Pinks – Dianthus chinensis hybrids

Tiny alpine Pinks grow wild on mountain slopes in Europe. They thrive on neglect and are perfect for growing outdoors in pots or window-boxes. Pinks have always been a popular flower, not only for their beauty but also, in some cases, for scent.

The narrow, misty-blue or grey-green leaves grow in tufts or clumps that can in time build up a thick carpet. Plants can be from 10-20cm (4-8in) high, and they flower continuously from May to late September. Some are annuals, or are treated as such, others will last for years.

Flowers and flowering

Flowers vary in size and some have fringed petals. Most pinks have long-lasting flowers and will bloom throughout the summer months and into the autumn. A number are fragrant. There are a tremendous number of varieties of Pinks available, including a large number of hybrids.

  • The Alpine Pink, the dwarf Dianthus alpinus, has red or pink flowers with a ring of dark spots on a paler background and fringed petals.
  • The Maiden Pink, D. deltoides, is hardy and blooms readily. It has small pink, red or white flowers, often several to one stem.
  • The Cheddar Pink, D. gratianopolitanus, has pink flowers, which are scented and open in June. It likes a sunny position and is long-lasting.
  • The Cottage Pink, D. plumarius, is from warmer Southeast Europe. It forms large, loose clumps which are full of flowers from May onwards. Good as a cut flower, it has a wonderful fragrance.
  • The Cluster-head Pink, D. carthusianorum, grows in tight carpets covered in deep red flowers from June to the end of September.

PropagationPinks - Dianthus chinensis hybrids

Seeds

Sow seed in a seed compost in early spring. Cover pots with glass until shoots appear, then take into bright light immediately.

Division

Divide large clumps in late summer. Lift the plant and divide into sections, each with a piece of root. Choose sections from the centre and put them in a pot with a mixture of one part coarse peat to one part sand. Cover with polythene to retain humidity.

Cuttings

Tip cuttings taken at the end of summer will root in equal parts of peat and sand in 3-4 weeks. Treat as for sections.

Pests And Diseases

White spots on red flowers, red spots on white flowers are caused by cold, or by insects called thrips. Thrips will affect the leaves, too. Treatment: Move plants to a more sheltered spot or attack thrips with suitable insecticide.

Yellow or greyish-brown patches on leaves indicate fungus disease. Treatment: The plant is too damp, so stop watering until the compost is drier. Use a fungicide.

Stems collapse when carnation fly larvae hatch and chew through the hearts of the stems. The fly lays eggs in late summer. Treatment: Use a suitable insecticide as soon as you notice attack. Otherwise the larvae will develop in June and cycle will continue.

Plants die if you over-water them.

Treatment: Do not water the plant to excess, and ensure the plant has proper drainage.

PLANT CARE

These are undemanding plants and reward the least effort by flowering all summer.

  • Potting: Soil-based compost is best for pots, window-boxes and troughs. Don’t forget that pinks need a well drained compost so put in a good 5cm (2in) layer of drainage crocks.
  • In the wild, Pinks grow on mountains where rocky slopes hold little soil and most water runs away. If your plants are in small pots water them moderately in summer and sparingly in winter. Remember that too little is better than too much.
  • Feeding: Pinks do not require feeding.

BEST GROWTH ENVIRONMENT

  • Light: These plants really do love full sun, and you can safely leave them in the sunniest corner of your patio, or in a south-facing window-box.
  • Temperature: Don’t worry about your Pinks getting too hot. They are robust sun-lovers.

Buying Tips

  • Plants are easily available from garden centres. Seed can also be bought and sown in spring.
  • Choose plants with sturdy blue-green leaves and no yellow or grey-brown patches.
  • Annual Pinks are grown from seed and die in autumn. Perennial plants are hardy in winter and grow year after year.

The small alpine Pinks are charming plants for the house or patio. The blooms are beautifully fragrant and they flower all summer long.

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