The Dianthus is a genus from the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) and commonly named pink or carnation. The Dianthus is native to Europa and Asia. Many carnations and pinks are perennials, but there are also annuals and biennials.
The botanical name Dianthus is derived from a combination of the Greek words ‘dios’ (god/divine) and ‘anthos’ (flower).
All Dianthuses like a sunny location with average to rich, well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil (pH between 7 and 9). They do not like wet feet or damp, humid conditions. Once established a pink can tolerate quite some drought. They do not like wet soil in the winter and they are quite tolerant to salt.
The Dianthus is evergreen, mat-forming and a good groundcover.
Pinks are is much loved for their fragrant flowers and their many different colors. It is best to remove spent flowers. That way the energy is not put into making seeds, but in making new flowers. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. Most of the time slugs and snails leave the Dianthus alone.
The Dianthus usually propagates through seed. You can start the seed indoors or you can throw the seeds directly on the ground where you want them to bloom after the last frost. It is best not to cover the seeds or very little, because they need sunlight to sprout. Sow the seed at the end of the spring or in the summer. The seeds sprout in a temperature between 59 and 68 ºF (15 and 20 ºC) in evenly moist soil. The new plants will not bloom in the first year.
You can also propagate Dianthus with cuttings. You need a healthy shoot for this with 4 or 5 pairs of leaves. Cut off the bottom pair of leaves and dip the stem in a growing hormone and the into a pot or tray.
The Dianthus appreciates shelter from the afternoon sun in hot summer climates.
The Dianthus caryophyllus is native to South Europe and is commonly named carnation, clove pink or pot carnation. There are many cultivars and varieties in many colors and sizes. There are annuals, biennials and perennials. Their height varies between 8 inches (20 centimeters) and 3 feet (1 meter). They bloom between May and October. The carnations are often used as cut flowers. Do not place the bouquet in the sun and not in the vicinity of a fruit bowl, because the flowers are sensitive to ethylene gas. The perennial Dianthus caryophyllus should be hardy to -22 ºF (-30 ºC).
The Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Pink Kisses’ is small and compact and has small, sweet smelling flowers. Because the Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Pink Kisses’ is small it can grow very well in pots and is therefore also named pot carnation. This is a short lived perennial that is not very hardy. It is best to consider this plant as annual. The main bloom is in March-June en by deadheading it can bloom up to October, but not so abundant anymore.
Some other well-known species of Dianthus:
Dianthus alpinus (Alpine pink): The Dianthus alpinus is native to the mountains of Central Europe and is commonly named alpine pink. It is a perennial. The leaves grow about 2 inches (5 cm) tall and the flowers 4 inches (10 centimeters). The Alpine pink blooms in June/July with fragrant, pink flowers that attract bees and butterflies. The Dianthus alpinus is hardy to -22 ºF (-30 ºC). This little plant is very suitable for rock gardens. The soil should be gritty and cool. The alpine pink is salt tolerant. Unfortunately the Dianthus alpinus is short-lived, but easy to grow from seed. Slugs may eat from this little plant.
Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William): The Dianthus barbatus is native to the mountains of southern Europe and is commonly named sweet William. It is mostly a biennial, but sometimes lasts for several years. They have an upright habit of up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) and bloom from May to September. If you do not cut away the spent flowers the Dianthus barbatus will spread through seed on its own. The sweet William does not bloom the first year. The sweet William is hardy to -22 ºF (-30 ºC).
Dianthus chinensis (Chinese pink): The Dianthus chinensis is native to Northern China, Korea, Mongolia and south-eastern Russia and is commonly named Chinese pink. This is an annual or biennial that reaches a height between 12 and 20 inches (30 and 50 centimeters). This Dianthus species does not like heat or humidity. It thrives in cool summers. The Dianthus chinensis blooms from June to September and is hardy to 23 ºF(-5 ºC).
Dianthus deltoides (Maiden pink): The Dianthus deltoides is native to the moderate areas of Europe and western Asia and is commonly named maiden pink. The maiden pink blooms between June and October. The flowers are quite large compared to its size and they are usually sweetly fragrant (there are non-fragrant species). The maiden pink is a beautiful addition to your rock garden. The Dianthus deltoides is a short lived perennial that easily propagates through seed. This Dianthus prefers more acidic soil with little nitrogen. They like sandy, relatively poor soil. They reach a height of about 10 inches (25 centimeters) and are hardy to -31 ºF (-35 ºC). The Dianthus deltoides has been introduced to the United States and is now found in the upper Midwest of the United States an all of Canada.
Dianthus gratianopolitanus (Cheddar pink): The Dianthus gratianopolitanus is native to central and western Europe and is commonly named Cheddar pink. The Cheddar pink is a perennial and blooms from June to July with fragrant flowers. This pink is excellent in flower borders and rock gardens. They reach a height of about 10 inches (25 centimeters) and are hardy to -31 ºF (-35 ºC). The Cheddar pink is more tolerant to heat and humidity than most other species of Dianthus (performs well in the south-eastern United States).
Dianthus plumarius (Garden Pink): The Dianthus plumarius is native to Europe and Siberia and is commonly named garden pink or grass pink. The garden pink is a perennial that blooms from May to August. The Dianthus plumarius grows to about 12 inches (30 centimeters) tall and is hardy to -31 ºF (-35 ºC).
Attracts bees: no
Deer resistant: yes
Exposure: sun/part shade
Flower color: pink
Flowering time: March – October
Foliage color: grey
Fragrant flower: yes
Hardiness: 23 ºF (-5 ºC)
Height: 8 inches (20 cm)