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Dianthus Care

Dianthus is a genus of about 300 species of flowering plants, mostly perennials but some are grown as annuals. The plants are mostly native to Europe and Asia. Some species are native to parts of north Africa and in southern Africa. And one (D. repens) in arctic North America. These plants are widely known as as carnations, which is a specific type of dianthus (D. caryophyllus). Other common names include pink, maiden pinks, pinks, or clove pink, which all are considered in the species D. plumarius. Another common name for dianthus is sweet william (D. barbatus).


Almost all dianthus have flowers that are some shade of pink. The flowers are frilled on the outer edges and some carry a very strong spicy fragrance to them. Some say the flowers smell like sugar and cloves. The cut flowers are very popular for flower arrangements by florists and carnations gained a reputation as a cheap supermarket flower. However, more recently, the plants have become more popular to grow at home due to how easy the plants are to care for and the abundance of flowers the plants produce.

Types of Dianthus

There are 6 main types of dianthus:

Border carnations – These are hardy plants that grow up to 2 feet tall with large blooms.

Perpetual Flowering Carnations – Grown most often in greenhouses for florists due to their continuous blooms year round and the size of flowers.

Malmaison Carnations – Mostly grown for the intense clove fragrance that grow up to 28 inches tall.

Old-fashioned Pinks – These are evergreen perennials that grow in mounds of blue-green foliage. These will bloom in summer and grow up to 18 inches tall.

Modern Pinks – These are newer hybrid varieties that rebloom (sometimes up to 3 times a year) and can get up to 18 inches tall.

Alpine Pinks – Grown in rocky or alpine conditions. These grow in a mat-form instead of mounding. Only get 4 inches tall.

Planting Dianthus

Plant in a location that gets full sun or partial shade. Which means it needs at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. The soil needs to be well-drained. These plants do great in the ground or growing in garden planters. Do not use mulch around the base of the plants.  

Watering Dianthus

Water carnations once per week on average. You can tell if the plant needs to water by feeling the top 1-2 inches of the soil. If it is completely dry, then you can water the plant. The leaves will also droop if it is thirsty. In severe cases, the leaves will start to turn brown and crispy and die. Dianthus growing in planters will require water more often than if growing in the ground. 

Deadheading Dianthus

This is a critical step in caring for carnations. By deadheading the spent blooms, it encourages the plants to put its energy towards creating more foliage and flowers instead of turning those flowers into seeds. Deadheading or pinching the old blooms also helps prevent annual dianthus from spreading.  

Carnation Cut Flower Care

Dianthus translates to “Flowers of the God” and “Flowers of Love”. These cut flowers have been used for centuries due to being easy to grow, the sweet scent of sugar and cloves, and for how long they stay fresh once cut. These flower are also edible, and can be used to decorate cakes, used in drinks or to add color to a salad! The flowers can last up to 21 days once cut if properly taken care of, which outlasts many other cut flower options. Which is why this is such a popular flower!

Propagating Dianthus

In general the rule of thumb is that perennial dianthus are best propagated by cuttings and annual dianthus are best propagated by the seeds. You can also easily divide mature plants.