Green Ball Dianthus

Norwalk, CT(Zone 6b)

I just saw this for the first time in a grocery store bouquet and ran to look it up: it looks like a ball of fuzzy bright green moss on top of a carnation stem--very Dr. Seuss and very nifty. But I haven't found a source and wonder also if it is hard to grow. Are you familiar with this?

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

probably dyed or painted

Walnut Creek, CA

It is actually green dianthus or a green carnation ball. I bought a bunch while abroad in Australia, and have been unable to find seeds. Can anyone help?

Thumbnail by rex121265
Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

Well...that is just too neat and is now on my "Gotta Have It" list.

(Zone 6a)

That is way too cool! Who ever finds out what it is first, please let me know!

Ashdown, AR(Zone 8a)

and me too

Appomattox, VA

From their website
Green Trick® is related to the ‘Dianthus barbatus’, also known as Sweet William. The product finds its origin in Japan, but is exclusively delivered on the Dutch flower market by Hilverda Plant technology.

(Zone 6a)

Thankyou for those links! Now we know what its called but like you said it seems to be exclusive! They have some other pretty funky dianthus too.

(Zone 6a)

I did further googling and it doesn't look like it is available to home I'm wondering if they could be grown from stem cuttings? I seem to remember dianthus can be started that way.

Norwalk, CT(Zone 6b)

Thanks, MJCD 13--your internet skills trumped mine--I was at a dead-end!

Appomattox, VA

was trying to find it myself a few weeks ago 'bout drove me nuts, still had some of the info. figure i had to share cause i knew what you were going through.
SW_gardener never had much luck rooting dianthus, but never hurts to try

(Zone 6a)

If I get some I will try! I wonder if it would be perennial?

Easton, PA

Been going crazy trying to find the seeds. Probably be a couple of years before it comes available to non-commercial folk. My local florist has a basket full. Maybe I'll get a couple and see if I can use a rooting gel on them.

If anyone has luck finding seeds (going to the Netherlans anyone?) or rooting, etc. please let us all know!!

(Zone 6a)

Easton, please let me know how the rooting goes!

Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)

The Dianthus barbatus Green Trick® or “Green Ball Dianthus” was discussed at length on the prototype for the Dianthus Forum at and I included pictures and language translation for non-English websites. We now have a Dianthus Forum at which is why I became aware of this thread when it was moved to the new forum. This demonstrates why we needed a Dianthus Forum.

The normal D. barbatus has exactly the same green-ball growth but it is covered with flowers and is not that obvious. I strongly suspect that Green Trick will never set flowers and can only be propagated by vegetative methods. I have attempted to propagate Green Trick almost ten times now using every part of the plant I can think of and nothing works. I can keep cutting of the green-ball alive and growing for as long as two months but the cutting never set roots and eventually die. I have used rooting cocktails which will grow roots and a billiard ball to no avail. All we need to do is get roots on one plant and then layering should work after that. I believe that Green Trick is being propagated via tissue culture.

Note the cuttings in the next picture. Could this be in preparation for cloning?

Has anyone had any success with cloning?


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
Norwalk, CT(Zone 6b)

Dear Michael, Thanks for finding this post. I just spent a happy hour reading through your quest to get a dianthus forum. (Congratulations on that.) The thread has all the things I love about Dave's garden--the stories--the wait to see if the ebay sellers from Malaysia came through (yes, beautifully), the quest for finding the fondly remembered King of Black seeds, the half-remembered knowledge learned decades ago from the elders in Junebug's family, the scientific discourse--what is it anyway, and your amazing research to find the source of the plant--even trying to decode bar codes on the florist cellophane. I was fascinated to learn from you about as a way to instantly browse wonderful old books. From your link to Enumeratio "And here I am led to believe, as many others have found, that the deeper one pursues researches into any single small group of animals or plants, the more one is impressed with the consistent phenomena of variation..." Cheers, Tamar

Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)


Welcome to the Dianthus Forum. The eBay sellers from Malaysia ( did come through and they have been added as an addendum to Rand B. Lee’s Dianthus Retail Plant & Seed Sources List at:
The seeds for the three Dianthus cultivar I purchase are growing in my garden but they did not flower because I planted them too late this year as a result of construction. I am looking forward to next year. The white Carnation is sending up buds, so if we have a warm week in November I just might be surprised.

