dianthus-perennial to plant Spring and Fall

August 24, 2021

When Shakespeare Talked About “Gillyflower” This Is What He Meant!

Dianthus is a low-maintenance source of color and pattern in the home garden. Plants of small stature, they shine in the near parts of beds, borders, and containers of all kinds. A characteristic feature is the tooth-edged end of the petals-hence the term “Pinks. It’s not about the color it is about the edge!

There are 300 species and hundreds of cultivars to choose from. Spend some time looking before you plant. Also, note that the patterns are endless; you will find one to interest you and enhance the rest of your garden.

Check the Varieties-You Would Not Think This Up!.

The flowers come in rich and varied colors and patterns, ready to adapt to your garden’s needs. The foliage is thin, almost grass-like on thick stems. The blue-green color of the foliage makes it attractive at any time when blooms are not available. In some climates, this is all winter. Until the early 1970s, dianthus was a flower to be enjoyed over a short bloom period, but growers discovered new varieties that produced blooms from spring to fall.

Bloom times vary by geography, and they can be planted both in spring and in fall. In the midwest and north, they bloom in mid-summer and in fall and winter in lower south regions.

Where Did We Get Dianthus?

Most dianthus is native to Europe and Asia. They got their name from Theophrastus (371-287 BC). Aristotle said that he had a “divine form of expression.”. He used the word dianthus, which referenced God and flower for this plant. He worked as a teacher, philosopher and he loved his garden. He is commonly called the father of horticulture. He was good at a lot of things, ethics, biology, metaphysics, logic, grammar, language.

You can see the dianthus form incorporated in ancient architecture, appearing in freezes decorating classical buildings. They are a simple cottage garden flower-but their roots run deep!

Plant Name, CommonSalvia
Plant Name, BotanicalVarious
Significant AttributesColorful spikes of densely packed tubular flowers
ColorBlue, purple, red, pink, white, yellow.
Bloom PeriodMidsummer on. In warm zones all year.
Hardiness Zones4-10
Light RequirementsFull sun.
Soil RequirementsWell-drained, with compost, light, fertile, loamy, moist but with drainage. Never wet.
Soil pHNeutral to slightly alkaline
Water RequirementsWater in AM. Regular water in summer, do not allow plants to stand in soggy soil in winter
Plant TypePerennial, and annual versions. For zone 10 annuals last several years.
Garden UsageBeds. borders, containers, cottage garden, cut flowers.
Size18:-5′. Check varieties
Planting Distance18-24″ apart.
Pollinators and WildlifeYes
Cautionsvery few pests and diseases.

Perennial Dianthus Varieties’

Arctic Fire

This variety has a contrasting eye and is hardy to zone 3.

Cheddar Pink –Dianthus grantianopolitanus

This is a heavily scented variety attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. The plant is named for its native habitat, the Cheddar Gorge in England.

Chinese Pink –Dianthus chinensis

A short-lived perennial plant with often bicolor plants having a darker center. The size can range from 6″-30″ in height. It thrives in cooler temperatures and requires some sun protection in warmer climates. It is often treated as an annual.

Cottage Pink-D. plumarius

Also, Grass pinks, Feathered Pinks, Garden Pinks.


Firewitch is an established plant and comes in a hot pink shade.


This variety has both pink and white blooms on one plant.

Grass Pinks-

Rose de Mai

Not rose but lavender, this is an heirloom variety.

Sweet William (Diantius barbatus)

This is taller with clusters of flowers on erect stems from May to October.

Growing Dianthus

Do not look for complications, dianthus, while offering plenty of visual stimulation, is a simple plant! Give it what it wants and get out of the way. Select a place with fertile, well-drained soil under 6 hours of sun per day. Follow basic environmental rules. In cooler climates 8 hours of sun, in hotter places, an afternoon filter is appreciated.

Plant after the danger of frost has passed and this is one plant you do not need to mulch except for winter protection.

Planting Time

Plant after the danger of frost is over. Follow planting instructions and after blooming, remove flower stems, and about 1/3 of the foliage and mulch. The foliage in milder climates will remain attractive.

Maintenance and Encouraging Blooms

Water Dianthus when rain does not reach one inch per week. Use a water-soluble fertilizer on a monthly basis. Add about an inch of compost around the plantings, Deadhead as required. Divide the plants in early spring about once every three to four years. This will add to your garden space.

Pruning And Trimming Dianthus

Start by always choosing compact plants to buy. This will reduce the need for trimming. Pinch the plants and trim leggy stems to maintain the naturally mounding shape of the plant. Make any cuts with sharp, clean blades, near a budding branch to encourage further growth.


Dianthus is a compact, mat-forming, low maintenance plant with more uses, solving problems around the garden. In mild climates, its blue-green color is available through the winter months. The foliage mats formed by each plant, discourage weeds and enhance many areas where other plants are not helpful. Think of a walkway and stone staircase with the blue-green mats drooping down as you walk along.

They make an excellent, dense groundcover as well as a source of cut flowers. We don’t see that every day.

Companion Plants

The first feature of companion plants is that they share the same growing conditions. Dianthus performs best in bright light, well-drained, and even dry soil. Companions will need to share that.

Annual Companion Plants

Think of Impatiens (sunpatiens and new guinea impatiens are the varieties for the sun), stock, snapdragons to add some height, and verbena which will trail or spill in containers. Also, geraniums, petunias, salvia, and bachelors button.

Perennial Companions

Roses are wonderful companions, as well as lavender and scented geraniums add a mild added group of scents to the garden area. Try also, the soft finish of lambs ear, the height of coreopsis, hollyhocks, hyssop, and delphinium.


To add the volume of shrubs include ideas such as forsythia, spirea, lilac, and beautyberry. Boxwood will add a finished edge.

Vines For A Vertical Dimension

Depending on your climate add height from bittersweet, honeysuckle, clematis. These are sun-loving plants but they perform best with cool roots. Dianthus solves this problem with its ability to produce a cooling mat around the roots of the vines.

There are plenty of color choices from dianthus and you can use them to set off the colors of vines you choose.