Dianthus superbus alba is a garden favourite that ranks highly with many gardeners. Often called the ‘Fringed pink’ or ‘Superb pink’ it is an evergreen, loosely tufted perennial dianthus with narrow grey-green leaves and tall stems. Addictively fragrant and divinely delicate, the flowers emit an unforgettable fragrance both night and day. Flowering in spring, the pure white, single blooms are so finely cut that they resemble frilly pinwheels. Those florists of old, who strove for those rounded dianthus flowers must have hated it.
Dianthus superbus is a robust plant that is tough, very easy to grow and almost maintenance free. It is hardy to minus 30°C (-22°F), drought resistant yet it will stand up to our wet winters. It is also one of the few dianthus that will tolerate continual moisture.
Given an early sowing the plants will flower the first year from seed, and although a perennial plant, it can also be treated as a biennial, sown in late summer the flowers take about 28 weeks to develop and flower. They typically bloom from late spring to early autumn, simply shear the stems when blooms are spent to encourage the next blooms.
The long flower stems are upright and strong and grow 40 to 50cm (16 to 20in) tall, they are finely branched and hold bouquets of exquisite fringed blooms. Wonderfully fragrant, they are ideal in a vase.
Sowing: Sow February to June or September to October.
Sow seed on the surface of a good, free-draining, damp seed or multipurpose compost. Do not cover the seeds as light aids germination, but tightly press into the compost.
Place the container in a propagator or seal inside a polythene bag and place at 16 to 20°C (60 to 68°F). Germination usually takes 14 to 30 days. Keep in cooler conditions after germination occurs. Transplant to 9cm (3in) pots to grow on and transplant outdoors once the plant is established. Overwinter September sowings in a coldframe and plant out the following spring.
Most dianthus species and cultivars require full sun for their best flowering. They do best in neutral to alkaline soil that drains well. Dianthus do not tolerate wet soil well, particularly in winter so don't plant them in a low spot where water collects and keep mulch away from the plants. Overwatering and heavy clay soils are the kiss of death, quickly killing the plants from stem rot.
Mix in plenty of well-rotted organic matter when planting and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser once a month throughout spring and summer. Pinching out faded blooms with finger and thumb will encourage a second flush of flowers. Shear back the mounding ones to encourage repeated blooming.
Cottage/Informal/Natural Garden, Borders and Beds, Dry Gardens and Rockeries.
This is the fringed pink described by herbalist John Gerard in 1596 as the ‘spotted sweet John’. Widespread in its native habitat, extending from France and the Netherlands east to Russia and Siberia, and south to Japan and Taiwan. The conditions it likes are almost as varied as the countries of origin. One of the few dianthus that will tolerate continual moisture, it is found in damp, grassy places, on dunes, in open woods and in mountain meadows.
Longicalycinus and speciosus are species variations. Hybrids have also been developed and marketed as ‘Supra Dianthus’.
Dianthus was named by Greek botanist, Theophrastus. He named them from the Greek dios meaning ‘divine’ and anthos ‘flower’, meaning ‘God’s flower’.
The species name superbus simply means 'superb'.
Many Dianthus are called 'pinks.' Not due to their colour which can also be white, but to the distinct cut edge that the flowers have. The verb 'pink' dates from the 14th century and means 'to decorate with a perforated or punched pattern' (maybe from German 'picken' = to peck), coming from the frilled edge of the flowers. This verb sense is also used in the name of pinking shears.
Interestingly, the colour pink may be named after the dianthus flower.
The word ‘carnation’ is derived from the Latin word coronae, meaning 'coronations'. Coronations were decorative, woven flower strings worn on the head like a headband that are often pictured as being worn by young maidens.
The genus Dianthus consists of over 300 species, including the well-known Carnations and Sweet Williams, several hundred named cultivars and innumerable hybrids.
- D. barbatus, known as Sweet William, this is a biennial plant that sometimes behaves as a short lived perennial. At 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) tall, it blooms in a wide range of fragrant coloured blossoms and as such has been a garden favorite for over 300 years.
- D. caryophyllus, the ancestor of most of the modern garden carnations. When you see a perennial carnation in your local garden centre, it is most often from this species.
- D. chinensis are the China Pinks. Varieties are often sold in garden centers as perennials although many are not reliably hardy in cold areas. They can be treated as hardy annuals unless you live in a warm zone.
- D. deltoides is a common plant in garden centers because of the ease of starting it from seed. Use it at the front of the border or in gravel or rock gardens.
- D. grataniapolitensis or Cheddar Pink grows to 30cm (12in) and is a delightfully fragrant soft pink colour.
- D. knappii is called the Yellow Pink. At 60cm (24in) tall with soft yellow flowers that bloom for several long weeks, it is worth a place in any garden.
- D. plumarius is the plant most often referred to as a 'Pink' and is a good performing plant. They are shorter than many types of Dianthus so plant them in rock garden sites or protected from aggressive plants in the border.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 100mg Average Seed Count 140 Seeds Seeds per gram 1,400 seeds / gram Family Caryophyllaceae Genus Dianthus Species superbus Synonym spotted sweet John Common Name Fringed pink, Superb pink Other Language Names Fr: Oeillet magnifique Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to minus 30°C (-22°F) Flowers Single, white and finely cut Natural Flower Time From late spring to early autumn Foliage Low mounds of deep green foliage Height 40 to 50cm (16 to 20in) Position Full sun for best flowering Soil A wide range of soils provided they are well drained. Time to Sow February to June or September to October. Germination 14 to 30 days at 16 to 20°C (60 to 68°F).