Also know as: Dianthus

One of the quintessential flowers in a cottage or kitchen garden, pinks are surprisingly not always pink. They get their name from the edges of their blooms, which look like they've been clipped by pinking shears. They can be spice-scented or odorless, but all pinks look wonderful in any English garden.

Pinks have been used for centuries as flavorings for soups, wine, jam and sauces. They have been cultivated through the years to be hardy, beautiful plants. The name dianthus means "divine flower". Carnations, a variety of dianthus, were used to make the flesh-colored paint that Elizabethan painters used in their portraits. As well, carnation essential oil has many benefits for those who indulge in aromatherapy.

Dianthus isn't an especially tall flower – it can grow to a height of 18 inches. Any garden center employee would tell you this flower tends to spread more than it grows tall – it can spread to 24 inches. The blooms come out in the spring and summer, and can be red, white, lilac purple and of course, the pink that gives them their name. The foliage is light green and pointed. With some varieties, wispy green shoots wreath the blossom.

Growing Pinks

Pinks require full sun, but they will tolerate light to dappled shade. You will need to plant them in a neutral to alkaline soil mixture that is extremely well-drained. This is a very important factor in growing pinks – they will not tolerate waterlogged soil. You can mix gravel or sand in the soil to help with the drainage. When it comes time to complete your seasonal garden care, you will need to divide pinks every year or so to keep them growing well. Do this in the early spring. Propagation from seed is not recommended. Space the plants 10-20 inches apart.

Recommended Varieties

Pinks are well-loved in Britain and North America and have many different varieties, including carnations and sweet williams. Popular varieties include the rare and prized "Cheddar Pink", "Allwood Pink", "Maiden Pink", "Cottage Pink", and any number of carnation varieties.

Landscape Design Tips

Pinks make a great addition to a rock garden or border, but they need to be in a place that's very well-drained. Pinks do reseed themselves, so you might see a whole new crop of them popping up in your borders next spring. Sometimes, they'll even be different from the parent plants, so you may find new varieties.

Growing Zones

Pinks are hardy from zones 3 to 8.

Pests and Problems

Insect problems seem to be the name of the game when growing pinks – they're prone to slugs, blister beetles, grasshoppers and sowbugs. Properly-drained soil will keep most fungal and bacterial problems away.