I have not given up on the Dianthus barbatus green-ball mystery plant. As one of the DG members cautioned me D. barbatus is a soft stem plant and is difficult to propagate. I am starting allow myself to believe that I just might have cloned several of Shop-Rite’s best cut-rate cut carnations. All of the successes have proliferations at the nodes and this is where the new growth is originating. I had one plant outside for a month now but just brought it inside because we have a freeze warning for tonight. The problem with Dianthus proliferations is that a quality flower shop will remove them because they are deemed unsightly, which is why I buy cut flowers at discount shops. I have been propagating Dianthus species, including Carnations via layering this summer and appear to be quite successful. The Carnations and Sweet William I purchased from our friend in Malaysia do not carry the patented pollen sterility terminator-gene which I discussed in the prototype Dianthus Forum. Yes, there is a reason for my madness!

If you envoy reading obscure books, Dr. Norman C. Deno’s books on seed germination are now in the Public Domain and include information on Dianthus. I will do a post to the main Dianthus Forum but you will have to learn Dr. Deno’s shorthand codes. He has an interesting section of Sweet William as a highway ornamentally plant in Pennsylvania.


Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)

One of the problems with doing searches in Google is that if you don’t ask the correct question you will not receive the correct answer. Key to asking the correct question is knowing the correct vocabulary to use. Quite by accident, while planning my spring plantings I found the correct botanical name for the distinctive feature of our green-balls at Diane’s Flower Seeds, from which I have purchased Dianthus seeds in the past and will do so in the future.

The ball of flowers on the stalk of Dianthus barbatus is known as an umbel, which is defined as:
A flat or rounded indeterminate inflorescence in which the individual flower stalks (called pedicels) arise from about the same point on the stem at the tip of the peduncle. The geranium, milkweed, and onion have umbels. Umbels usually show centripetal inflorescence, with the lower or outer flowers blooming first.

There is a good write-up of the term umbel in Google Books (Full View) which discusses Dianthus barbatus in this context:

Basically our green-ball is a Dianthus barbatus umbel with no flowers.

So why the timing of this post? March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day and if last year is any indication the green-balls should be in the stores in calibration of the Irish. In my locality, the Nutley NJ Shop Rite flower department has the green-balls in stock several times a year. Here is what you need to do:

1. Contact your local cut flower merchant to determine if they will stock the green-balls.
2. Request the delivery schedule for the green-balls and ask that you be contacted when they arrive.
3. Reserve the stalks you will need for cloning in advance.
4. Ask your merchant not to trim the base of the stalks, you will do that.
5. Ask your merchant not to remove any proliferations from the stalks.

The last item is the most important. The proliferations present your greatest opportunity for success. I have been unsuccessful in propagating sections of the umbel but will give it another try.

I have come very close to successfully cloning green-ball and it appears that I have been successful cloning a cut Carnation, assuming I can keep it alive for another two months until I can plan it outside. For both Dianthus species, I have a better understanding of why I failed and am ready to try again. You have to control temperature, humidity, soil moisture and real sunlight. Unless you have specialize indoor lighting, the typical plant-grow fluorescents are not going to cut it. This is why those of us who don’t live in Zone 8 need to start cloning in early March to be ready to set the plants outside when it is safe.

Let’s be on the lookout for green-balls. All we need is for one DG member to be successful, after that we can propagate using layering.


(Zone 9b)

They are selling Dianthus barbatus 'Green Ball' now around here in California. Very odd flower! I can see how people will love it in arrangements.

Thumbnail by Kell
Beaver Falls, PA(Zone 6a)

Are they selling these as cut flowers for arrangements or pots of them to grow in the garden?


(Zone 9b)

In 6 inch pots for the ground. About $7.00

Beaver Falls, PA(Zone 6a)

That's interesting. Did you buy some to try Kell?

Mike, what do you think about these????


(Zone 9b)

I bought 1 pot. I haven't planted it yet though. It was going in a combo pot for some green but have gotten sidetracked.

Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)


This is great news! Can you post information about where you purchased the Green Ball Dianthus? Are there any grower’s labels on the pots? All of my efforts to clone the plant failed and I think I now understand why. Unlike Carnations, the flower stalks of D. barbatus quickly die once the seeds have been produced. It was very educational watching the plants this spring and summer.


