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What's Up Magazine

Divine Flowers for Your Garden

Jan 12, 2011 06:31PM ● By Anonymous

Readily available year-round and in a variety of colors that can be augmented by placing dye in their drinking water, they are sometimes described as trite, boring, mundane, and, yes, also less expensive. Yet close relatives of carnations, other members of the genus called Dianthus, can be quite exotic in appearance and their vibrant colors can make a wonderful addition to any garden or container garden. When you are looking for colorful additions to the plantings around your home, take a closer look at these graceful and delicate plants that are easy to maintain.


Sweet William, pinks, and carnations are all part of the Caryophyllaceae family. The genus name Dianthus was derived from two Greek words that literally translate as Divine Flower and certainly these are divinely beautiful flowers that grow quickly and keep flowering through the warm weather months. Supposedly a pupil of Aristotle, Theophrastus, dedicated the flowers to Zeus, the king of Greek gods, in 300 BC. Found growing wild in Spain, England, and Normandy; it is believed that the Romans introduced the plant to some of the territories they conquered.

Generally Dianthus prefer a site with full sun and well drained soil. They enjoy warm weather and dislike humidity, but still thrive in Maryland despite our humid summers. These delicate lively flowers do well in a variety of settings but always need lots of sun and light, so choose a location that will be away from any structures such as buildings, fences, trees, or shrubs that would both restrict movement and create shade. Neutral, well-drained, rocky soil is optimal for enabling Dianthus plants to flourish.

To encourage repeat flowering, pinch back the plants while they are still young to encourage them to produce more flowering shoots. Always deadhead, remove spent blossoms, on the repeat blooming plants to promote further flowering.

Hardy plants—various varieties of carnations, pinks, and Sweet William do well in rock gardens and in containers as well as planted in clumps on the borders or edges of larger flower beds. The plants best for summer beds are called by a variety of names— Indian pinks, China pinks, annual pinks, or rainbow pinks. A cross between a type of pink and a Sweet William, this particular Dianthus has been in the historical record since 1705 when seeds were sent from China where it is a native, to Paris by a French missionary. Achieving popularity quickly, it was planted in Great Britain and transported to the New World by English colonists. Considered annuals, these varieties in practice often live multiple seasons as biennials or short life span perennials, depending on the climate. Cut them back in the fall and they will often survive and produce more flowers the following spring. When purchasing seeds or plants, look also for Dianthus varieties that are actual perennials. Be aware that in order for the perennials to be at their best, they should be dug up and re-divided every few years. Deep reds, purples, and multi-colored varieties are available in addition to the standard shades of pink. Bring some of your favorite new home colors for 2010 outside into your garden!