Dianthus plants have graced gardens around the world for centuries.
If you were to travel back in time to Ancient Greece, you would observe these small, colorful flowers all over as they were revered for their heavenly appearance and aroma.
Over time, these "divine" flowers spread and became a staple in cottage gardens around the world.
In our Dianthus plant profile below, you'll learn why everyone loves these beautiful plants and why they're considered so useful.
Read our Dianthus plant profile post below to learn:
- How to maintain and care for dianthus in your garden.
- The best growing conditions for your dianthus.
- The history of dianthus.
- Fun facts and so much more.
By the way, our dianthus plant profile below is meant for beginner gardeners but can be used by anyone who wants to learn more about this plant. We hope you enjoy it!
Dianthus: Why We're Featuring This Plant
First, Dianthus flowers are beautiful and come in a variety of colors and shapes. Whether pink, purple, white, yellow, or red, the small, vibrant blooms add beautiful pops of color to your garden.
Dianthus is suitable for borders, rock gardens, container baskets, potted displays, and ground covers.
In addition to their beauty, these versatile plants are really easy to maintain. With just a bit of deadheading for spent flowers, dianthus can re-bloom and be enjoyed throughout many seasons as long as they have proper care.
Some are even fragrant. Their low maintenance needs are perfectly suited for both beginning and weathered gardeners.
Finally, we're featuring dianthus because of their frost tolerance. Even though they are usually considered a spring and summer bloomer, the flowers bloom all different times of the year depending on your zone.
Dianthus is a cool-season flower (in many zones) which makes them perfect for a fall garden. Plus, if you want to plant dianthus mounds in your garden, the fall season is the perfect time due to the cooler temperatures.
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Dianthus Flowers: History and Uses
Dianthus is in the plant family Caryophyllaceae which includes the Carnation, a popular species of the Dianthus genus. This family group includes over 300 species of flowering plants including annuals, perennials, and biennials.
Dianthus has a long, complex history going back to Ancient Greece. The name Dianthus originates from the Greek words dios which means ‘divine’ and anthous which means ‘flower' so named by the Greek botanist, Theophrastus, who some consider the father of botany.
The flower endured several name changes over the centuries depending on its location and use throughout history. For example, the names "Sweet William," "gillyflower," "Pinks," and "Carnation," have all referred to Dianthus at some point.
In Ancient Greece, Dianthus was considered a divine plant due to its beautiful appearance and the wonderful scent of a spicy, clove-like aroma. Research suggests that Dianthus was one of the flowers used in ancient Greek ceremonial crowns.
Eventually, Dianthus species became an integral part of gardens due to their charming forms, colors and often wonderful fragrances, depending on the variety. People also used the flowers for flavorings in wine, soups, sauces, and jams throughout the years.
Currently, Dianthus is one of the most popular flowers found in cottage gardens throughout the world due to its versatility and attractiveness to pollinators. Its also popularly used as a cutting flower because it can last for multiple weeks once cut.
Dianthus Around the World
Dianthus originated in Eurasia and were first revered in Ancient Greek culture. The flower has also been referenced in Roman culture and history.
Eventually, Dianthus found their way to England by the late 1500s, most likely by the Romans, and were used as a popular flowering plant for gardens. They were also grown for their edible nature. Some stories claim that some people may have paid their rent with Dianthus and they were so beloved that royalty had their portraits painted with them.
By the 17th Century, people began deliberately breeding Dianthus in England. Over the course of the next two centuries, hundreds of cultivars became commercially available. The flower's popularity spread to America as well during this time.
Today, Dianthus remains one of the most popular flowering plants in gardens around the world. In both Britain and the U.S., interest in old cottage garden plants, like Dianthus, continues to thrive.
Now that you’ve caught up on a brief history, let's move on to the common characteristics of Dianthus.
(By the way, this post contains affiliate links. That means that if you click on any of the links we are promoting, we might get a small commission at no cost to you which helps us run our website and podcast).
Dianthus Care and Plant Profile
Common/Trade Name Dianthus, Pinks, Carnation Botanical/Scientific Name Dianthus sp. Cultivars Dianthus 'Allwoodii'; Dianthus arenarius; Dianthus barbatus or Sweet William; Dianthus caryophyllus or Carnation, Clove Pink; Dianthus chinensis or Chinese Pink or Rainbow Pink; Dianthus deltoides or Maiden Pink; Dianthus gratianopolitanus or Cheddar Pink; Dianthus plumarius or Cottage Pink. Zones USDA - hardy to zones 3 to 9; Sunset - grows in zones A2, A3, 1 to 24, some in A1 and H1. General Information In the Caryophyllaceae family. Over 300 different species with many, many hybrids.