Robertstown, Australia(Zone 10a)

Hi All,
I was doing some catch up reading on the Dave's Garden Discussion Forum when I came across the discussion of D. barbatus 'Green Trick' which piqued my interest as I have just purchased this as a small plant (Please NOTE: I live in Australia and can't send you a start due to AQUIS rules here) but the plant would appear to be propagated from stem cuttings as with regular D. caryophyllaceus varieties - I would be trying to root cutting material made from the 2 LOWEST nodes on the purchased stems and laying them horizontally on the rooting medium, first carefully peeling away the mature leaves and applying rooting hormone to the leaf scars as well as the cut node ends - I suspect that if you can keep the cutting from drying out you should get the production of axillary growth from the nodes, which will then form its own root system. The difficulty is in maintaining the health of the original material for sufficient time to produce the required secondary growth. I suggest the oldest nodes because they are the least likely to die off from floral proximity, based on my experience in trying to propagate other D. barbatus varieties.

There is a bit of good growing advice on D. barbatus in general here, especially related to its differences from the longer lived D. caryophyllaceus:

Also there are a few clues online as to which hormones might be required to initiate shoot formation here:
and this article is particularly good, if complex.

It should be noticed that all of the above relates to tissue culture, BUT these hormones or their natural analogues do occur in the plants themselves and can be used outside of the tissue culture flask regimen. Your main barrier to success will be the need to achieve and maintain a clean and sterile environment as the introduction of environmental pathogens will accelerate the death of the propagating material which you need to postpone for as long as possible in order to get the shoot production you need. I suggest using clean new vermiculite, new plastic pots, boiled water, dipping all your cutting tools into neat bleach (before and after each cut) and enclosing the dampened pot in a sealed new freezer bag until signs of active growth become apparent, at which time you can CAREFULLY introduce the new plants to the outside world!

I have one final comment. The actual "flower" of D. 'Green Trick' is what is known to botanists as a "Witches Broom". These malformations occur when the growing tissue in the stem of the plant (meristem) divides over and over, giving rise to a mass of tiny shoots where there would normally only be one or a few stems. Witches Brooms are actually more commonly found in woody plants, especially conifers, but can also occur in many other groups of plants including cacti and succulents. Most witches brooms are unstable and eventually die out as they are caused by abnormal hormonal flow in a stem tip due to damage or disease which disappears once the plant overcomes the damage and the flow of the plant's hormones returns to normal. A stable and propagatable mutation such as D. 'Green Trick' only occurs when the actual change becomes permanently part of the cellular nature of the plant.

I hope you will find this information helpful,

Ciao, Kaelkitty.

PS: Here's a photo of my plant - I'll let you know how it goes!

Thumbnail by Kaelkitty
Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)


Thank you for all the useful information. There have been reports of the Green Trick being available in the United States but no one has published a reliable source yet. I have suspected that Australia might be the source of the Green Trick because of the number of companies which are doing genetic engineering there and Southeast Asia in general. I am not quite ready to get into tissue culture but I am planning to purchase a cloning machine and the formulations of rooting hormones used for Carnations in the papers you referenced will be very useful.

Do you have the contact information for the Green Trick grower in Australia? They might have an export license to the United States and could provide us with the name of their agent here.

As I noted in a post above the technical name for the structure which forms the green ball is an “umbel”. The umbel is a normal structure in Dianthus barbatus. As I commented: “Basically our green-ball is a Dianthus barbatus umbel with no flowers.” I grew Dianthus barbatus this past summer to learn more about the species and I did notice some differences between Dianthus Green Trick and Dianthus barbatus. Discounting the absence of flowers, the umbel structure is much larger and more complex in the Dianthus Green Trick. The stems of Dianthus Green Trick are different from Dianthus barbatus, which has caused me to wonder if Dianthus Green Trick is a sterile hybrid between two Dianthus species such as Dianthus barbatus x Dianthus caryophyllus (Carnation). Note that I have absolutely no proof of this but there are too many differences between Dianthus Green Trick and Dianthus barbatus for this to be the result of a single mutation.

I would really love to grow the two plants side by side which is something you can do now. Do you currently grow Dianthus barbatus and if so can you report on the differences between the two plants?

Have any of the Florigene Moon Series Purple Carnations appeared as rooted plants in Australia? I am attempting to clone cut Carnation flowers and may have enjoyed some modest success of late, assuming I can get the Carnations through our coming winter.


