Last Updated On: January 8th, 2020
Perfect for containers, borders, and baskets, Dianthus will add pops of color to any garden. Learn about these beautiful, easy-to-grow plants in this gardener's guide and plant profile.
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 have 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. 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!
By the way, if you're wanting to add more classic Dianthus flowers to your garden, Sweet Williams are a perfect choice! These specific Sweet Williams are favorites of ours and would be perfect for you! Plus, when you get to the Eden Brothers checkout, because we are affiliates (which means we receive a small commission at no cost to you which helps us run our website and podcast), use our special coupon code "SPOKEN" for an extra 15% off your order!!
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.
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.
Other members of the Caryophyllaceae family include carnations, baby's breath, chickweed, and more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Pinks, Carnation
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.
USDA - hardy to zones 3 to 9; Sunset - grows in zones A2, A3, 1 to 24, some in A1 and H1.
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.
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;
Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials.
Regular water. Don't over-water plants.
Can vary, from low growing mats or grass-like tufts to small shrubs ranging from 12 to 20 inches tall and wide.
Mainly from spring to early summer. Some will re-bloom later in season or keep blooming into the fall, if dead-headed.
White, shades of Pink, Rose, Red, Yellow, White, and Orange.
Full sun, in most climates, to light shade in hottest climates.
Ranging from spreading mats and grass-like tufts to upright-small shrub.
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).
In general, feed plants with a balanced fertilizer once every two or so weeks, unless otherwise noted.
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.
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.
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.
Want to buy your own dianthus plants for your garden?
This assortment of seeds below from Eden Brothers would be perfect for your garden! We love Eden Brothers because their seeds germinate so fast and have high viability (and they have fast shipping if you want your order quickly). Check out this selection below.
By the way, as affiliates, we have a coupon for you for 15% off your order. At checkout, type "SPOKEN" into the coupon code box. You will know you got the coupon when it says, "Coupon applied: 15% off- Spoken Garden Listeners."
Have fun shopping below!
Sweet William Seeds - Tall Single Mix Sweet William Dianthus A beautiful mix of red... [More]
Sweet William Seeds - Holborn Glory A classic variety of Dianthus, Sweet William Holbor... [More]
P.S. We have another gift for you since you love learning about plants. Have you ever considered listening to an audiobook while you work in the garden? If you sign up for a free trial of Amazon Audible, you can get 2 free audiobooks upon signup! We listen to our favorite books all the time while we're on the go. Find out more here!
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 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.
Want to learn about other plants in your garden? Check out some of our previous plant profiles:
- Chrysanthemums: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- Sunflowers: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- Shasta Daisy: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- Hellebore Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- Roses: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
- Daffodils: A Gardener's Guide and Plant Profile
See you in the garden!
~ Sean and Allison
Dianthus References Used:
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Perfect for containers, borders, and baskets, learn all about the beautiful, easy-to-grow Dianthus plant in this gardener's guide and plant profile.