Grows in low mats or tufts, like grass, or small shrubs. Flower forms in Singles, Semi-doubles, and Doubles.
Some species are particularly used for cut flower production, like the Carnation. Others are used for rock-gardens or borders.
Flowers are known to have a rich, spicy fragrance.
Native Environment Sweet Williams from Southern Europe; Carnation/Clove Pink from Mediterranean; Chinese Pink from China; Cheddar Pink from Europe; Cottage Pink from Europe; Maiden Pink from Europe and Asia; Plant Type Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials. Water Needs Regular water. Don't over-water plants. Mature Height/Width Can vary, from low growing mats or grass-like tufts to small shrubs ranging from 12 to 20 inches tall and wide. Bloom Time Mainly from spring to early summer. Some will re-bloom later in season or keep blooming into the fall, if dead-headed. Flower Colors White, shades of Pink, Rose, Red, Yellow, White, and Orange. Sun Exposure Full sun, in most climates, to light shade in hottest climates. Growth Habit Ranging from spreading mats and grass-like tufts to upright-small shrub. Soil Needs Most Dianthus thrive in light, fast-draining soil. Some need more of a rocky type of soil while other need more of a fairly rich soil. Plants to prefer a more alkaline soil than acidic (neutral to higher pH). Fertilize In general, feed plants with a balanced fertilizer once every two or so weeks, unless otherwise noted. Plant Spacing Can vary by species and growth habit. Mat or grass-like tufts need a minimum of 6-10 inches or more spacing. For cut-flowers, like Carnation species, space plants close together for taller flower stems, in general. Closer planting is common for cut-flower species and harvesting longer flower stems. Suggested Companion Plant/s Great for border plantings, in rock gardens, and container gardens. Also great for use as a ground cover with other taller, less spreading types of plants that love neutral to alkaline soils. Goes well with Asters, Daisies, Lavender, Roses, Other Dianthus, Geraniums, Petunias, Snapdragons, under Dogwood Trees, and around statuary and ornamental rocks. Maintenance Level Low to minimal maintenance, besides some dead-heading and spent-flower removal to prolong flowering. Possibly some dividing needed if Dianthus starts spreading into other plants or areas of the garden. Pest Susceptibility Susceptible to fungal leaf spots and other diseases related to over watering and prolonged wet leaves. Can get Aphids, Spider-Mites, Thrips, Cutworms, and other pest damage. Poisonous to Pets? In general, Sweet William and Carnation are toxic to pets according to the ASPCA. May cause mild gastrointestinal signs or mild dermatitis. Other species of Dianthus may also be poisonous. Edible for Humans? Yes, but only the petals are edible. Fun (or historical) Facts - The most common Dianthus species are Carnations.
- Carnations can be steeped in wine, candy, or use as cake decoration.
- Dianthus have several fragrant varieties, many are considered clove-like in their aroma.
- Sweet Williams were one of the flowers in Princess Kate's wedding bouquet in 2011.
- Dianthus are deer-resistant.
- Flowers attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.
- Over 100 varieties of Dianthus have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
- The USS Dianthus was a United States Navy patrol vessel in commission from 1917 to 1918.
Dianthus Plants For Sale and Product Recommendations
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Dianthus Plant Conclusion
Today, Dianthus remains one of the most popular cottage garden flowers grown around the world. With their roots in Ancient Greece, they have endured admiration for centuries due to their beauty, fragrance, attractiveness to pollinators, and versatility in the garden.
In addition, Dianthus requires very little maintenance. They are perfect for containers, borders, and rock gardens because they add color, texture, and interest to your garden while requiring little water, fertilizer, or general care. Plus, they can endure the cooler temperatures.
Dianthus are perfect for beginning gardeners to more experienced gardeners due to their qualities and versatility in different types of landscape settings. It's no wonder they have remained a favorite in gardens the world over.
Well, that's all for now.
Thanks for reading and we hope we inspired you or educated you in some way with our Dianthus plant profile. For more information about other plants in your garden, check out some of our other monthly plant profiles below:
- The Gardener's Guide to Chrysanthemums
- The Gardener's Guide to Sunflowers
- The Essential Guide to the Shasta Daisy
- Hello Hellebore! January Plant Profile
- A Rose By Any Other Name: February Plant Profile
- The Divine Daffodil: March Plant Profile
See you in the garden!
~ Sean and Allison
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