There are many flowers in the Dianthus species. They are often all referred to as "Pinks", although the low growing variety is considered the true pink, if that matters. They all have some degree of sublime clove scent and the heirloom varieties are much more intense than newer introductions. The plants supposedly got their name because of the serrated "pinked" edges of the petals. While Pinks do not have to be pink, some of the best are, including 'Cheddar Pink', 'Cottage Pink', and 'Maiden Pink'.
Pinks tend to have one flush of flowering, in late spring. They will rebloom sporadically if you deadhead after the initial blooms have faded. The ones I have grown will bloom all season long. As the annual 4 packs, but some of them might stay around till the next season. You just never know.
Height: 6 - 10 inches
Width: 10 - 12 inches
Hardiness Zone: USDA zones 3 - 10
Exposure: Full sun
The genus Dianthus includes many species and cultivars. Besides pinks, which we'll be talking about here, other popular Dianthus include Sweet Williams (a biennial) and carnations. As with many other Dianthus, pinks have spicy scented flowers and fringed petals. I was always told they were called pinks because the petals looked like they'd been cut with pinking shears and recently I heard that the color "pink" got its name from the color of the flowers.
Leaves: The thin, grass-like leaves vary in color from gray-green to blue-green and is evergreen, although not terribly attractive in cold climate winters.
• Flowers: Despite their name, colors include shades of white, pink, and red and combinations of the three. Depending on the variety, pinks are perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 3- 10, although there are not as many choices for zones at the extreme ends.
Give your pinks a spot in full sun, if you want sturdy plants and lots of blooms. They can get very floppy in partial shade and will outright sulk in full shade.
Size will vary with variety, but most are low mounding plants that reach about 6 – 10 in. tall and spread 12 in. wide. Deadheading will encourage repeat blooming.
Soil: Pinks prefer a soil that is slightly alkaline, but will tolerate other soils as long as they are well draining. Wet soil, especially cold, wet soil, will kill your plants.
Starting from Seed: For the biggest variety, you can start plants from seed. They can be direct seeded, but I've had more luck starting the seed indoors, about 6 - 8 weeks before my last frost date. Many varieties will bloom their first year, from seed.
Pinks can be planted in either spring or fall. Space the plants 6 – 12 in. apart. Don't worry, they will fill in quickly.
Caring for Pinks: Water: Although pinks do not like wet soil and are drought tolerant, once established, they do appreciate regular watering.
Fertilizer: Feeding depends on the quality of your soil. Start with a rich soil, high in organic matter. Since they will be repeat blooming all summer, supplemental feeding with a water soluble fertilizer mid-season will keep them going strong.
Maintenance: To have repeat blooming, either deadhead or shear back the plants after blooming.
Plants fill out into plump clumps quickly and frequent division, every 2 - 4 years, will keep your garden in pinks and your pinks healthy. The best time to divide is in the spring, as they are just beginning to send out new growth.
Pests and Problems: Although not often plagued with problems, slugs and sowbugs have been know to attack pinks.
Design Tips: Pinks are great for adding fragrance and texture to the garden. Most aren't tall plants, so they are great for the front of the border and edging. Their frilly flowers are a nice counterpoint to bolder foliage, like coral bells. Since they are drought tolerant, they make a good choice for alpine beds and even containers. In addition to being deer and rabbit resistant, pinks attract butterflies.
This is one of those plants where new varieties are always being introduced and the ones you've grown to love become hard to find, but here are a few favorites. These are some of the perennials varieties I can get.
• 'Arctic Fire' - White petals with a ring of rose in the center (USDA Zones 3 - 9)
• 'Birmingham' - very frilly, double white variety (USDA Zones 4 - 8)
• 'Sweetness' - compact, mounding plant with flowers ranging from pale pink to rose. USDA Zones 4 - 8)
• ‘Rosish One’ - bright red petals with a sprinkling of burgundy and a white edge. (USDA Zones 4 - 9)
Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse Dougherty, Iowa