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Flower of the Week: Pinks (Dianthus)

Greenstreet Garden experts discuss "pinks," and why they're a great addition to almost any flowerbed this spring and summer.

As the quintessential cottage flower, "pinks" are treasured for their grass-like blue/green foliage and abundant starry flowers, which are often spicily fragrant.

Depending on the type of pink, flowers appear in spring or summer. They tend to be pink, red, white, rose, or lavender, but come in nearly all shades except true blue.

Common Dianthus include Sweet William, pinks and carnations. The name Dianthus is from the Greek words dios ("god") and anthos ("flower"), and was cited by the Greek botanist Theophrastus. The flowers have five petals, typically with a frilled or pinked margin, and are (in almost all species) pale to dark pink. 

The color pink may be named after the flower, coming from the frilled edge of the flowers. The verb "pink" dates from the 14th century and means "to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern.” This verb sense is also used in the name of pinking shears.

Dianthus should be planted where they will receive at least 4-5 hours of full sun each day. They thrive in fertile, fast-draining, slightly alkaline soil. Dianthus won't tolerate wet soils, especially in winter and avoid over-watering because it may tend to turn the foliage yellow.

Unlike most other plants, Dianthus plants should not be mulched. Dianthus require good air circulation around the stems at all times and must be kept as free from lingering moisture as possible. Dianthus will often reseed themselves, so don't be too hasty in removing spent plants from the ground. Spent flowers should be removed promptly to promote continued blooming.

With varieties ranging from tiny creeping ground covers to 30-inch-tall cut flowers and colors from white to pink to fuchsia, there is a Dianthus for almost any garden situation.

Jen Reilly May 09, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I have "pinks" in my garden and they are wonderful! Their fragrance is supreme. I can smell them from 10 - 15 feet away. The blossoms have lasted almost a month.

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