FAMILY: Caryophyllaceae | GENUS: DIANTHUS

  • Annuals
  • Perennials
  • Biennials
  • Full Sun
  • Regular Water
  • Moderate Water
  • US (Upper South) / Zone 6
  • MS (Middle South) / Zone 7
  • LS (Lower South) / Zone 8
  • CS (Coastal South) / Zone 9

Plant Details

The pinks include more than 300 species and an extremely large number of hybrids, many with high garden value. Most kinds form attractive evergreen mats or tufts of grasslike green, gray- green, blue-green, or blue-gray leaves. Single, semidouble, or double owers in white and shades of pink, rose, red, yellow, and orange; many have rich, spicy fragrance. Main bloom period for most is spring into early summer; some kinds rebloom later in season or keep going into fall if faded owers are removed. Not browsed by deer.

Among dianthus are appeal- ing border favorites such as cot- tage pink (D. plumarius) and sweet William (D. barbatus), highly prized cut owers such as carnation (D. caryophyllus), and rock garden miniatures. Many excellent named selections not mentioned here are available locally.

D. xallwoodii. Perennial. Group of modern pinks derived from crossing D. plumarius and D. caryophyllus. Plants vary, but most tend to be more compact and more vigorous than their D. plumarius parent. They typically grow 1015 in. high and 2 ft. wide, with gray-green foliage and two 1- to 2-in. blossoms per stem; they bloom over a long period if deadheaded. One excellent selection is 'Aqua', which bears very fragrant, pure white double flowers on 10- to 12-in. stems. Plants sold as 'Allwoodii Alpinus' are crosses of D. allwoodii with dwarf species.

D. arenarius. Perennial. From Europe. Tufted plant to 1 ft. tall and wide, with narrow, grass green leaves and fringed, inch-wide white owers sometimes marked with purple or green. Powerfully fragrant; can tolerate some shade. 'Snow Flurries' has pure white owers.

D. barbatus. SWEET WILLIAM. Vigorous biennial often grown as annual. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. From southern Europe. Sturdy stems 1020 in. high; plants reach 1 ft. wide. Leaves are at, light to dark green, 13 in. long. Dense clusters of white, pink, rose, red, purplish, or bicolored owers, about in. across, set among leafy bracts; spicily fragrant. Sow seed in late spring for bloom following year, or set out transplants in fall. Double-owered and dwarf strains are obtainable from seed.

Amazon series grows 1836 in. high; heat-tolerant series that blooms into summer.

Dash series plants grow 1520 in. high, with good heat tolerance; blooms into summer.

Diabunda series plants are just 6-8 in. in height.

'Heart Attack' is early blooming variety with deep reddish black flowers.

Sweet series plants grow 1836 in. high; bloom into summer.

D. caryophyllus. CARNATION, CLOVE PINK. Perennial. Highly bred Mediterranean species. There are two distinct categories of carnations: orists' and border types. Both have double owers; bluish green leaves; and branching, leafy stems that often become woody at the base.

Border carnations grow 1214 in. high and wide; they are bushier and more compact than the orists' type. Flowers 22 in. wide, fragrant, borne in profusion. Effective as shrub border edgings, in mixed ower border, and in containers. Hybrid carnations grown from seed are usually treated as annuals, but they often live over. Hybrid carnations grown from seed are usually treated as annuals but often live over. Among the many selections are bright red 'Cinnamon Red Hots', to 1 ft. high, and the Super Trouper series, 810 in. high and available in a wide range of single and multicolored shades. Knight series has strong stems, blooms in 5 months from seed; Bambino strain is a little slower to bloom. There is also a strain simply called Hanging Mixed or Trailing Mixed, with pink- or red-owered plants that sprawl or hang from pot or window box.

When grown commercially, florists' carnations are raised in greenhouses; gardeners in mild-winter areas can grow them outdoors. Plants may reach 4 ft.; they have fragrant, 3-in.-wide owers in many colorswhite, shades of pink and red, orange, purple, yellow; some are variegated. For large owers, leave only terminal bloom on each stem, pinching out all other buds down to fth joint, below which new owering stems will develop. Stake to prevent sprawling. Start with strong cuttings taken from the most vigorous plants of selected named types. Sturdy plants conceal supports, look quite tidy.

D. chinensis. CHINESE PINK, RAINBOW PINK. Biennial or short-lived perennial; most selections grown as annuals. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. From China. Erect, 630 in. high and 610 in. wide; stems branch only at top. Medium green foliage. Stem leaves narrow, 13 in. long, in. wide, hairy on margins. Basal leaves are usually gone by owering time. Flowers about 1 in. across, rose-lilac with deeper- colored eye; lack fragrance. Modern strains are compact domes (to 1 ft. tall or less) covered with bright owers in white, pink, red, and all variations and combinations of those colors. Bouquet series plants grow 12 ft. tall and flower in their first year. Diamond series is early flowering and tolerant of heat and cold. Plants in the Diana series form low mounds covered in large blooms. 'Fire Carpet' is a brilliant solid red; 'Snowre' is white with a red eye. Telstar is an extra-dwarf (6- to 8-in.) strain. Petals are deeply fringed on some, smooth edged on others. Some owers have intricately marked eyes. Sow directly in ground in spring, in full sun, for summer bloom; or, in mild areas, set out nursery plants in fall for spring bloom. Pick off faded owers with their bases to prolong bloom. If set out in summer, Telstar will often bloom through the winter in the Lower South.

