Dianthus

Colorful Combinations

Dianthus plants come in all shapes and sizes. Miniature varieties form a tight little lump of foliage and blooms. Giant species reaching up to 3 feet tall have almost no basal foliage. These plants are typically mat-forming perennials that have 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 it to encourage new growth. Remove any old, dead foliage.

Flowers of dianthus are highly variable and offer something for everyone. Many of the blossoms include interesting patterns and colors. Some have large blotches of deep reds, or there may be rings of color on the outside of the petals. Many dianthus blooms have fully double blossoms. Others are clustered at the tip of the stalk, creating the look of a mini bouquet. The blooms of some varieties, like D. superbus, have an extraordinarily long and exaggerated fringe on the edge of the petals as if they have streamers flying off each tip. These blooms are also quite fragrant—they smell like cloves, with a spicy-sweet floral scent.

Several species of dianthus blossoms are edible. They have a similar taste to their smell and have a clove-like spiciness. Note: Check if the species you're curious about are safe to consume before tasting dianthus. (In addition to confirming edibility, make sure flowers are chemical-free.)

Dianthus Care Must-Knows

If you're thinking of planting dianthus, look for a location that gets a good amount of sun. You can lose portions of the mat-forming types to rot in too much shade. 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, some of the tall types may need additional support even in full sun.

Removing old blooms on all types of dianthus encourages reblooming. Make sure you're familiar with whether the plant is a true perennial or a biennial. If biennial varieties are blooming, it will likely be their last year. If you leave some of the spent blooms on the plant, they will seed around your garden for plants next year.

New Innovations

The most common dianthus is carnation. Carnations are among the oldest cut flowers, with documented use going back 2,000 years. With the continued breeding and improvements made to this flower today, many colors and sizes are available. Unfortunately, much of the scent that used to be so potent in dianthus has been bred away.

Another common dianthus is Sweet William. Sweet William's flowers cluster at the tips of the stems. These flowers often have patterns or circles of many colors on their petals, creating a stunning effect. These plants tend to be either biennial or short-lived perennials in the garden.

More Varieties of Dianthus

Dianthus Overview

Description The dianthus plant is the quintessential cottage flower. Dianthus, also called pinks, is treasured for its grasslike, blue-green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which are often spicily fragrant. 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.
Genus Name Dianthus
Common Name Dianthus
Plant Type Perennial
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 6 to 6 inches
Width 4 to 18 inches
Flower Color Pink, Purple, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green
Season Features Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom
Special Features Attracts Birds, Cut Flowers, Fragrance, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Fruit Punch 'Apple Slice' Dianthus

Fruit Punch 'Apple Slice' Dianthus
Justin Hanccock

Dianthus superbus flowers have extremely exaggerated fringed petals.

'Arctic Fire' Maiden Pinks

'Arctic Fire' Maiden Pinks
Peter Krumhardt

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

Close up of China Pink flowers
Peter Krumhardt

Dianthus chinensis is most often grown as a cool-season annual flower. However, 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

Firewitch cheddar pinks
Denny Schrock

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

'Grans' Favorite' Border Pinks

'Grans' Favorite' Border Pinks
Andrew Drake

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

Hardy Carnation

Close up of white Hardy Carnation
Andy Lyons

Dianthus caryophyllus is the same species as those grown for cut flowers by florists. Hardy in Zones 8-10, these blooms produce sprays of spicily scented blooms on stems 18-30 inches long. It may need staking in the garden.

'Ideal Violet' Hybrid Dianthus

'Ideal Violet' Hybrid Dianthus
Peter Krumhardt

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

'La Bourboule Pink' Cheddar Pinks
Denny Schrock

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.

'Red Maiden' Maiden Pinks

'Red Maiden' Maiden Pinks
Greg Ryan

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's hardy in Zones 3-8.

'Rose de Mai' Border Pinks

'Rose de Mai' Border Pinks
Andrew Drake

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

'Sooty' Sweet William

'Sooty' Sweet William
Peter Krumhardt

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

'Spotty' Cheddar Pinks

'Spotty' Cheddar Pinks
Marty Baldwin

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

Sweet William

Red and White Sweet William flowers
Povy Kendal Atchison

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's a great addition to cottage gardens with its 2-foot-tall clusters of fragrant red, pink, white, or bicolor blooms.

Dianthus Companion Plants

Geranium

Purple Geraniums near sidewalk
Justin Hancock

One of the longest bloomers in the garden, the hardy geranium bears little flowers for months at a time. It produces jewel-tone, saucer-shaped flowers above mounds of handsome lobed foliage. Geraniums need full sun, and they're tough and reliable plants, thriving in a wide assortment of soils. Many of the best are hybrids. Perennial geraniums may form large colonies.

Coralbells

pink Coralbells in garden
Peter Krumhardt

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 excellent groundcover plants. In addition, they enjoy humus-rich, moisture-retaining soil. Beware of heaving in areas with very cold winters.

Iris

White Iris in garden
Dean Schoeppner

Iris, named for the Greek goddess of the rainbow, comes in multiple colors and many heights. Whatever hue or size, all iris have classic intricate flowers. The flowers are constructed with three upright "standard" petals and three drooping "fall" petals, often in 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.

Garden Plans for Dianthus

Small-Space Spring Garden

Small-Space Spring Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Thanks to this garden plan, you don't need much space to create a fabulous springtime display.

Download this plan!

Butterfly Garden Plan

Butterfly Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Create a lush island butterfly garden bed of flowers to bring beautiful fluttering insects to your garden.

Download this plan!

Easy Slope Garden Plan

Easy Slope Garden Plan
Jerry Pavia

This mix of easy annuals and tough perennials will beautify any slope. Follow this garden plan to get the look for your green space.

Download this plan!

Soften a Fence with This Lush Border Garden Plan

Soften a Fence with This Lush Border Garden Plan
Allan Mandell

The exciting plants in this design will provide long-lasting color, fragrance, and texture that will leave you saying, "What fence?"

Download this plan!

Patio Garden

patiogarden_070506

Bask in tropical delight with this dreamy patio garden.

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