By Dr. Gary Bachman
The Meridian Star
If you’re looking for a plant that is attractive now but looks its best in the cooler months, you may be interested in the Dianthus. This is a group of versatile flowering plants that look good year-round.
Dianthus is called by many names, but the common name “pink” really is a good description. Colors include pink and red, but there are also nice white and lavender selections.
Bouquet Purple dianthus is an outstanding spring-flowering perennial that was selected as a Mississippi Medallion winner. The plants have the potential to grow up to 2 feet tall, and the bright, purple flowers are arranged on casual stems.
But when the heat of summer settles in, we have to wait until the fall and winter to enjoy these plants again.
Knowing this trait of dianthus, breeders have developed the Amazon dianthus, which tolerates summer temperatures and looks great in the landscape.
Amazon dianthus will grow to more than 2 feet tall in the garden. This plant is perfect for the backyard cutting garden, and its blooms have a long vase life. Its flower colors fit right in with all the other dianthus species.
Neon Purple and Neon Cherry are like brightly shining beacons in the landscape. Rose Magic flowers start out white and transition to pink and finally rose. The round flower heads are composed of many small, single flowers, and all three colors appear in each flower head.
I enjoy taking a close look at Amazon dianthus flowers. The individual petals have a serrated edge and a subtle, clove-like fragrance. The bright and vibrant colors are produced continuously from spring to fall. This plant may be one of the most perfect cut-and-flower-again selections you can grow in the garden and landscape. It also is a butterfly magnet throughout the flowering season.
The Amazon plants are prolific, producing many flowering stems. These strong stems are produced around the base of the plant and do not require staking.
Deadhead your Amazon dianthus after the initial flowering display. Since the plants produce so many flowers, the easiest way to do this is to simply hold a bunch in one hand and use pruners or scissors to reduce the bulk by half. The plants will put out new growth, and the reblooming will give you a quick encore.
Like many other flowering plants, Amazon dianthus needs consistent moisture, but the soil must be well-drained.
When preparing a bed, apply a thick layer of good-quality compost and work well into the soil. Add enough organic matter to create a mounded planting bed. This step will help improve drainage. Add slow-release fertilizer every six weeks to keep the nutrition at an optimum level. Top the landscape bed with 2 to 3 inches of mulch.
Amazon dianthus also makes great container plants. To control the height in containers, cut back about one-half at planting, and the resulting lateral growth will be better managed and proportionate for the container. Cutting back in this manner also encourages a dazzling flower display on the porch or patio for you to enjoy.
• Dr. Gary Bachman is an assistant Extension research professor of horticulture at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi.