The Dianthus genus (Dianthus spp.) consists of about 300 species of flowering plants native to Europe, Asia and north Africa. Dianthus plants are characterised by disc-shaped, frilly flowers and grasslike foliage. Commonly cultivated Dianthus plants include the carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus), maiden pink (Dianthus deltoides), China pink (Dianthus chinensis) and sweet william (Dianthus barbatus).
Also known as India pink, China pink is a short-lived perennial that grows to be between 1 to 3 feet tall. China pink has the characteristic fringed petals of a Dianthus plan. Common garden cultivars include Ideal Crimson, a dark red flowered variety that lacks the fragrance found in many Dianthus flowers. China pink does best in a bright, full sun location in USDA zones 9 to 11. Plant in full sun and a well draining, neutral to alkaline soil.
Maiden pink is a low growing, mat forming perennial commonly utilised as a ground cover. The plant is suitable for a full sun location with well-draining soil in USDA zones 3 to 9. Cultivars include Flashing Light, a 3- to 6-inch-tall variety with red flowers, Zing Salmon, a 6- to 12-inch-tall variety with pink flowers and Albus, a 4- to 6-inch variety with white flowers. The plant is rarely bothered by deer.
The carnation is an exceptionally popular plant often used in flower arrangements. The plant boasts densely frilled flowers and greyish green foliage. Carnations typically grow to be about 1 1/2 feet tall. The plant thrives in fertile soil in a sunny location in USDA zones 6 to 9. Cultivars include the scarlet flowered Cardinal, the yellow flowered Golden Sun, and Lillipot, a dwarf variety that grows to be between 8 to 10 inches tall.
Sweet William is a Dianthus species native to southern Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Balkans. The plant grows to be between 1 to 2 feet tall, producing lance-shaped green leaves and fragrant flowers that may be white, pink or red depending on cultivar. Sweet William does best in deep, rich soils in USDA zones 6 to 9. Plant in full sunlight, or in an area with afternoon sun in hotter climates.