What is the most popular flower that begins with the letter D? Many of would jump to daffodil as we watch the flowers fade. However, I would dare to bet dianthus would top daffodils in sales. More commonly referred to as Sweet William, Carnation or Pinks, the genus Dianthus has more than 300 species and over the centuries, numerous hybrids have been developed.
Dianthus is easy to grow, but as with all plants, a little knowledge can increase your success. Often included in English Gardens, dianthus finds its roots in 4th Century BC nomenclature, Dios (Zeus) and anthos (flower), literally “flower of the gods”. The limey, rocky soil of Greece and enriched garden soils of China indicate different species require different soil.
First determine if the plant or seed you are looking at is an annual, biennial or short-lived perennial. Dianthus flowers fall primarily in the white-pink-red spectrum with foliage that varies from wide, bright green to gray/blue and narrow.
Plants offered in 6-packs, usually Sweet William (D. barbatus), should be treated as annuals and if they thrive for two years, consider it a bonus! Offer them a rich, well-drained soil and deadhead flower clusters to increase their bloom. This species usually forms a “cushion” making a nice border and gives fine color flowering spring and fall.
Cottage and Cheddar pinks (D. plumarius and D. gratianopolitanus, respectively) are perennials and offered in 4 inch or 1-gallon pots. This dianthus has narrower foliage, often gray-green and almost needlelike. They too need well-drained soil, but prefer a break from the hot afternoon sun. Known for being extremely fragrant, the scent is often reminiscent of cloves. Pinks are now classified as “old-fashioned” or “modern” – bloom time being the primary difference. Old-fashioned pinks bloom profusely in late spring or early summer, seldom having more than an occasional flower later in the year. Modern pinks still retain some fragrance, but offer 2-3 flushes of bloom through the season when deadheaded.
Dianthus deltoides are considered rock garden type pinks. Low-growing and slowly spreading, give this species a slightly coarser soil with a sprinkle of lime. Though it prefers shallow soil and tolerates partial to half-day sun, “rock garden” does not mean drought tolerant. Water weekly in summer and remove competing weeds for best results. Easy to start and bloom from seed, www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com offers two colors. Unfortunately, D. deltoides offer little to no fragrance.
LeeAnn Barton has worked with nurseries for more than 20 years. She digs in the dirt in Stillwater. Direct any questions to her, especially about tree selection, by emailing email@example.com.