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Entries in Dianthus Dottie (1)


Dianthus, an All Season Perennial

Dianthus Fire Witch

Anyone who as ever inhaled the spicy aroma of Dianthus will attest to the intoxicating effect that this perennial has on gardeners and their visitors. Yet, the intensity of this pungent fragrance is inversely proportional to the plant’s size and physical presence in the garden. The family of low mounding Dianthus exists almost under the radar. Few people talk enthusiastically about growing it because it is a modest looking plant, even when in bloom.

Dianthus GrandiflorusThe camera does not like Dianthus. As the images on this post confirm, Dianthus is not a photogenic plant unless one takes a severe close up of its flower. From such a close range, the image of the bloom is somewhat exaggerated and the flower’s presence in the garden is slightly overstated. However, none of the above is a reason to overlook this perennial, as it adds an element of cuteness to the garden.

Dianthus Neon StarThe foliage of this perennial is very attractive and adds season-long character to the flowerbed. Some plants have silver-blue foliage that resembles fine pinnate leaves; others have delicate dark green leaves. During the growing season, these lushly textured mounds offer visual interest longer than most perennials do. Their foliage holds its color as the snow falls and reappears, in color, as soon as the snow melts.



Dianthus DorisBecause of their small size, these perennials are versatile. They are suitable for rock gardens and along the front border of beds. Dianthus looks attractive when under- planted around taller perennials and roses; when placed very close together, they create a dense edge trim. Some gardeners will use this perennial as ground cover between stepping stones or patio blocks. Here is why:

  • Dianthus is one of the few perennials that one can still purchase in tiny 2-inch pots. At this size, the root ball is small enough to insert between stones.
  • The contrast between the colors of soft foliage and hard stone is awesome.
  • Walking over Dianthus and allowing the feet to brush on the blooming plant releases fragrance.
  • Dianthus, as ground cover, makes an unusual textural statement in the garden.

Dianthus Arctic FireDianthus can help prevent erosion. Recently, I planted a flower border that a landscape architect had located too close to a swimming pool. When it rained, the top soil of the border washed into the pool. I solved that problem by planting a dense row of Dianthus along the edge of the flowerbed. Now, when it rains, the plant foliage traps the surface soil that would otherwise erode. As a bonus, the contrast between the grey stone surface of the patio and the pink color of the flowers is remarkable.

Dianthus Rosish OneIt is fascinating to see how quickly these plants sell at retail when they are in bloom. Sitting on display tables, the contrast of their colorful flowers against silver-blue foliage is a traffic stopper. In the garden however, that contrast is slightly diminished by the sun.



Dianthus Frosty FireOne reason I grow Dianthus is for its longevity. An anonymous variety, with silver-blue foliage and soft pink flowers,  has persisited in my flowerbeds for twenty years. Its children have found homes in the gardens of friends, neighbors and clients, where I expect that they will survive for another twenty years. Unfortunately, not everyone will have the same success with Dianthus, as I have had. Local climate and growing conditions will affect this plant’s longevity. For example, this same anonymous variety, growing so successfully in my flowerbeds, did not survive in my rock garden, situated only three feet away.

Dianthus BrilliantNew varieties of low growing Dianthus are introduced every season; some will have a lengthy bloom period that will make them noteworthy. Some varieties will be more fragrant than others will. A major criticism about this family of perennials is its marketing. Too many similar looking cultivars are on display at the same time at the nurseries, so that making a selection can be confusing for some.


Dianthus Flashing LightTo assist  gardeners in making a selection, here is a list of low mounding varieties, grouped by bloom time. Since all Dianthus are beautiful, the choices included here are only those that bloom for at least three months. A word of caution: dead heading is necessary to stimulate the extended flowering period.

May to July Blooming

Dianthus Dottie

Dianthus gratianopolitanus Grandiflorus

Dianthus Raspberry Swirl

June to August Blooming

Dianthus gratianopolitanus Firewitch

Dianthus Neon Star

Dianthus plumarius Doris

June to September Blooming

Dianthus deltoids Arctic Fire 

Dianthus gratianopolitanus Frosty Fire

Dianthus gratianopolitanus Snaps in Wine

Dianthis Rosish One

June to October Booming

Dianthus deltoids Brilliant

Dianthus deltoids Flashing Light´╗┐