in midspring to early summer, but the plant blooms sporadically in late summer and fall. It is hardy in Zones 3-8.

'Grans' Favorite' Border Pinks

Dianthus 'Grans' Favorite' is an old-fashioned scented pink with double miniature carnationlike pink blooms with raspberry-red edging.

Hardy Carnation

Dianthus caryophyllus is the same species grown as a cut flower by florists. Hardy in Zones 8-10, it produces sprays of spicily scented blooms on stems 18-30 inches long. It may need staking in the garden.

'Ideal Violet' Hybrid Dianthus

Dianthus 'Ideal Violet' is bred for winter cold resistance and summer heat tolerance. It is an excellent cool-season annual or short-lived perennial with fragrant red-violet blooms on 10- to 12-inch-tall plants.

'La Bourboule Pink' Cheddar Pinks

Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'La Bourboule Pink' forms a compact mound of foliage no more than an inch or two tall. Magenta pink flowers rise several inches above the blue-green foliage in mid- to late spring.

'Musgrave's Pink' Dianthus

Dianthus 'Musgrave's Pink', also known as Charles Musgrave dianthus, has fragrant, frilly white blooms with a green eye. It has gray-green grasslike foliage.

'Red Maiden' Maiden Pinks

Dianthus deltoides 'Red Maiden' is hot pink and forms a mat of deep green foliage on which 12-inch-tall flowers appear in late spring. It is hardy in Zones 3-8.

'Rose de Mai' Border Pinks

Dianthus plumarius 'Rose de Mai', also sometimes called gillyflower, is an old-fashioned flower with highly fragrant pale pink blooms in midspring to early summer. It is hardy in Zones 4-10.

'Sooty' Sweet William

Dianthus barbatus nigrescens 'Sooty' has unique maroon-tinged foliage and dark red flowers with wonderful Sweet William fragrance.

'Spotty' Cheddar Pinks

Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Spotty' gets its name from its charming spotted flowers, which are dark pink spotted with lighter pink.

Sweet William

Dianthus barbatus is a biennial or short-lived perennial. Allow it to self-seed in the garden to ensure its return the following year. It is a great addition to the cottage garden with its 2-foot-tall clusters of fragrant red, pink, white, or bicolor blooms.

Plant Dianthus With:

Perennial geranium
One of the longest bloomers in the garden, hardy geranium bears little flowers for months at a time. It produces jewel-tone, saucer-shape flowers above mounds of handsome lobed foliage. It needs full sun and is a tough and reliable plant, thriving in a wide assortment of soils. Many of the best are hybrids. Perennial geraniums may form large colonies.
Coralbells
Exciting new selections with incredible foliage patterns have put coralbells on the map. Previously enjoyed mainly for their spires of dainty reddish flowers, coralbells are now grown as much for the unusual mottling and veining of different-color leaves. The low clumps of long-stemmed evergreen or semi-evergreen lobed foliage make coralbells fine groundcover plants. They enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.
Iris
Named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, iris indeed comes in a rainbow of colors and in many heights. All have the classic intricate flowers. The flowers are constructed with three upright "standard" petals and three drooping "fall" petals, which are often different colors. The falls may be "bearded" or not. Some cultivars bloom a second time in late summer. Some species prefer alkaline soil while others prefer acidic soil. Shown above: Immortality iris

More Summer Power Perennials

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