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Dianthus gratianopolitanus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Dianthus gratianopolitanus (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Zone
Zones A1, 1-24
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Dianthus plumarius

Cottage Pink
Caryophyllaceae
Perennials, Flowers

DIANTHUS

This genus is made up of more than 300 species and an extremely large number of hybrids. Most kinds form attractive evergreen mats or tufts of grasslike green, gray-green, blue-green, or gray-blue leaves. Single, semidouble, or double flowers come in white and shades of pink, rose, red, yellow, and orange. Many have a rich, spicy fragrance. The main bloom period for most is spring into early summer, but some kinds rebloom later in the season or keep going into fall if faded flowers are removed.

Among dianthus are favorites such as cottage pink and sweet William, highly prized cut flowers such as carnation (clove pink), and rock garden miniatures. There are hundreds of varieties and hybrids available, including some local favorites.

All kinds of dianthus thrive in light, fast-draining soil. Carnations, sweet William, and cottage pinks need fairly rich soil. Rock garden or alpine types require a gritty growing medium, with added lime if soil is acid. Avoid overwatering. Sow seeds of annual kinds in flats or directly in the garden. Propagate perennial kinds by cuttings made from tips of growing shoots, by division or layering, or from seed. Carnation and sweet William are subject to rust and fusarium wilt. 

Dianthus plumarius (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Dianthus plumarius (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

Click to Enlarge

Dianthus plumarius

Charming, almost legendary European species, cultivated for hundreds of years and used in developing many hybrids. Typically has loosely matted gray-green foliage in a clump to 2 ft. wide. Flowering stems grow to 10–18 in. high; spicily fragrant, dark-centered flowers in rose, pink, or white, with more or less fringed petals. Highly prized are old laced pinks, with white flowers in which each petal is outlined in red or pink. Cottage pinks bloom from summer to fall if deadheaded. Indispensable edging for borders or for peony or rose beds. Perfect addition to small arrangements and old-fashioned bouquets. Choice selections include ‘Essex Witch’, with semidouble, rose-pink flowers on 5-in. stems; ‘Sweetness’, with a mix of darker-centered shades on 4-in. stems; and ‘Musgrave’s Pink’, a foot-high classic that’s at least 200 years old and bears intensely fragrant, single white blooms with a green eye.

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