Dianthus barbatus

Dianthus barbatus

Common name: Sweet william

Family: Caryophyllaceae

Plant type Annual, biennial, perennial
Height 3 to 5 inches
Spread 6 to 8 inches
Habit Spreading, bushy
Foliage Evergreen
Growth rate Slow
Interests Flowers
Uses Borders, pots and tubs, rockery, cut flower
Skill level Beginner
Maintenance Slight
Hardiness 3
Heat zone
Sun Full sun
Moisture Dry to average
Soil type Slightly acid to slightly lime
Soil fertility Moderate
Water consumption Light to moderate
Site Sheltered to exposed
Flower colour Pink, purple, red, white
Flower season Early spring to mid summer
Flower size Medium
Foliage colour Green
Fruit colour
Edible parts
Harvest time

Sweet williams are usually biennial but some types are also annual or perennial. The plant habit is generally low and spreading and they bear single flowers in colours of red, pink and white including bi-colour varieties.

All dianthus require a well drained soil and a site in full sun. When planting perennial and rockery varieties incorporate extra grit into the soil.

Sweet williams are usually grown from seed. Biennial types can be sown in July or August for flowering early the following spring. Annual types can be sown in March or April. Cover the seeds in a fine layer of vermiculite and germinate at about 22C (71F) (Summer sowings will usually germinate well in a shady part of the garden).


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