How to Grow and Care for Dianthus

Dianthus, also known as Pinks, are flowering plants that belong to a family of plants, which includes Carnations and are characterized by the spicy fragrance the blooms emit. They may be found as a hardy annual, biennial, or perennial and most often used in borders or potted displays.

The Dianthus plant is also called Sweet William (D. barbatus) and has a fragrance with Cinnamon or Clove notes. The plants are small and usually between 6 and 18 inches (15 to 45 cm) tall. Dianthus flowers are most often in pink, salmon, red and white hues. The foliage is slender and sparsely spread on thick stems.

Dianthus had a short blooming season until 1971, when a breeder learned how to grow forms that did not set seed and, therefore, had a prolonged their bloom period. Modern varieties will typically bloom from May to October.

Growing Conditions and General 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.

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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. Dianthus seed is also readily available at garden centers and can be started indoors six to eight weeks before the danger of frost has passed.



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