All About Growing & Caring For Dianthus

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Have some fun in the sun with fragrant dianthus flowers!

Dianthus, known as ‘pinks,’ are vibrant, low-growing perennials with ruffled blooms in an array of red, pink, purple, and white colors. With dianthus, there is no need to sacrifice beauty for utility because dianthus does both; it’s perfect for lining pathways or making a statement in a container. This perennial is tough-as-nails and adds a sea of blooms wherever planted! Along with perennial dianthus varieties like Dianthus caryophyllus, there are also annuals like Dianthus chinensis, but everything we discuss today will pertain to perennial dianthus.

If you’ve ever wondered how to grow perennial dianthus for yourself, you’ve come to the right spot. Here, we’ll show you how to grow and care for dianthus, discuss how to use dianthus, and answer frequently asked questions about this prolific bloomer.

pink dianthus flowers in the garden

How to grow perennial dianthus:

  • Soil: Dianthus aren’t particularly fussy about soil, though they do require good drainage.
  • Light: Dianthus is a sun-loving perennial, and it prefers full sun (6+ hours per day) to part sun (4-6 hours per day) environments; it can also grow in part shade, though the blooms will not be as prolific.
  • Water: This perennial needs average water. Once established, it is drought-tolerant but should still be watered regularly during periods of hot, dry weather for the best garden performance.
  • Spacing: Space a minimum 12 inches apart.
  • Fertilizing: No special fertilizer is required for dianthus; one application of garden fertilizer in early spring is sufficient.
  • Winterizing: Remove all the dead and fallen plant matter to prevent the risk of rot or damage. This evergreen perennial may look a bit tatty coming out of harsh winters, but will recover as spring begins.
  • Maintenance & pruning: Little to no pruning or maintenance needed for dianthus. Though deadheading is not required, it will encourage additional flower production and improve overall appearance.
Pink firewitch dianthus flowers
Pictured above: ‘Firewitch’ Dianthus

What are the benefits of dianthus in the garden?

Highly fragrant blooms attract pollinators

The sweet yet spicy vanilla-like scent from dianthus flowers is simply irresistible, potent, and long-lasting in cut-flower arrangements! Who needs to spend money on candles and diffusers when you can bring your dianthus cuttings indoors? Some liken the spicy scent to cinnamon or clove, but that doesn’t really matter to the pollinators; the colorful centers have an abundance of nectar that bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love to feast on.

Vibrant color lasts all summer long

Dianthus is a perennial that blooms repeatedly from early summer through the beginning of fall, with little to no maintenance after it’s established! Consider cutting spent flowers to improve the appearance and encourage more frequent reblooms. These should be easy to spot as they will be brown and brittle, with some falling away alone. If you’ve just planted your dianthus, water it frequently and immediately after planting, then at least once a week. If there is a period of especially high temperatures, consider watering more frequently until it is established.

Silvery evergreen foliage adds year-round interest

Aside from bright frilled carnation flowers, dianthus is known for its silvery-coiled foliage, which provides a contrasting backdrop. After the vibrant blooms go dormant, evergreen foliage becomes the star of the show and looks beautiful until flowering picks back up the following spring! Dianthus foliage may turn brown and brittle in an especially harsh winter or frigid temperatures. You can minimize damage by covering it with a lightweight blanket. 

A lovely companion plant

Dianthus stands out on its own and also serves as a romantic addition to other perennials and shrubs! When choosing companion plants, look for plants in your growing zone thrive in full-to-part sun environments. As for soil, dianthus needs soil with good drainage and becomes more drought-tolerant with time, which is also something to keep in mind.

Some plants we think look lovely next to dianthus and tolerate similar sun and soil environments include:

Old fashioned classic for cut-flower arrangements

Their vivid blooms, intoxicating scent, and overall old-fashioned appeal of dianthus make it a must for cut-flower arrangements. Some varieties have longer stems than others, so take notice of their garden height when deciding which Dianthus make the best cut flower. Dianthus can be the focal point or tucked between other perennial cuttings like dahlia, phlox, foxglove, peony, or blazing star. With regular water changes, your cuttings can last about three weeks. 

Hand holding cut dianthus and tickseed flowers

Frequently asked questions about perennial dianthus:

Does perennial dianthus spread?

Yes, the blossoms contain seed pods that spread up to a foot from the original planting site, which is what makes it an excellent flowering ground cover! To keep dianthus contained, consider planting in a flower border around pavement or deadhead spent blossoms immediately after flowering to prevent the seed heads from spreading.

How many years does dianthus last?

Dianthus is a relatively short-lived perennial that lasts up to five years before it grows woody and unsightly. On the flip side, dianthus is so low-maintenance and drought-tolerant that your few years with this vibrant perennial will be completely carefree!

Is dianthus toxic to dogs or cats?

According to the ASPCA dianthus is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, causing mild gastrointestinal signs and mild dermatitis. Great Garden Plants advises that pets, children, or adults DO NOT consume any flowers, weeds, trees or bushes. Ornamental plants are intended to be just that – ornamental. They should not be consumed by people or pets.

Can you grow dianthus in pots?

Yes, dianthus actually grows well in containers, pots, and window boxes! They are compact with somewhat shallow root systems and grow well when paired with other sun-loving container plants like tickseed or lavender. Place them on a patio or balcony and watch the romantic blooms thrive.

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Written by: Lindsey Griffith, click here to read bio.

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