How to Grow Garden Pinks (Dianthus Chinensis) in Your Garden

Dianthus chinensis, commonly known as Chinese pinks, adds an eye-catching splash of pink, red, and white color to the garden. Long prized by gardeners across Asia and Europe, Chinese pinks are associated with love and divinity. In my opinion, they certainly make a divine addition to flower beds and borders, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds with their colorful, serrated blossoms. Here, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to grow and care for Dianthus chinensis flowers at home.

How to Grow Dianthus chinensis (Chinese Pink)

Key Takeaways:

Botanical Name:Dianthus chinensis
Also Known As:Chinese Pink, China Pink, Indian Pink, Rainbow Pink
Hardiness Zones:USDA Zones 6 to 9
Flowering Months:Late spring through early fall
Growing Difficulty:Low maintenance and easy to grow
Type of Plant:Annual in cooler regions, biennial or tender perennial in warmer regions
Light Requirements:Partial to full sun, with afternoon shade preferred in hot weather
Temp & Humidity:Thrives in cooler climates and well-drained soil
Watering Needs:Requires good drainage; water when the soil feels dry
Soil Preferences:Average, dry to medium soil with a neutral to alkaline pH (6.0-8.0)
Feeding:Add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil when planting, or apply a balanced fertilizer every 6-8 weeks
Growth Expectations:Up to 2.5 feet tall and 1 foot wide
Toxicity:Foliage is toxic to humans and pets; may cause skin irritation and vomiting

How to Grow Dianthus chinensis

Bright pink Dianthus chinensis in bloom

Best Locations to Plant

D. chinensis is an excellent choice for the middle of borders, thanks to its maximum height of 2.5 feet and attractive, narrow foliage. You may also grow Chinese pinks in garden beds and containers. If you live in a warmer climate, just be sure to provide protection from the afternoon sun.

Chinese pinks work well in several garden types, including rock gardens, butterfly gardens, cottage gardens, and even drought-tolerant gardens.

Best Times to Plant

When planting from seed, sow D. chinensis seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date. Transplant seedlings or purchased plants outdoors from one to two weeks before the last frost date.

If you sow seeds directly in the landscape, wait until after the last frost date has passed.

Growing from Seed vs Nursery Plants

When growing Chinese pinks from seed, sow outdoors only after the danger of frost has passed (in many temperate regions, April or May). Cover with a very light layer of soil.

If you sow under shelter, you can start in late winter. Seeds take one to two weeks to sprout at 65 to 70 degrees F. Transplant outdoors close to the last frost date. In many regions, this will be in May.

The Best Soil

A garden spade in the soil

D. chinensis grows best in very well-drained soil. They tolerate occasionally dry soil and dislike wet feet. China pinks will grow in various soil types, including sandy, clay, and loamy. They prefer a neutral pH to slightly alkaline, from 7.0 to just over 8.0.

How to Plant

When sowing Dianthus seed in early spring, cover with a very thin layer of soil. The plants need light to germinate.

When planting from nursery pots in late spring, dig a hole that’s the same depth and twice as wide as the root ball. Gently place the plant in the hole and fill it with soil. You may add some slow-release fertilizer at planting time if you choose. Water thoroughly.

Light Preferences

Chinese pinks thrive in full to partial sun. In hot areas, offer afternoon shade.

Temperature & Humidity

D. chinensis grows best in cooler temperatures and well-drained soil. It tolerates occasional dry conditions.


How to Care for Dianthus chinensis

A collection of young nursery Dianthus chinensis plants

Watering

Water Chinese pinks when the soil feels dry. In most cases, water once a week during the growing season. Chinese pinks prefer a less-frequent deep soak rather than more frequent light watering.

Fertilizing

If using nursery plants, add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil when planting. Otherwise, apply a balanced fertilizer, such as 20-10-20, every six to eight weeks during the growing season.

Pruning & Cutting Back

A cluster of colorful Dianthus chinensis flowers in bloom

Deadhead a spent flower from D. chinensis to help prolong the blooming period. If flowering declines, you can shear and trim the plants to encourage more blooms.

Propagation

Chinese pinks may self-sow if you leave a few flower heads to go to seed. You may also propagate from stem cuttings.

Cut non-flowering stems just under a leaf joint. Trim lower leaves, leaving four to five leaves at the top of the stem. Dip stem bases in a rooting compound, then place them in pots with light potting soil. Water the pot, then place it in a plastic bag. Cuttings will form roots in four to five weeks.

Overwintering

Chinese pinks may be annuals or biennials, depending on the climate zone. To encourage plants to survive the winter, protect the plants from drying winds and freezing temperatures.

After flowering ends, trim plants, removing any spent blossoms and about one-third of the top growth. If in containers, cluster them together or place them along a south-facing wall. Place a frost blanket over plants when temperatures drop below 40 degrees F.

Common Problems & How to Treat Them

A close shot of Chinese pinks in bloom

D. chinensis may be susceptible to rust and crown rot, especially when planted in poorly draining soil. Prevent rust by providing enough ventilation and proper drainage. Remove foliage that looks brown or rusty, and treat plants with copper oxychloride.

When planted in humid spots, powdery mildew may appear on leaves. Treat with benomyl fungicide. If planted in shady spots, watch out for snails and slugs. Use a snail/slug bait.

Though Chinese pinks can tolerate some drought and occasionally dry soil, signs of underwatering include drooping leaves. Overwatering or too much shade may lead to leggy plants. 

Essential Tools

A collection of gardening tools

Chinese pinks don’t like wet feet, so a moisture meter is helpful. Use gloves when handling plants, as the leaves are known skin irritants. 


Growing Dianthus chinensis FAQs

How big does a Dianthus chinensis get? 

D. chinensis grows up to 2.5 feet tall and 1 foot wide.

How fast does Dianthus chinensis grow? 

Chinese pinks grow at a moderate rate.

Will Dianthus chinensis grow in shade? 

D. chinensis will grow in partial shade but prefers full to partial sun exposure. If it is grown in too shady a spot, it is susceptible to damage from slugs and snails.

Do Dianthus chinensis plants come back every year? 

Chinese pinks are annuals in cooler climates and biennials in warmer temperatures, which means they’ll grow for two years. If left to go to seed, plants may self-sow.

Can Dianthus chinensis grow in pots? 

Chinese pinks are an excellent choice to grow in containers. Just choose a pot that drains well, as they don’t like wet soil.

Wrap Up

Chinese pinks add bright color, spicy fragrance, and interesting texture — thanks to their serrated petals and lane-like leaves — to borders and beds. These lovely plants offer a long bloom time and low maintenance. Just be sure to plant D. chinensis in a well-drained site with just enough sunlight and protection from the afternoon sun when temperatures climb.

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