How To Grow Dianthus Plants

Dianthus blooms (Dianthus spp.) are also termed “pinks.” They belong to a family of plants that includes carnations and are noted by the spicy scent the blooms emanate.

Dianthus can be an annual, biennial, or perennial, and it’s most commonly seen in potted arrangements or in borders.

A simple guide on how to grow dianthus illustrates the ease of care and diversity of this lovely flowering plant.

Dianthus Plant

The dianthus plant is also called Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) and has a fragrance with cinnamon or clove notes.

The plants are tiny and usually between 6 and 18 inches (15-46 cm.) tall. Pink, salmon, red, and white are the most common colors of dianthus blooms.

Thick stems bear narrow, sparsely spaced leaves.

Dianthus had a limited flowering season until 1971, when a breeder learned how to develop types that did not set seed and, therefore, have a prolonged bloom time.

Modern cultivars will typically bloom from May through October.

Planting Dianthus

Plant pinks in full sun, medium shade, or any location where they will get at least six hours of direct sunlight each day.

Fertile, well-drained soil with an alkaline pH is essential for the plants’ growth.

When planting dianthus, wait until the threat of frost has gone before doing so.

Set the plants 12 to 18 inches (30-46 cm) apart, at the same level they were growing at in the pots. Do not cover them with mulch.

Water them only at the base of the plant to keep the foliage dry and prevent mildew spots.

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How to Care for Dianthus

Dianthus care is a breeze when you know what you’re doing. Water the plants when dry and apply fertilizer every six to eight weeks.

At planting, you can also incorporate a slow-release fertilizer into the soil to eliminate the need to continually feed the plants.

Due to the self-sowing nature of some dianthus cultivars, it is imperative that deadheading be used to minimize the number of stray plants and maximize the number of blooms.

Perennial types are short-lived and should be propagated by division, tip cuttings, or even layering.

Dianthus seed is also easily available at garden centers and may be started indoors six to eight weeks before the threat of frost has passed.

Dianthus Flower Varieties

Almost any garden or climate zone can benefit from a dianthus plant. Dianthus chinensis, also known as Chinese pinks, is common annual dianthus.

Cheddar (D. gratianopolitanus), Cottage (D. Plumarius), and Grass pinks are perennial types (D. Armeria). Every one of these plants has blue-gray foliage that comes in a variety of hues.

D. Barbatus is the common Sweet William and a biennial.

There are both double and single flowers and the variety reseeds itself.

Allwood pinks (D. x Allwoodii) are long-lasting with flowering spanning at least 8 weeks.

They are typically double flowering and come in two sizes, 3 to 6 inches (8-15 cm.) and 10 to 18 inches (25-46 cm.) are tall.

Pruning Perennial Dianthus

Properly pruning your dianthus plants will help boost the possibility of repeat blooming and maintain the plant neat throughout the year.

After they’ve finished blooming, flowers, especially those of repeat-flowering varietals, should be deadheaded.

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Throughout the year, remove any stems or leaves that are unhealthy or damaged.

Come fall, trim back the plant until there are just 1 to 2 inches of stem remaining above the soil.

The plant will fall into hibernation for the winter and come back to life in the spring.

Propagating Perennial Dianthus

While dianthus plants are more conveniently started from seed, they can also be propagated using stem cuttings, which will insure that the new plants will have the same traits as the “mother plant.” To disseminate, follow these steps:

  1. Take a 2 to 3-inch cutting from an established mother plant that has blossomed for at least a full season. Ideally, the plant should be cut back after its summer blooms in June or July.
  2. In a tiny pot, combine potting soil with vermiculite—the mixture should be moist but not damp or soggy.
  3. Dip the cut end of the cutting in a rooting hormone.
  4. A minimum of one node must be below the soil’s surface when you plant your cutting in a pot.
  5. Place the pot in a warm, sunny spot.
  6. The cutting should take root in a month or two if the soil is kept moist.
  7. Once you see new leaf growth, you can transplant the cutting and care for it as normal.

How to Grow Perennial Dianthus From Seed

Dianthus plants are easy to cultivate from seed, but there is no guarantee that the plants that develop will mirror that of the “parent” blooms.

Plant seeds in a seed tray eight weeks before your area’s last frost date for indoor germination.

Keep the seed tray somewhere warm and bright until the seedlings germinate, which should happen in roughly eight to 10 days.

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Continue to nurture the seedlings indoors until they’ve reached 4 inches tall. Once the risk of frost has passed, they can be planted outside.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

One of the main challenges dianthus plants encounter is vascular wilt.

Characterized by dull green stems that droop and eventually dry up, wilt is technically a fungus that can finally kill an entire plant.

It’s hard to treat because fungicides don’t work, so rotating your plantings frequently and avoiding planting in infected soil are key precautions. 2

Additionally, dianthus plants may have trouble with other common plant pests, such as spider mites and aphids.

Insecticidal soap or neem oil can be used to treat an infestation until it is completely eradicated.

How to Get Perennial Dianthus to Bloom

Lucky for many gardeners, dianthus plants are easy to manage for and rarely have difficulties blooming.

It’s important to remember a few things if you’re having difficulty getting your plants to bloom.

First and foremost, dianthus plants should be positioned somewhere that gets at least six hours of bright sunlight daily.

The frequency and intensity of the blooms might be affected if there is insufficient light.

Dianthus plants need enough water to stay healthy and flower.

Keep the soil moist by watering the plant at least once a week and applying mulch to the soil around the roots to keep moisture in.

Finally, if you want your dianthus plants to blossom, you need to take good care of them.

Instead of wasting energy turning wasted blossoms into seeds, deadheading encourages the plant to create additional buds and foliage.

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