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.

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Common Dianthus Care Questions

How Do You Keep Dianthus Blooming All Summer?

You can help keep dianthus blooming all summer by making sure the soil is kept consistently moist, fertilizing every couple of months, and deadhead all the spent flowers to encourage new ones!

How To Care For Dianthus After It Blooms?

For mounding varieties of dianthus, after that first showing of blooms has wilted and faded, you can give the plant a vigorous trim to encourage bushier growth and more blooms. It can be cut back up to half of its height. Deadheading any variety of dianthus will help encourage new flowers. Plants that become leggy or overgrown, can be trimmed back at any time during the season, also.  

Do Dianthus Like Sun Or Shade?

Dianthus can tolerate some shade, but they perform best with full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.

Do Dianthus Come Back Every Year?

Most varieties of dianthus are perennials, coming back every year, though there are some that are annuals and still more that are biennials. Some will self-seed if not completely deadheaded, giving you fresh seedlings in the spring.    

How Do You Care For Dianthus In The Summer?

Make sure dianthus gets sufficient water through the summer, keeping the soil moist, not letting it get too dry nor allowing it to become soggy. They do best with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, and for more blooms, be sure to deadhead the spent blooms. 

Does Dianthus Spread?

If the spent flowers are not deadheaded, and the seeds are allowed to ripen, some varieties of dianthus can spread by self-seeding.

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Author Chris Link - Published 12-07-2020