The Different Types of Dianthus

Pinks or carnations for the garden? Plus: Spotlight on Paint the Town Magenta Dianthus

Dianthus (common name carnations) are popular flowering plants in the family, Caryophyllaceae. There are over 300 species of annuals, biennials, and perennials of Dianthus. The common name for Dianthus includes pinks, hardy pinks, maiden pink, grass pink, Chinese pink, clove pink, carnation, and sweet William.

Dianthus comes from two Greek Words, “dios,” referring to the Greek god Zeus, and “anthos,” meaning flower. So, the name of Dianthus translates to “The Flowers of God.” Dianthus are lovely, easy to grow perennials, biennials, and annuals; a perennial, Paint the Town Magenta is one of the best of a great group.

Different Types of Dianthus/Carnations

Typically, carnations require very little maintenance to grow. Carnations are good for pollinators, attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Some of the more common varieties of Dianthuses include:

Dianthus caryophyllus

When you think of carnations, this is the variety that most people envision. Commonly known as the carnation or clove pink, garden varieties are most often available in red, pink, salmon, and white. Native to the Mediterranean, they tend to grow best in humid areas and so will do well in southern Zones. Widely bred, the size of this species can vary from 6” tall to 5’!

Dianthus barbatus

Sweet William is a variation of carnation in the pink (Caryophyllaceae) family that grows 12-24” tall and features small flowers in dense, flat-topped clusters. It blooms from late spring to early summer and is a popular choice for cut flower arrangements. Fragrant and hardy, sweet William is appealing to pollinators and attracts butterflies, birds, and bees to your garden.

Dianthus grataniapolitensis

Commonly known as cheddar pinks, they are low growing (5-6” in height) evergreen perennials often used as ground cover. The fragrant pink blooms appear in spring. They do well in full sun, but do not tolerate soil that is too wet or cold. Their dense growth makes them ideal for ground cover, borders, and rock gardens. They are deer-resistant and native to central and western Europe.

Dianthus chinensis (Chinese Pinks)

A popular carnation that is a short lived perennial it produces an abundance of colorful, single flowers. The petals are fringed and open-faced with a dark center eye. This carnation variety is one of the few types that will not do well in high heat and humidity. They typically produce blooms that are pink, red, or white. This plant is native to China, but it grows happily in most (less humid) parts of the US.


Dianthus plumarius

Commonly referred to as common pink, garden pink, wild pink, or simply ‘pinks’, Dianthus Plumarius is in the family Caryophyllaceae. They grow best in full sun and bloom from May until August. They have a dense, mounding habit and can easily grow to be two feet tall at maturity. The petals have fringed edges that give it a recognizable carnation look.

Dianthus deltoides (Maiden Pink)

This evergreen perennial typically forms a low-growing mat of spreading foliage. Blooms are fringed, slightly fragrant, single flowers that are red or pink. They are often used as a ground cover with foliage that remains attractive year-round.

Dianthus pavonius

Known as peacock-eye pinks or grass rose pink, this full sun carnation variety is low growing and spreading. Flowers bloom in late spring and early summer. It has blue-green foliage and bearded flowers in shades of pink with a sweet clove fragrance. They prefer full sun but will do well in partial shade.

Spotlight on ‘Paint the Town Magenta’

What a wonderful color! Check out ‘Paint the Town Magenta’ Dianthus! Dianthus is the genus of pinks, carnations, and sweet Williams, flowering plants we generally call dianthus. They have beautiful round flowers with slightly serrate edges to the petals. Paint the Town Magenta is a new hybrid from Proven Winners® with flowers a vibrant shade of purplish red that will be the highlight of any flower bed.

This is an adaptable and hardy plant. The leaves form a low mound of narrow foliage that is about as blue as leaves get. Above that, the flowers reach about 8” tall, intensely magenta and eye catching. Cutting them for bouquets—they are shaped like simple carnations and last a long time—will encourage the production of more flowers.

In full sun or partial shade, they will be a splash of color from midspring well into the fall, year after year. They are heat tolerant and, once established, drought tolerant. They can stand quite cold temperatures (to USDA Zone 4). For the absolute best growth, give them a well-drained moist location and loamy soil. As spectacular as Paint the Town Magenta Dianthus are, you’ll want to put them in a central location where it is easy to admire them. You can also fill a container for color on the patio or line them along a path to lead you like runway lights.