Dianthus barbatus

Common name: Sweet William

Dianthus barbatus is a species of Dianthus native to the mountains of southern Europe.

The common name Sweet William, refers to William Marlborough, Duke of Cumberland.

After his victory at the battle of Culloden and his brutal treatment of the Scots and Irish these nations sometimes refer to the flower as Stinking Billy.

It is short-lived perennial that is generally grown as a biennial in the UK.

The self coloured or bi-coloured carnation like flowers have a spicy, clove-like scent and appear from early spring to early autumn depending upon variety.

The flowers are produced in a dense clusters of up to 30 individual flowers at the top of each stem.

The individual flowers are around 20-25mm (¾-1") in diameter each having five serrated edged petals.

The colours range from white through pink to dark red, or combinations of these colours.

They are useful subjects in borders where depending upon variety grow from around 200mm -500mm (8"-18") high and can spread to around 400-500mm (14"-18")

They make good cut flowers and is a useful plant for containerised gardens, and will thrive in full sun or partial shade.

They are also good subjects for a wildlife garden due to its nectar attracting birds, bees and butterflies.

Propagation is by seed, cuttings or division but seeds of cultivars will not breed true.


Week 25: Sow seed in pots/trays of seed compost and germinate at circa; 12°-16°C (54°-61°F) in a sheltered spot or coldframe.

Germination should take around a week.

Week 27: If large enough to handle prick out into cell trays or boxes of potting compost and grow on in a cold frame until planting out time.

Week 32: Seed can be collected if ripe and sown immediately or kept in a cool spot till the following year.

Week 40>: Plant on from now until the end of November when space in the border becomes available.

They prefer moisture retentive slightly alkaline soil and sun or partial shade.

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