Dianthus, Sweet William

Dianthus barbatus

Family: Caryophyllaceae (kar-ree-oh-fil-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Dianthus (dy-AN-thus) (Info)
Species: barbatus (bar-BAY-tus) (Info)
View this plant in a garden




Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Flowers are fragrant

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)


15-18 in. (38-45 cm)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:



White/Near White

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer



Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Auburn, Alabama

Jones, Alabama

Opelika, Alabama

Fayetteville, Arkansas

Concord, California

Corning, California

Eureka, California

Fortuna, California

Grass Valley, California

Hesperia, California

Magalia, California

Ripon, California

Sacramento, California

San Diego, California

San Francisco, California

Vacaville, California

Aurora, Colorado

Denver, Colorado

Manchester, Connecticut

Storrs Mansfield, Connecticut

Winsted, Connecticut

Keystone Heights, Florida

Orange Park, Florida

Atlanta, Georgia

Barnesville, Georgia

Braselton, Georgia

Cordele, Georgia

Harlem, Georgia

Hawkinsville, Georgia

Marietta, Georgia

Monroe, Georgia

Newnan, Georgia

Villa Rica, Georgia

Rathdrum, Idaho

Hampton, Illinois

Rockford, Illinois

South Beloit, Illinois

Windsor, Illinois

Elizabethtown, Indiana

Macy, Indiana

Hays, Kansas

Lansing, Kansas

Ewing, Kentucky

Flemingsburg, Kentucky

Westbrook, Maine

Dundalk, Maryland

Ellicott City, Maryland

Pikesville, Maryland

Silver Spring, Maryland

Billerica, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts

Cotuit, Massachusetts

Marlborough, Massachusetts

Springfield, Massachusetts

Blissfield, Michigan

Galesburg, Michigan

Grand Rapids, Michigan

Minneapolis, Minnesota (2 reports)

Florence, Mississippi

Mathiston, Mississippi

Saucier, Mississippi

Maryland Heights, Missouri

Saint Louis, Missouri

Polson, Montana

Otoe, Nebraska

Greenville, New Hampshire

Groveton, New Hampshire

Hudson, New Hampshire

Metuchen, New Jersey

Plainfield, New Jersey

Angel Fire, New Mexico

Cicero, New York

Hannibal, New York

Ithaca, New York

Nunda, New York

Warwick, New York

Clemmons, North Carolina

Grassy Creek, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina

Winston Salem, North Carolina

Crary, North Dakota

Ashville, Ohio

Bucyrus, Ohio

Columbia Station, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio

Loudonville, Ohio

Mineral City, Ohio

Oak Harbor, Ohio

Painesville, Ohio

Westerville, Ohio

Guthrie, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Spencer, Oklahoma

Bend, Oregon

Mill City, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Stayton, Oregon

Johnsonburg, Pennsylvania

Morrisville, Pennsylvania

Old Forge, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Wakefield, Rhode Island

Chapin, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina

Mullins, South Carolina

North Augusta, South Carolina

Piedmont, South Carolina

Summerville, South Carolina (2 reports)

Sumter, South Carolina

Winnsboro, South Carolina

Pierre, South Dakota

Cookeville, Tennessee

Fairview, Tennessee

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Lebanon, Tennessee

Lenoir City, Tennessee

Sweetwater, Tennessee

Abilene, Texas

Belton, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Monroe, Utah

Ogden, Utah

Tremonton, Utah

West Dummerston, Vermont

Chesapeake, Virginia

Mechanicsville, Virginia

Unionville, Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Cashmere, Washington

Kalama, Washington

Spokane, Washington

Stanwood, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

Morgantown, West Virginia

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Apr 11, 2015, CarolCole from Muskegon, MI wrote:

I had 16 Dianthus plants which grew beautifully for four years. This spring they are totally dead looking. I would love to know what happened.


On Jun 30, 2013, lancer23 from San Francisco, CA wrote:

So easy to grow, a perennial here. Makes great cut flowers, smell like cloves, spicy, like a carnation but much easier to take care of. Needs dead heading. I saved the seeds to pass on to friends.


On Jun 10, 2013, Sonnenblume from Aurora, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

I have mixed feelings about this plant. Within a few years it has managed to spread more than any other plant in my Colorado garden. When it blooms it is beautiful indeed. This is such a tough plant in this super dry climate. It even blooms just in water without soil. Many other plants struggle to just make it and this one loves it just about everywhere here, front, back of the house, sun, shade. This and old-fashioned lilac.They make it without much care. Grows between rocks, on top of a weed cover and I am weeding a lot of little seedlings as I prefer fair game for all my plants... Sometimes I think it is great if it fills a spot where nothing else wants to grow. I originally spread a wildflower mix in a couple of difficult spots but Sweet William seems to overtake almost all other seeds... read more


On Jan 22, 2009, ronmiche from Chesapeake, VA wrote:

The sweet william that I am currently growing came from a packet of mixed flower seeds from Lowes about three years ago. I forgot about them and one early summer I saw that they were still in my garden and I transplanted them to a semi=-shaded spot and they have reseeded every year. I did notice a salmon colored one and tried to get seeds from it but was not successful. The flower stalks are about 15 inches high. Nice color added to the garden! My area in Chesapeake VA is very hot and humid in the summer, with fairly mild winters in zone 8.