D. deltoides. MAIDEN PINK. Hardy perennial (even though it blooms in a few weeks from seed). From Europe and Asia. Flowering stems 812 in. high with short leaves; forms a loose, dark green mat to 1 ft. wide. Flowers, about in. across with sharp-toothed petals, are borne at end of forked stems. Colors include white and light or dark rose to purple, spotted with lighter colors. Can tolerate up to a half day of shade. Blooms in summer, sometimes again in fall. Useful, showy ground or bank cover.

Selections include white 'Albus'; 'Arctic Fire', white with red centers; 'Brilliant', reddish pink blooms; and 'Pixie Star', pink with dark pink centers.

D. gratianopolitanus. CHEDDAR PINK. Perennial. Neat, compact mound of blue-gray to gray-green foliage on weak, branching stems. Erect, 9- to 12-in.-tall flowering stems produce 1-in.-wide, very fragrant, typically pink-to-rose single flowers with toothed petals. Bloom season runs from spring to fall if plants are deadheaded regularly. Effective for ground cover, rock gardens, edging. Performs well in Lower South.

'Bath's Pink'. An old favorite. Blue-green foliage forms a neat mat about 4 in. high and 1 ft. wide, topped by 12- to 15-in. stems bearing single, fringed blossoms in soft pink with a red eye. Blooms profusely in spring, sporadically through summer. Stands up well to summer heat and humidity. Good choice for Lower South.

'Firewitch' ('Feuerhexe'). To 8 in. high, eventually spreading to as wide as 3 ft. Narrow, blue-green leaves; single magenta flowers. Blooms heavily in early spring, sporadically in summer, and heavily again in fall. Heat tolerant and long flowering. Handsome even when out of bloom; foliage is bluer than that of 'Bath's Pink'. Good choice for Lower South.

'Greystone'. Steel-gray leaves. Blooms in early spring, bearing very fragrant, fringed, single white flowers that may be tinged pink in cool weather. To 9 in. high, up to 4 ft. wide. Somewhat like a white-flowered version of 'Bath's Pink'.

'Little Joe'. Forms a clump of deep blue-gray foliage 46 in. high and about 6 in. across. Crimson single flowers. Especially effective with rock garden campanulas.

'Mountain Mist'. To 1 ft. high and wide. Attractive silvery blue foliage is topped in early spring by pink, fringed, lightly scented blossoms. Similar to 'Bath's Pink' but needs more cold and thus blooms less profusely in the Lower South. Good-looking foliage plant, even in winter.

'Spotty'. Very narrow leaves form a tight gray-green mat 23 in. high. Cerise-rose flowers heavily spotted with white are carried on 6-in. stems.

'Tiny Rubies'. Makes a low mat of gray-green foliage to 3 in. high, spreading to 4 in. wide. Small, double, ruby-red flowers produced on 4-in. stems. Ideal for rock gardens and containers.

D. hybrids. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Several new series of long-blooming hybrid dianthus, resembling pinks, have been introduced from England. They include the Star series, derived from alpine dianthus, D. alpinus, which are compact plants under a foot high with dark gray-green foliage and fragrant single and double blooms in a range of single and bicolored shades. The Dessert series includes 'Raspberry Swirl' ('Devon Siskin'), pinkish white flowers with red centers and edges, and 'Cranberry Ice', a pink and red mix.

D. plumarius. COTTAGE PINK. Perennial. Charming, almost legendary European species; cultivated for hundreds of years and used in developing many hybrids. Typically has loosely matted gray-green foliage in a clump to 2 ft. wide. Flowering stems grow 1018 in. tall, bearing spicily fragrant, 1- to 2-in., single or double flowers with more or less fringed petals. Colors include rose, pink, and white, some with a dark center. Most highly prized are the old laced pinks, with spicy-scented white owers in which each petal is outlined in red or pink. Blooms in late spring and summer. Indispensable and much-favored edging for borders or for peony or rose beds. Perfect flowers for small arrangements and old-fashioned bouquets.

Choice selections include 'Dad's Favorite', which bears red-edged double white flowers on 10-in. stems; 'Essex Witch', with semidouble rose-pink flowers on 5-in. stems; 'Itsaul White', with pure white, vanilla-scented single blooms on 8-in. stems; 'Musgrave's Pink', a foot-tall classic that is at least 200 years old and bears intensely fragrant, single white blooms with a green eye; and 'Sweetness', with a mix of darker-centered shades on 4-in. stems.

All dianthus require well-drained soil. Most tolerate drought. Sow seed of annual or biennial types in ats or directly in garden. Propagate perennial dianthus by cuttings made from tips of growing shoots, by division or layering, or from seed. Perennials are often short lived in Coastal and Tropical South, where they are often treated as annuals. Organic mulches around the base of plants can cause fungal diseases. Use an inorganic material like gravel instead. Carnations and Sweet William are subject to rust and fusarium wilt.

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