Robertstown, Australia(Zone 10a)

Hi Michael,
To answer your last question first; the Florigene carnations were available here from at least one supplier (Tesselaar Nursery) about 10 years ago - I had 4 colours of them, but they gradually died out on me. I haven't seen them in any catalogues recently. We have had major drought issues here from about 2003 to 2010 and I lost nearly all my carnations during that time. It's my own fault really, I put them in the garden and kept "meaning to" get around to propagate them, but didn't, and I've just started again this spring with some new plants - I now have 6 varieties - Spirit, Black Baccara, Black Heart, Prado Mint, Bonaparte, and of course Green Trick. I will look out for the Florigene ones again in the future though as they were very beautiful - they are actually more lavender to very dark purple rather than straight blue but it is a truly ethereal colour - quite amazing! Unfortunately my garden tends to get away from me at times as I have well over 2000 different kinds of plants and the near decade of drought years refocused my concentration onto Cacti and Succulents at the expense of my cottage garden type plants.

Florigene is an Australian company, although it is now part of the multinational Suntory group. They are based in Melbourne but they do have wholesalers in the USA. If you scroll down the page at this link you will find a box on the left side where you can look up the American wholesalers.

Other than my Sim carnations, the only other Dianthus I grow are the small perennial clumping ones as shown in the photo on this post - I always assumed that they were D. barbatus derived - but notice the umbel is very small and has only about 10 flowers max - nothing like the Green Trick inflorescence ... While I've been typing it has just occurred to me that part or possibly even all of the mutation might be down to chromosomal doubling in Green Trick - after all it has bigger plants, taller stems, etc - just the characteristics which are so often seen in plants with high chromosomal multiples, and this can also contribute to plant sterility.

Hope this helps, KK.

Thumbnail by Kaelkitty
Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)


Unfortunately the Florigene distributes in the United States only sell the cut flowers which all carry the pollen sterility gene. Actually there are two pollen sterility genes that I am aware of. I would be willing to bet that your Florigene Moon Series Purple Carnations never set seeds. All of the cut purple Carnations in the United States produce no pollen. The pollen sterility gene in one form or another has been in use since 1932 to increase the shelf life of cut Carnations. Once a Carnation is pollinated, the “flower goes to sleep”. The Carnation sterility gene was one of the earliest plant patents awarded by the United States.

Plant Patent PP24, William Sim, 1932

Here is my full post on this subject:

If you ever have a purple Carnation growing on its own root, all you have to do to hack the pollen sterility gene is maintain a line of white Carnations which produces pollen and seeds. Pollinate the purple Carnation with pollen from the white Carnation and collect the seeds. About half the plants in the F1 generation will have flowers which produce pollen. Back cross the F1 generation flowers which produce pollen to the original purple Carnations and the F2 generation will have fertile purple Carnations. I would estimate about 25% of the F2 generation will be very purple and fertile. Rule number one is always have a cultivar of fertile white Carnations at the ready if the opportunity presents itself.

Tesselaar has an interesting collection of Carnations but no purple Carnations at this time:

Note that they are selling a line of Sim Carnations for their “excellent vase life”.

I found the purple Carnations from Tesselaar in 2001:

I wonder why Florigene allowed the sale of these Carnations with roots? The write-up includes growing information which indicated that they are not winter hardy. I may have a problem with that little issue but forewarned is forearmed. This may also explain an anomaly I noticed in one of the English Carnation catalogs. This gives me a lot to work with.

Could anyone else in Australia still be growing these purple Carnations?

Do you have a fertile white Carnation cultivar?

Thank you for all the valuable information,


Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)


While rereading the 2001 Tesselaar product description of the Florigene Moon Series Purple Carnations, I realized that Florigene indicated that they are using a Sim Carnatio in some of their creations. The designation “Sim” can indicated the conformation of the Carnation flower as well the use of the Sim pollen sterility gene.

Florigene Moon Shadow™ Spray Violet
Florigene Moon Lite™ Sim Soft Mauve
Florigene Moon Shade™ Sim Violet
Florigene Moon Vista™ Sim Deep violet, purple

The webpage also identifies the probable cause for why this Carnation is no longer being offered for sale in Australia: “The Florigene Moon Series™ carnations cannot be sold in Tasmania as that state has imposed a ban on all genetically modified products.” No matter, once the genie is out of the bottle it is difficult to put back. I am very sure that in some quite garden in Australia the Florigene Moon Series is being grown sequestered from any bureaucratic entanglements. The Florigene website contains a very creatively written document to satisfy the anti-genetic-engineering regulations of the European Union, read it carefully. Everything Florigene said is absolutely true!


Here is another Australian Dianthus plant source.

Green Trick Ballarat, Victoria

Florigene Moon Series at Ballarat Carnations

Here are some papers which may be of interest.