On Apr 28, 2008, mbhoakct76 from Winsted, CT wrote:

all dianthus are great, they are so easy to care for and provide beautifull flowers all summer, they overwinter easily in zone 5 and i agree the leaves do not even die back- they just come to life in spring. I started with sweet william years ago and had great luck so i stuck with them even when i moved, and i honestly didnt know untill last year that they were a bi-ennial plant, they overseed so easily that that i didnt notice. most of mine are kept in a bed with weedblock to keep them in nice neat rounds, otherwise they can tend to grow out of control in only a couple of years. a must have in every garden especially for new gardeners.


On Apr 19, 2008, Malus2006 from Coon Rapids, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

I have two patches that does well in partial shade - they stays pretty much evergreen and are more of a perennial - they don't really selfsow but tend to stem root themselves. They are very easy to start from seeds (I hadn't does it in years - too limited sun).


On Jan 27, 2008, GrowinEngrGirl from Pocatello, ID (Zone 5a) wrote:

These plants thrive as a prennial here (central valley, CA). Mine have been in the ground for going on 3 years now and have just continued to spread out. They need to dead headed or they end up looking as if they have brown tips from the dried flowers (not pretty). It's mid January and I've got a couple blooms already. They'll be in bloom all Summer and well into Fall.


On May 25, 2007, brendabwood from Cement, OK wrote:

I love this plant and have had success for many years - until now - all the sudden my dianthus has turned brown and is dying all the way to the root. Plenty of sun, right soil, and right watering. I'm wondering about disease.


On Jan 30, 2007, bluespiral from (Zone 7a) wrote:

I can't imagine living without this old favorite, either - especially among large shrub and climbing roses.

Sweet William has been successfully wintersown in my zone - to see if it has been done in your zone. If it hasn't been done in your zone yet, experiment and see what happens - wintersowing is a "leap of faith" not just for seeds, but for antsy folks impatient for spring to come, as well. DG has a very warm circle of wintersowers in its Wintersowing Forum, so visit them, too. If you don't want to fool with damping-off fungus that often hassles indoor-sown seedlings, try wintersowing.

The relatively fat leaves and squat-ish plants of Sweet William are nicely complemented later in summer by airy, dissected leaves of cosmos growing behind, which... read more


On Feb 10, 2006, TBGDN from (Zone 5a) wrote:

These hardy plants have always been a part of our landscape for longer than I remember. The original packet of seed came from Burpee Seed Company many years ago. The plants shown in my Journal are all descended from the seeds in that packet. I allow them to self-sew, and either thin them out or transplant to different beds. I also cut the mature seed pods with scissors and collect them in a jar to sprinkle in bare spots. The colors vary widely, from pastel whites, pinks and rose to burgundy and red with differing circular patterns and picoteed petals. An excellent bee and butterfly attractor, they have a very pleasant fragrance. I can't imagine a garden without them!


On Jan 15, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

A beautiful flower that readily self-seeds to fill in a gap. It is one that people always ooh and ahh over. They do get heavy and like to flop after a rain. My information says they are hardy in zones 3-9, and need more shade in hotter climates. Stratification aids germination of seeds. Blooms late May to late June in my garden.


On Jun 13, 2005, PurplePansies from Deal, NJ (Zone 7a) wrote:

I'm not a fan of biennials but this plant "volunteered" in my garden..... Its nice though! It gets the dianthus flowers all in a cluster at the top of a long stem. Mine are pink/purple/white.... It has a fragrance.... a mix of powder and clove.... somewhat less pungent than some dianthus but spicier than a powdery one like superbus. Still has notes of the distincitve spicy scent. Must be very easy to grow. I do nothing for it. It grows (in my garden) in full sun in sandy loam.... in a garden bed that is always fertilized. It's leaves are not blue-green like some dianthus. They are green and somewhat thick compared to some. (not slender or willowy ooor grassy....).... (like alwoodi for example) Each bloom is about the size of a larger man's broadcloth shirt type button. Born in clusters ... read more


On Nov 18, 2004, Fleurs from Columbia, SC wrote:

The gorgeous flowers bloom in early spring and last a long time. Deadheading brings another flush of bloom (and eliminates any shabbiness from spent flowers), although not as vigorous as the first. Definitely a must-have for my garden!


On Apr 18, 2004, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This died back to the ground here, but came up this spring '04 and is doing exceptionally well. I'm not sure if it came back from the roots or if it simply re-seeded itself. It's blooming beautifully.


On Jul 19, 2003, Shelly221 from Denver, CO (Zone 5b) wrote:

This is considered a perennial here, most winters the foliage never even dies back. VERY easy to care for, and can be planted in shade, or partial sun. It does look untidey if its not kept cut back. It does re-flower here, if cut back.


On May 22, 2003, HifromPEI wrote:

These plants are beautiful! You have to watch out for whirly worms in the spring as they love the old leaves from previous years. This plant grows well on Prince Edward Island.


On Feb 3, 2003, Crimson from Clarksville, TN (Zone 6b) wrote:

It did a great job of "locking down" the soil on a slope, and it's practically weed proof once established, but after flowering it needs to be cut back (unless you want seeds) since the seed heads make the area look unkempt/a total mess.


On Mar 12, 2001, Terry from Murfreesboro, TN (Zone 7a) wrote:

Sweet William is a biennial which acts as a perennial by re-seeding itself. If not allowed to set seed, clusters of new plants form around the old stalk.

Sweet William grows best in slightly alkaline soil and likes a warm sunny growing area. The pink, red, salmon or white blossoms appear in late spring or early summer, and are excellent cut flowers.