Dianthus – pink – carnation – sweet william

Dianthus is a very large family of colourful, often scented perennials for almost any sunny spot in the garden. The flowers are single or double and range from red to delicate pinks and white.

Suitable site and soil. Sun and well-drained soil. The smallest species and hybrids are excellent for rock gardens, troughs and raised beds. Pinks and annual and border carnations like border conditions enriched with rotted manure.

Cultivation and care. Plant rock garden pinks in spring, border pinks and carnations in autumn or spring. Add lime if soil is acid. Stake taller varieties for the first year. In spring, 66 pinch off the main shoot tip ofyoung border pinks just above a leaf joint; remove all except main or side shoot buds of carnations. Plant sweet William seedlings in autumn.

Propagation. For rock garden hybrids and all garden pinks, take cuttings in midsummer 8cm – 3in long. Layer border carnations in midsummer. Separate at the end of summer, lift and plant in autumn. Sow annual carnations in gentle heat in early spring. Sow sweet William outdoors in early summer.

Recommended varieties. The choice is endless and all good seed catalogues have first-class strains. Consider colour and scent as well as size: sweet Williams (D. barbatus) grow to about 30-60cm – l-2ft; border pinks 25-35cm – 10-14in; border carnations 90cm – 3ft; and annual carnations 30cm – 12in.

Pests and diseases. Aphids can be a problem.


Garden pinks should be stopped in early spring.

This means you snap off the tops of main stems just above a leaf joint to encourage side shoots to produce more plentiful flowers.

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