Dianthus is a large family of plants that include Carnations, Sweet William, and Pinks. Dianthus is the scientific name for the plant. Greek botanist, Theopharastus, named this plant from two Greek words; "dios", refers to the god Zeus, and "anthos", means flower. Dianthus is known as the "The Flowers of God".
Pinks are the smaller more compact form of the plant and Carnations are the taller form of the plant. Dianthus plants are fragrant and come in a rainbow of colors such as pink, red, salmon, white and bi-color. There are new varieties of these plants that are bright, bold, and eye-catching. Dianthus plants are known for enjoying the cool weather and sun.
Dianthus can be somewhat confusing as they have varieties that are perennials, annuals, and biennials. The perennial plants will bloom in the spring and if it stays cool will continue to flower until the summer. Perennial Dianthus has attractive blue-green foliage that looks great with the pretty flowers. Butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted to the nectar-rich flowers. Dianthus is also deer resistant. The popular annual Dianthus is Chinese Pinks. A common biennial Dianthus is Sweet William. There have both double and single flowers and the variety reseeds itself.
In the garden, Dianthus makes a wonderful flower border or can be used in a rock garden. They also look fantastic in mixed containers or on their own. These plants are hardy for zones 4 – 8.
Plant Dianthus in fertile, well-drained soil that is alkaline in full sun to partial shade; they need to receive at least 6 hours of sun each day. Make sure the danger of frost has passed before you plant your Dianthus. Plant them early enough so they become established before the hot weather comes. Do not put mulch around these plants. Make sure you water them only at the base of the plant. It is important to keep the foliage dry to prevent the development of mildew spotting.
Dianthus plants require very little care. Water the plants when the soil is dry. Apply fertilizer every 6 – 8 weeks. Water the plants when dry and apply fertilizer every six to eight weeks. You may also work a slow-release fertilizer into the soil at planting, which will release you from the need to feed the plants. If you are growing a taller variety of this plant, you might have to stake it.
Photos courtesy of PlantHaven International, planthaven.com and Ball Seed.