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- - Sweet William - Dianthus barbatus Hardy Planting Zones - 3-9 Sun or Shade - Full or Partial Sun Mature Height - 12 - 24 " Mature Width - 3 - 5 " Bloom Season - Late Spring to Early Summer Gardener Status - Beginner
Dianthus – Phlox Divaricata
Dianthus barbatus, commonly known as Sweet William, is a popular ornamental plant native to southern Europe and some parts of Asia. It’s an herbaceous biennial that can grow up to 3 feet tall. In some areas, the plant may be a short-lived perennial instead.
Prized for its beautiful flowers, Sweet William produces a dense cluster of blooms at the top of its stems – up to 30 in one cluster. The flowers are small, only about 2-3 cm in diameter, and consist of five petals with serrated edges. In the wild, the flowers are a gorgeous combination of red and white. Cultivars can be white, pink, red, purple, or variegated. The flowers have a spicy scent similar to the scent of cloves.
There are two varieties of Sweet William – Dianthus barbatus var. barbatus and Dianthus barbatus var. asiaticus Nakai. The barbatus variety has broader leaves than the asiaticus Nakai variety.
It’s unknown exactly how the plant acquired the common name Sweet William. Legend has it that the flower was named to honor Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, after his victory at the Battle of Culloden in the 18th century. But of course, this can’t be verified. It’s also rumored to be named after William the Conqueror or Saint William of York.
No matter where it got its name, Sweet William is a beloved flower amongst gardeners in the United States and the UK. It makes a beautiful addition to a butterfly garden, pollinator garden, or any area of the landscape where you want to attract butterflies, bees, and birds. The cut flowers make beautiful bouquets and are often used in bridal bouquets.
Sweet William prefers to be planted in full sun to partial shade, in an area with slightly alkaline, loamy and well-drained soil. Seed directly into the garden or indoors for later transplanting. Deadheading will encourage more flowers. This plant doesn’t need a lot of care. Keep it watered, mulched, and fertilized, and it will thrive in almost any garden.
This is a very fast growing plant and will mature within the first year after it is planted. It will thrive in various soil conditions.