Posted by Aaron Barton on Mar 4th 2023
A longstanding favorite for season-long appeal, Dianthus (dy-AN-thus), or pinks, are long-blooming, salt tolerant, deer and rabbit resistant perennials with excellent foliage interest and fragrance. Belonging to the pinks or carnation family, Caryophyllaceae, Dianthus is a diverse genus of over 300 species and countless cultivars, largely native to Europe and Asia, with some distribution in Africa and North America.
Dianthus barbatus, or Sweet William, is a North American biennial commonly found along roadsides and natural areas including areas of Minnesota, growing 12-24” tall with dense terminal clusters of scented blooms in many shades of pink, red, and white. Other excellent landscape Dianthus include D. plumarius, D. deltoides, and D. gratianapolitanus.
Dianthus plumarius, known as garden or feathered pinks, is native to Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia. Maturing to 12-18” tall and forming a clump 8-12” wide, garden pinks are drought tolerant, thriving in full sun conditions in well-drained soil, including sandy soils, prone to disease when planted in overly moist sites. Stiff, thread-like powdery blue-green leaves form an attractive grass-like mound, sending up five-petaled fragrant, fringed blooms on scapes of three to five flowers in shades of pink, purple, red, and white. Often featuring bicolored blooms, feathered pinks bloom from late spring to fall, best when regularly deadheaded to maintain an attractive, colorful appearance perfect for low sunny borders, rock gardens, cottage gardens, and water-wise gardens. Popular cultivars include the delicate bicolored pink blooms of ‘Angel of Hope’ and ‘Angel of Peace,’ as well as the striking, bright blooms of ‘Delilah Purple’ and ‘Delilah Magenta.’
Dianthus also serve as attractive sunny groundcovers, with many popular varieties of cheddar pinks, D. gratianopolitanus, and maiden pinks, D. deltoides. Native to western and central Europe including their namesake, England’s Cheddar Gorge, cheddar pinks form a dense, low mat in full sun conditions, reaching a mature height of 8-12” with numerous scented pink blooms, including the popular ‘Firewitch’ Dianthus with vibrant magenta blooms and blue-gray foliage, perfect for rock gardens or mounding over retaining walls. Native to Europe and western Asia, maiden pinks mature to an even lower 4-6” tall, including the pink-centered white blooms of ‘Arctic Fire’ and bright pink ‘Zing Rose.’