Dianthus is a genus of about 300 species of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae, native mainly to Europe and Asia, with a few species extending south to north Africa. The species within the genus are mostly herbaceous perennials, a few are annual or biennial, and some are low sub-shrubs with woody basal stems. The flowers have five petals, typically with a frilled or pinked margin. Some species, particularly the perennial varieties, are noted for their strong spicy fragrance.
Dianthus is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant across temperate regions of the world. There is a Dianthus plant for almost any garden space and climate. Some of the most common species can be found in the gardens are:
- Dianthus chinensis: Common name “Chinese Pinks”. This is the typical annual type Dianthus.
- Dianthus barbatus: Also called Sweet William, this specie is a biennial. There are both double and single flowers within the specie.
Numerous cultivars of Dianthus have been selected for garden use. The majority of the commercially available plants are of hybrid origin, created based on the above species.
Dianthus ‘Super Parfait’
The vigorous Super Parfait series (Dianthus barbatus ‘Super Parfait‘) of Dianthus is a compact, bushy, upright and short-lived perennial. Often grown as an annual, this series is known for their large bloom size and earliness. Numerous single, lightly fragrant flowers that appear on short, sturdy stems.
Super Parfait Dianthus are tolerant to early season cool temperatures, but may require some protection. Their brilliant flowers make the best impact when planted in large groups, and will help to bring butterflies to the garden.
- Height: 6-8″, with 8-10″ spread.
- 2 to 2-1/2″ blossoms.
- Colors Available: Super Parfait Raspberry & Super Parfait Strawberry
- Blooms from late spring and throughout summer.
Dianthus ‘Telstar’ Series
With their showy flowers and long season of bloom, Dianthus x ‘Telstar’ (which are hybrids of Dianthus barbatus and Dianthus chinensis), are stars of the late spring, summer, and fall garden. Long known for its exceptional outdoor performance, Telstar series of Dianthus blooms early in late spring, then continues to bloom in the garden throughout the majority of the summer and well up through frost.
While it is a perennial, Dianthus x ‘Telstar’ is generally grown as an seasonal annual where winters are very cold. It is perfect for mixed borders, edging, containers, or cottage gardens. An excellent cool-season plant that adds color to landscapes.
- Bushy plants with leaves that are thick, stiff, and linear.
- Height: 8-10″, 8-10″ spread.
- USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 – 9
- Blossom through fall and winter in warmer climates.
Dianthus ‘Diana’ Series
The ‘Diana’ series (Dianthus x ‘Dianna’) combines earliness and a compact plant habit with large single flowers in a wide range of colors. Plants of this series form neat clumps of green, waxy, strap-like leaves. From late spring into midsummer, their short stems become covered with big, flattened flowers that are fragrant and have fine pinked edges. The blooms may be white, red, pink, burgundy or bi-colored.
The ‘Diana’ series of Dianthus are free-blooming, easy to grow and great for sunny garden spots in need or fragrance and bright color.
- Blooms from late spring to mid-summer.
- Diana Crimson received the Fleuroselect quality award.
The Bouquet Series (Dianthus x ‘Bouquet’), a cross between Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) and China pinks (D. chinensis), was developed for the cut flower industry but are great for home gardeners too.
This heavy-flowering hybrid offers bright colored blooms early in the season. The upright, branched flower stems rise from clumps of waxy, strappy, evergreen leaves in spring. They become covered with fragrant lacy blooms that are much loved by bees.
The Bouquet Series was awarded the Mississippi Medallion Award for excellent performance in southern climates and the Minnesota Perennial Select Award for their high performance and cold tolerance.
- Long, strong stems topped with lots of small flowers.
- Exceptional performance in cool climate.
Dianthus ‘Amazon’ Series
The ‘Amazon’ series (Dianthus x ‘Amazon’) is a hybrid of the D. barbatus (common name Sweet William). From late spring to fall, it bears showy flat clusters of fragrant flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Very dark green, glossy leaves on strong stems are the perfect backdrop to the bright, serrated-edged flowers. A splendid series for both bedding plant and cut flower growers alike.
Amazon performs as an exceptional landscape and bedding plant, showing outstanding heat tolerance.
- Great as a garden plant or cut flower.
- Semi-hardy annual in zone 7 and milder.
- Blooms from spring to fall
Dianthus ‘Floral Lace’ Series
‘Floral Lace’ series (Dianthus x ‘Floral Lace’) is early flowering with the largest blooms of any Dianthus. chinensis x barbatus hybrids. Performs well in gardens under tough conditions as an annual or biennial.
‘Floral Lace’ series forms neat and compact evergreen mounds that remain attractive all season long. The glaucous blue-green foliage is blanketed with hundreds of flowers with serrated petal tips in a number of vivid colors plus several bi-colors. These blooms form in early spring and again in early fall after dead-heading.
- Large blooms up to 1.5 in./4 cm across.
- Highly fragrant.
- Cold tolerant and will usually survive one winter and bloom again the next spring.
- USDA Hardiness Zone: 3 – 9
In the Garden
Dianthus make fine accents in container compositions, and are lovely when massed at the front of mixed beds and borders. Different varieties of Dianthus can be chosen to suit the landscape style.
Hardiness and culture is species dependent, so be take care to pick Dianthus that suits best for the planting environment.
- Modern varieties typically bloom from May to October.
- Flowers are fragrant.
- Flower attracts butterflies.
- Deer resistant.
- Cold tolerant. Usually survive one winter and bloom again the next spring.
Caring & Growing
Dianthus flowers may be perennials in zones 3-9, although hardiness can vary between varieties. Some species/cultivars are considerably more tolerant to cold than others.
Dianthus spp. plants in general, are sun loving, but not terribly heat loving. Make sure some protection from full sun is available when growing it in regions with warm and humid summer.
Plant Dianthus in full sun, partial shade or anywhere they will receive at least 6 hours of sun.
The plants need fertile, well-drained soil that is neutral to alkaline. If the soil is heavy clay, consider using containers or raised beds for the plants.
Stem rot can be a problem in dianthus plants if the soil doesn’t drain well.
Average water needs. Keep evenly moist while avoid soggy conditions. Do not overwater, as it may cause the plants to rot.
Water only at the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry. This will help to prevent mildew spotting.
Apply fertilizer every six to eight weeks. Amending the soil with slow-release fertilizers or organic compost at planting can largely remove the need for feeding.
Misc. Maintenance Tips
To ensure repeated flowering, prune 2 to 3 inches from the plants after the first flowering flush.