Dianthus barbatus: Sweet william

Family: Caryophyllaceae
Common name: Sweet william

The word Dianthus comes from the Greek words, ‘dios’ and ‘anthos’, which means God and flower – the flower of the Gods. Sweet william plants in bloom in a variety of colors definitely makes them look like the flower of the Gods. It’s a very common ornamental plant, grown in all parts of the world with various cultivars developed over time. You could visit any plant nursery and see some variety of sweet William in full bloom.

Dianthus plants grow to a height of 1-2 feet with pointy green or bluish-green leaves and erect stems. Hybrids are mostly differentiated based on the size, color and number of petals in the flowers. Most flowers are 5-petaled with serrated edges, that look very similar to pencil shavings. The wild variety has red and white flowers; but there are other varieties in pink, white, magenta, red, purple, and combinations of these colors. Some flowers have a different coloration along the serrated edges, making them exceptionally beautiful.

Dianthus plants are seasonal, withering away after 1 or 2 flowering seasons. Flowers are usually in clusters on the very top of the plant, each cluster having 20-25 flowers, making it look like a bouquet. These flowers have nectar, attracting small birds, bees and butterflies. Wild plants have a light fragrance, but most hybrids don’t have any scent.

An interesting fact about this flower is that Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge included sweet william flowers in her bouquet, in a loving tribute to Prince William on their wedding day. These flowers are perfect for bouquets and flower arrangements since they grow in natural clusters.

Propagation is from stem cuttings or seeds, though the seed method is not very successful.

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