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PlantFiles: 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)

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

73 members have or want this plant for trade.

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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:
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant

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

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14 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive lancer23 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.

Neutral Sonnenblume 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 in the mix. And when it is done blooming it just takes up a lot of space with a lot of foliage and keeps spreading. Sure, after 2 years some of it dies down in that spot but they already moved their territory. I cannot explain why this is such a spreader here, none of my neighbors seem to have it. The pinks come in various shades. At the top of their bloom they are a delight to see from far. I am not doing anything special for them to like me so much:) Go figure! I clearly need to deadhead it diligently before it goes to seed. When they die down make sure you plant an established perennial plant in its place to match this plants roots and vigor. Little seedlings have little chance in its proximity.

Positive ronmiche 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.

Positive mbhoakct76 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.

Positive Malus2006 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).

Positive GrowinEngrGirl 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.

Positive brendabwood 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.

Positive bluespiral 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 will continue the blooms in that spot till frost.

PS - Darkness is said to increase germination of the seeds of this plant.

Positive TBGDN 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!

Positive Gabrielle 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.

Positive PurplePansies 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 (as they are) they ad to each other's show. Not my favorite flower or my favorite dianthus but puts on (fragrance and flower) and perfectly nice (simple) and cottagey show. :)

Positive Fleurs 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!

Positive smiln32 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.

Positive Shelly221 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.

Positive HifromPEI 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.

Neutral Crimson 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.

Neutral Terry 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.


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
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
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

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