Dianthus – May Plant of the Month

Dianthus is our May Plant of the Month for 2023. Also known as cottage pinks, cheddar pinks, carnation, sweet William, and maiden pinks. Here in Northeast Kansas, just dianthus for most of them. True, carnations and Sweet William are different species than the pinks. The dianthus we want are the short, groundcover type of pinks.

Dianthus is not native to North America, but rather mostly to Europe and Asia. But they thrive here, and our forefathers brought them over on their boats. Worldwide, there are around 340 species of dianthus. Dianthus gratianopolitanus, aka the cheddar pink, is where we get all the many cultivars that are being used in landscapes today as perennial groundcovers. There are a lot of cultivars to choose from.

Where Do We Plant Dianthus?

As a groundcover, cheddar pinks prefer full to part sun, and well drained soil. They will adapt to heavy clay however, as long as it does not sit in standing water. Once they are established, extra watering is not needed, even in drought situations. I have used dianthus in rock gardens, edging borders along paths and walls, and mixed into the front of perennial borders.

One of the great and often overlooked aspects of dianthus is that the flowers are edible. So you can mix the plants into the vegetable garden, potager, or plant them near where the kids are playing without fear of them messing with the flowers.


There are a lot of new and exciting cultivars to choose from when picking out a dianthus. An old favorite of mine is ‘Firewitch’, which I used a lot when I worked as a designer in Topeka, KS. It is still used quite a bit today. All are Zones 4 to 9 unless otherwise marked.

  • Paint the Town Series includes at least 4 colors: fuschia, magenta, pink with a dark eye, and pink. 8 inches tall by 18 inches wide.
  • Cherry Vanilla – red edged in pink. It grows 10 inches tall and wide.
  • Maraschino – the best true red with a dark eye. It grows 11 inches tall by 14 inches wide.
  • Coconut Surprise – white with a red eye. It grows 10 inches tall by 12 inches wide in Zones 5-9.
  • Firewitch – the best pink which grows 8 inches tall by 12 inches wide, in Zones 3-11.
  • Everlast Lilac Eye – pink with a dark red eye. It grows 12 inches tall by 14 inches wide.
  • Electric Red – red with a dark purple eye. It grows 10 inches tall by 18 inches wide.
'Firewitch' cheddar pinks
Dianthus ‘Firewitch’

Maintenance of Dianthus

One of the best things about dianthus is that it has almost no maintenance or issues. The leaves, which are silvery-green, are evergreen or semi-evergreen, and rarely need anything. The flowers begin in May and usually last through July. After they turn brown use hedge trimmers to clip of the spent flowers. And that is all the care they need.

As they spread outward, it may be necessary to remove some plant material to keep them out of other plants. Just lift up the plant areas and clip them with pruners away from the original plant and remove. And you are done!

Dianthus leaves

Companion Plants

Dianthus is great for the low, front of the bed areas. It pairs well with plants that bloom at the same time, have similar heights, or can back it up. Also, it is important to pair it with other drought loving plants, and not wet loving plants. Use any of the following plants with it in beds.


Dianthus, aka cheddar pinks are a great addition to the cottage garden, border of a pathway in full sun, the edible or vegetable garden, or the front of a sunny bed. With edible flowers and a spicy fragrance, there is a cultivar for everyone. Put them in and let them be and they will be happy. And so will you.

Happy planting!

author of dianthus

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