A versatile group of free flowering annuals and evergreen perennials. Useful in many different parts of the garden. Alpine forms are ideal for the rockery. Pinks are great for the mixed border and Sweet Williams and Annual Carnations are good for borders and bedding schemes.

Family: Caryophyllaceae (pink or carnation family)
Botanical Name: Dianthus
Common Names: pink, pheasant's eye, carnation, gilliflower.

Foliage: Evergreen, narrow, grey-green leaves.

Flowers: Attractive showy flowers, borne on upright stems, in a wide range of colours. Many varieties are fragrant. Single, double or semi-double forms are available.

Flowering Period: Late spring and summer.

Soil: Well-drained, moderately fertile soil (chalk, sand or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH. Avoid waterlogged conditions.

Conditions: Best in full sun. Plant in an east, west or south facing aspect.

Habit: Low growing, spreading.

Type: Hardy and half-hardy annuals, biennials and evergreen perennials.

Origin: Europe, Asia and Africa.

Hardiness: Most varieties are fully hardy in the UK.

Planting and Growing Dianthus

Easy to grow. Good on free draining chalky soils. Pollution tolerant and drought-tolerant once established.

Plant in September or early October in an open sunny site.

Ideal for well drained flower beds, containers, rockeries or front of the border.

Tall stemmed varieties are popular as cut flowers.

Taking Care of Dianthus

Water in dry weather and apply a general fertiliser each spring.

Carnations often deteriorate after a few years and need to be replaced.

Pruning Dianthus

Remove faded blooms and trim back untidy plants in late summer.

Pests and Diseases

Susceptible to attack by slugs and aphids. Prone to smut, rust, virus and wilt.

Propagating Dianthus

Easily propagated from seed. Cultivars should be raised from cuttings or layers.

Sow seeds under glass in spring.

Plant cuttings (basal shoots) of perennials in a cold frame or heated propagator in summer or layer side shoots in August.

Popular Varieties of Dianthus

The list of varieties and cultivars is extensive and increases every year.

Dianthus alpinus (Europe) is a perennial that forms a low growing mat of rich-green foliage, topped with scentless pink or purplish red blooms in June-August. Ideal rock-garden plants. Height and spread 150mm (6in).

Dianthus x allwoodii (hybrid) is a perennial with tight mounds of attractive grey-green foliage. Fragrant, brightly coloured flowers (white through pink to deep port-wine) in May-July. Ideal for the rock garden. Height from 6 to 18in (15-45cm).

Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) are attractive hardy perennials, often treated as a biennial. They produce erect stems clothed in bright green, lance-shaped leaves, topped with fragrant flowers in dense, flat heads, up to 6in (150mm) across (June-July). Colours vary from white to deep red, some striped. Good cultivars include 'Dash Magician' which produces large fragrant long-lasting flower heads on sturdy, long stems. Opening white and maturing to shades of pink and rose (late spring into summer). Available from You Garden. Dianthus Festival Mixed produces a useful mix of cheery colours in summer. Available from You Garden.

Dianthus caryopbyllus (carnation) is a hardy perennial with grey-green leaves on stout, upright stems. Fragrant flowers from white to pink and rose, from July to August. Parent of present-day border carnations. Great for beds and borders in full sun. Superb cut flowers. Height from 1 to 3ft (30-90cm). Good varieties include 'Beauty of Cambridge' (yellow), 'Bookham Lad' (white, striped scarlet), 'Clarinda' (salmon-pink), 'Polar Clove' (white) and 'Giant Chabaud' (fully-double fragrant flowers), available from Van Meuwen.

Dianthus chinensis (Indian or Chinese pink) is a hardy annual or biennial with stiff, grass-green foliage and bold heads of bright pink or red flowers, from July to August. Height from 1 to 1.5ft (30-45cm).

Dianthus deltoides (maiden pink) is a perennial with short green leaves on prostrate stems, topped with tiny, bright pink flowers on short, wiry stems (spring to autumn). Ideal in borders, rockeries and patio containers. Height to 8in (20cm), spread 12in (30cm). Good varieties include 'Arctic Fire' - available from Van Meuwen. 'Albus' (white), 'Brilliant' (pinkish red), 'Deltoides Red' - available from Van Meuwen, and 'Maiden Pink Brilliancy' (bright pink) - available from Van Meuwen.

Dianthus Gem is a prolific flowering cultivar with pinkish white flowers. Drought tolerant. Flowers in the Autumn and again in the Spring. Available from Gardening Direct.

Dianthus plumarius (pink) is a hardy perennial with tight mounds of narrow, grey-green leaves. Medium sized fragrant flowers in shades of white and pink, from June to July. Ancestor of many hybrid garden pinks.

Old-fashioned Pinks are slow growing, reaching about 1ft (30cm) high and spread. Usually a single flush of flowers in June. Height and spread to 20in (50cm). Good varieties include 'Mrs Sinkins' (white - highly scented - available from Van Meuwen), 'White Ladies' (white), 'Excelsior' (carmine) and 'Emil Pare' (pink).

Modern Hybrid Pinks are quicker growing and have a much longer flowering' habit, usually from June to August and longer. The variety 'Memories' is an improved version of the popular 'Mrs Sinkins' with better blooms and a more compact growing habit - available from You Garden. Dianthus 'Diane' is known for its rosy-pink, double flowers, with a rich clove scent - available from Van Meuwen.

Dianthus Peach Party bears hundreds of clove scented flowers in a unique play of colours. Available from Gardening Express.

Dianthus Pink Kisses bears hundreds of pink scented flowers year on year with pale pink edges. Compact in nature. Available from Gardening Express.

Dianthus Purple Wedding is a fragrant pink bud and flowered variety. Semi-evergreen perennial. Available from Gardening Express.

Dianthus 'Doris' Dianthus 'Doris' produces pink frilled flowers from June to September with an eye-catching red centre and a sweet fragrance. Available from Van Meuwen.

Dianthus 'Haytor White' (RHS AGM) has attractive, evergreen foliage and pure white, clove-scented flowers, from June until September. Height and spread to 16in (40cm). Available from Van Meuwen.

Dianthus 'Joy' flowers throughout the summer, with semi-double pastel pink blooms on long stems, growing above clumps of slender, grey-green leaves. Height and spread to 20in (50cm). Available from Van Meuwen.