Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William)

Scientific Name

Dianthus barbatus L.

Common Names

Sweet William, Bearded Pink


Caryophyllus barbatus, Cylichnanthus barbatus, Dianthus aggregatus, Dianthus barbatus var. barbatus, Dianthus barbatus subsp. barbatus, Dianthus corymbosus, Dianthus girardinii, Dianthus hispanicus, Dianthus latifolius, Dianthus pulcherrimus, Dianthus splendidissimus, Silene barbata, Tunica barbata

Scientific Classification

Family: Caryophyllaceae
Subfamily: Caryophylloideae
Tribe: Caryophylleae
Genus: Dianthus


Color: Red
Bloom Time: Early spring


Dianthus barbatus is a herbaceous biennial or short-lived perennial plant growing up to 3 feet (90 cm) tall. The leaves are green to glaucous blue-green, tapered, up to 4 inches (10 cm) long, and up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) wide. The flowers are produced in a dense cluster of up to 30 at the top of the stems. They have a spicy clove-like scent. Each flower is 1.2 inches (3 cm) in diameter, with five petals with serrated edges. Wild plants produce red flowers with a white base, but colors in cultivars range from white, pink, red, and purple to variegated patterns. The gorgeous flowers bloom in early spring and last a long time.

Dianthus barbatus - Sweet William
Photo via flickr.com

How to Grow and Care

Plant pinks 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 alkaline.

Wait until the danger of frost has passed when planting Dianthus, and place them at the same level they were growing in the pots, with 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45) between plants. Do not mulch around them. Water them only at the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry and prevent mildew spotting.

Instructions on how to care for Dianthus are very straightforward. 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.

Some varieties of Dianthus are self-sowing, so deadheading is extremely important to reduce volunteer plants and to encourage additional blooming. Perennial varieties are short-lived and should be propagated by division, tip cuttings, or even layering. See more at How to Grow and Care for Dianthus.


Native to the mountains of southern Europe from the Pyrenees east to the Carpathians and the Balkans.


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