Pollination-lnduced Ethylene in Carnation

The Biology and Ecology of Carnations$FILE/biologycarnation.rtf

Plant tissue culture in the classroom


This message was edited Oct 30, 2011 6:02 PM

Robertstown, Australia(Zone 10a)

Hi Again Michael,

ALL of my current carnations ARE Sims, except for Green Trick and the little garden Dianthus - Spirit, Black Baccara, & Black Heart, are all dark dark magenta to blackish reds while Prado Mint and Bonaparte are both green flowers. I'm not likely to ever grow carnations from seed as I've got way TOO MUCH else to do, LOL!

This photo is from the people I got my most recent plants from (JD Flora) and it shows how they set up to sell them. I see them every year at either the Adelaide Royal Show or the ABC Carpark Sales. I like buying from them if I can since it is better for the plants not to travel almost 800 km (500mi) in a box in the post! JD Flora is the place I got my Green Trick from - I might try asking them if they've ever tried to get a licence from Florigene, but I won't see them again until March next year at the earliest. (They grow Lizianthus as well, but I'm definitely NOT trying to grow them! In Adelaide's climate growing anything you have to water regularly is doomed to die - our "normal" rainfall is about 22 inches a year but the records for the last decade are much lower than that because of the severe drought years of 2003-2009.)

WInter hardiness (in the sense that you use it in the USA) is not likely to be a problem here, I have most trouble keeping the plants alive through our long hot dry summers, and that is just the time when we are most likely to have water restrictions. I am not really in a fit state of health to be watering everything by carrying buckets!

The GE thing is not, as far as I know, a problem here in South Australia - Tasmania and Western Australia are special cases - Tasmania because it is a separate island (with a rabidly Green political culture) and many many plants cannot be sent there, not just GE ones. Western Australia is also segregated as it has a very unique biome with many native plants that are found nowhere else in the world. South Australia, where Adelaide is, has IMPORT restrictions against loose fruit to avoid fruit fly (SA is fruit fly free, WA and the Eastern states are not) and grapevines or anything contaminated with soil (we are also Phylloxera free). Commercial plant nurseries and Fruit and Vegetable growers in Australia have VERY stringent and costly rules which must be complied with when transporting any plant material across state lines and it is thus generally not practical for backyard gardeners to move plants across state lines. I happen to know the rules, at least as they relate to me, and I have taken the trouble to learn what I can and can't send to my Australian gardening friends in the other states without spending an exorbitant amount of money on AQUIS inspections, forms and so on. It can get quite complicated as each state has it's own list of banned plants, declared noxious weeds etc etc.

Thanks for the links - I especially enjoyed the Biology and Ecology one - much food for thought there.

I must go as I have spent the entire morning on the internet and I am supposed to be out in the garden potting up for our Cacti Society Sale next weekend.

Ciao, KK.

Thumbnail by Kaelkitty
Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)


It looks like the Spirit Carnation is being widely distributed.

Carnation Spirit

Sims Carnation Spirit (Evergreen Perennial)

Purple Carnations are now being sold by Allwoods in the UK. As there is no naturally occurring metabolic pathway in Dianthis for the expression of the color purple there is a possibility that these Carnations are genetically modified (GM). What I don’t understand is how these Carnations are being sold in countries with strong anti-GM legislation on the books. These Carnations could also be the product of a chance mutations or selective breeding and one should not discount optimal lighting or the deft use of Photoshop by the advertising department. We are all aware that “The King of the Blacks” is not really black and the “Siberian Blue” is not really blue.

Carnation Spirit

Carnation Vega

However it was created, it looks like Carnation Spirit is getting worldwide distribution everywhere but in the United States. From the description at Allwoods, Spirit and Vega would have difficulty surviving outside in many areas of the United States, year round.


Wanaque, NJ(Zone 6b)

I have still not found anyone to selling the seeds of Green Ball Dianthus to the hobby. Obviously this plant is an F1 sterile hybrid but we don’t know the identity of the parental lines. There have been enough hints dropped that one of the parental lines is Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William) but we don’t know if Dianthus barbatus is the seed or pollen parent. There are now many references but none which lead to anyone selling seeds or plugs to the hobby. Here are a few interesting links:

Green Ball Dianthus

Green Ball Dianthus Tips & Culture

Dianthus Green Trick: New from Thompson & Morgan

I have previously commented on plant patents issued to lines of Carnations where one of the breeding lines was pollen sterile. I suspect a similar technique is at work here. With hand pollination of a pollen sterile Dianthus, 100% of the seeds will be F1 hybrides.

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