Dianthus perennials: their common name is Pinks. It’s a large group of 300 species, and a large number of hybrid dianthus plants.
I just adore the charming, fragrant dianthus flowers, a favorite of cottage gardens.
They are very old-fashioned. One variety Dianthus plumarius, has been growing in European gardens for centuries.
How’s that for proof of how wonderful these dianthus flower perennials really are!
Most dainthus plants form attractive evergreen tufts of grass-green leaves, although a few have gray-green leaves.
The dianthus flowers are either single, semidouble, or double in shades of pink, rose, red, yellow, and even orange.
Many have a rich, spicy fragrance that is intoxicating.
Most start flowering in spring and then continue into summer, and some varieties rebloom later in the season, or keep flowering into fall if faded flowers are deadheaded.
The most popular and most planted of the dianthus flowers are ‘Cottage Pinks’, ‘Sweet William’, Carnation (clove pink), and rock garden miniature dianthus.
Recommended Dianthus Perennials
And Related Species
Allwood Pinks, Dianthus ‘Allwoodii’
A perennial group of pinks that resulted from crossing ‘carnation’ (D. caryophillus) and ‘cottage pinks’ (D. pulmarius). These vary in size, but most grow to 12-15 inches tall and 2 feet wide. The foilage is gray-green with two flowers per stem. The pink, white, or red flowers have a strong clove scent. If you remove the spent flowers on a regular basis they will bloom for a long time. The best cultivars are ‘Aqua’ with fragrant white double flowers 12 inches tall, and ‘Jan’ which has rich red flowers with a blackish red petal edge. They are hardy to zones 5.
Sweet William, Dianthus barbatus:
It’s a short-lived perennial with charming flat-topped flower clusters on 12-24 inche tall stems. The deep green foilage forms a loose mat. ‘Sweet William’ dianthus flower colors range from white to pink to dark red, and some are bi-colored.The ‘Blood Red’ variety grows to 15 inches and has very dark red flowers. You can scatter the seeds as you remove the seedpods, to encourage re-seeding. That way you are almost guaranteed more plants next season.
Carnation (Clove Pink), Dianthus caryophyllus
These dianthus flowers are the carnations that florists grow in greenhouses. The flowers come in white, pink, red, purple, yellow, and apricot on 18 -30 incg stems. Zones 8-10.
Chinese Pinks, Dianthus chinensis
Chinese Pinks are short-lived dianthus perennials, but they are well worth planting in your garden. Most varieties are grown as annuals. They grow from 6-30 inches high, dependent on types. The flowers are rose pink and they lack fragrance. The modern varieties have compact 12 inch domes covered with bright flowers in white, pink, red and many combinations of those colors.
‘Fire carpet’ is a brilliant solid red, and, my favorite, ‘Snowfire’ has white flowers with a red eye.
Maiden Pink, Dianthus deltoides
This is a dianthus perennial growing to 8-12 inches high, forming a loose mat about 1 foot wide perfect for the front of the border. Blooms in summer and often again in the fall in a variety of colors. It’s a great showy groundcover that’s useful for banks or slopes. It also tolerate a part shady spot. Popular dianthus deltoides include white ‘Albus’, red ‘Vampire’. bright red ‘ Zing, and rose red ‘Zing Rose’.
Cottage Pink, Dianthus plumarius
This extremely popular dianthus group has been cultivated in Europe for hundreds of years. The plants have loosely matted gray-green foilage in clumps of 2 feet wide. The flower stems are 18 inches tall. The charming fragrant blooms are either rose, pink or white with fringed petals. My favorites are old laced pinks with white flowers that have petals outlined in red or pink. Cottage pinks will bloom from summer to fall if deadheaded. They are wonderful for edging a flowerbed, a peony, or a rose garden. The best selection include ‘Dad’s Favorite’, pictured here, with red-edged double white flowers on 10 inch stems. Simply charming! The ‘Essex Witch’ have semidouble, rose pink flowers on 5 inch stems, and ‘Musgrove’s Pink’, an one foot classic dianthus, over 200 years old, bearing intensely fragrant, single white blooms with green eyes. Zones 1-24.
Cheddar Pink, Dianthus gratianopolitanus
They are neat ground-hugging perennial plants about a foot wide with blue-gray foilage. The 6-10 inch tall flower stems have pink to rose, single blossoms that are very fragrant. They bloom from spring to fall if you deadhead them regularly. Great as a ground cover, edging or in a rock garden. Best varieties include ‘Bath Pink’, pictured here, with fringed, soft lilac pink flowers on 12-15 inch stems, ‘Little Boy Blue’, 12 inch high stems of white flowers dotted with pink and blue-grey foilage, and ‘Rose Bowl’, cerise rose flowers on 6 inch tall stems, and ‘Little Joe’, crimson red flowers on 6 inch stems. Zones 5-9.
How To Grow Dianthus Perennials
All dianthus require a well drained, neutral to alkaline soil that has been enriched with composted manure or garden compost.
The Alpine cultivars will grow best in raised bed with very good drainage.
Plant them in in full sun in spring or early summer, and feed them with a balanced fertilizer for flowers in spring.
Stake tall varieties with thin bamboo canes and floral tape.
Remove faded blooms (deadhead) to encourage repeat flowering, and to maintain a compact growth habit. Annuals and biennials are discarded after flowering.