Cottage pink – planting, care and tips

Flower of cottage pink (Dianthus plumarius)
Flower of cottage pink (Dianthus plumarius) - by Thegreenj - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The cottage pink enchants us with its delicate, feathery incised petals. This is how to plant and care for the perennial properly.

Profile of cottage pink:

Scientific name: Dianthus plumarius

Plant family: pink or carnation family (Caryophyllaceae)

Other names: common pink, garden pink, wild pink

Sowing time: indoors from February / outdoors from May to July

Planting time: spring and autumn

Flowering period: May to July

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, calcipholous, nutrient rich

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: green roofing, planters, dry stone walls, cottage garden, natural garden, rock garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 3 (-37 °C / -35 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of cottage pink

Plant order, origin and occurrence of cottage pink

The cottage pink (Dianthus plumarius), belongs to the extremely species-rich carnation family (Caryophyllaceae). Cottage pinks have been planted in cottage gardens for several centuries, mainly because they smell intensely and have also proven to be long-lasting cut flowers. The natural sites are in the mountains in eastern Central Europe, especially in Austria and Hungary, up to 2,200 meters (7,200 ft) above sea level. There the plants only colonize areas with calcareous subsoil.

The cottage pink is occasionally found in other parts of the world in nature because it has escaped from the gardens. The scientific name “Dianthus” comes from the Greek “Dios anthos”, which means “flower of Zeus”. Carnations are very symbolic flowers. Red varieties were considered a signature of the noble resistance during the French Revolution. At the end of the 19th century, this was followed by the followers of the labor movement. Today, red carnations are the hallmark of socialism worldwide. The plants are very long-lived at the right location.

Characteristics of cottage pink


Cottage pink are herbaceous, perennial plants that grow in winter-green polsters and reach heights of 15 to 35 centimeters (6 to 14 in).


The grassy leaves of the cottage pink are narrowly lanceolate and 3 to 6 centimeters (1.2 to 2.4 in) long. They sit on almost square, blue-green pruinated, upright stems and are wintergreen.


The carnation got its German name suffix “Feather” due to the feathery petals, which are deeply incised at the edge, five of which are in a flower with a diameter of 2 to 3 centimeters (about 1 in). On a stem, usually one or two flowers open at the top of a long, narrow calyx. The stamens of the wild species Dianthus plumarius and single flower varieties can be seen. They have plenty of pollen and nectar to offer and attract a large number of insects, especially butterflies, that pollinate them. The numerous double flower cultivations can at least come up with the typical, beguiling fragrance. Cottage pinks glow in white, pink or red, often with a contrasting eye in the middle. The flowering period extends from May / June to July. Not all varieties smell.


The fruits of the cottage pink are capsules.

Cottage pink (Dianthus plumarius)
Cottage pink (Dianthus plumarius) – by Msepp

Cottage pink – cultivation and care


The spring carnation loves it very sunny and warm.


Ideal for Dianthus plumarius is a well-drained, rather dry and poor and above all calcareous soil with a high proportion of sand and clay.


You can plant the spring carnation almost all year round, except in frost. However, the best times are spring and autumn. Put them in small groups of three to five pieces and keep a distance of 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in).


The spring carnation can be propagated according to type by cuttings. In early summer they are cut from shoots without buds and flowers (or being removed) and pressed into sandy soil. It is also possible to divide the cluster, either in spring or in autumn. If you propagate cottage pink by sowing, a colorful mixture will bloom. Sowing takes place indoors from February and outdoors from May to July. Since the plants need light to germ, the seeds are not covered with soil or only very finely.

By sowing

If cottage pink are not cut back every year, they seed itself and form dense polster over time. Various seed mixes are available on the market, which can then be sown if required, or seeds from existing plants can be obtained. The seeds can be pre-cultivated in bowls or pots from around February or sown directly in the garden from May to July. In order to cultivate them in the house, they are placed in commercially available potting compost or cactus soil and only very thinly covered with substrate. This is then moistened slightly and the vessel covered with film or glass until germination. At temperatures of 15 °C / 59 °F, the seeds germinate within 2-3 weeks. As soon as the first seedlings appear, the cover should be removed briefly and ventilated well. If the seedlings are large and strong enough, they can be pricked out and at first cultivated in small pots. As soon as it is frost-free, usually from mid-May, you can then plant them out in the garden.

By cuttings

Another form of propagation is by cuttings. These are cut in late summer or autumn, so they have time rooting all winter and grow into vigorous young plants. The cuttings should be about 10 cm (4 in) long and have 3-4 leaf nodes. It is always cut below a leaf knot. The bottom leaves are removed and the cuttings are planted in the soil. To grow roots, the substrate should always be slightly damp. Successful rooting is shown by a new shoot, which can take about 2-3 weeks. Then they are first replanted in somewhat larger pots and planted in the garden in the spring after no more frosts are being expected.

By division

The best time to divide is after flowering or early October. It also serves to rejuvenate the cottage pink. To do this, carefully take one or more plants out of the ground. Then you cut them into several pieces with a sharp knife or spade. Each new parts must have sufficient roots. Then plant these parts in their final location. Finally, water.


Feather cloves are naturally very well adapted to dry locations, especially since they evaporate little water through their foliage. Under normal conditions, they do not need to be watered, the natural amounts of rain are usually sufficient. Exception is planting on a slope, then it may have to be watered minimally from time to time and in the event of constant drought and heat.


Since these plants prefer poor soil, there is usually no need for fertilizers in the garden. Only at the beginning of the vegetation phase in spring a commercially available complete fertilizer can be administered in a low concentration. Plants in a bucket or box can occasionally be sparingly fertilized.


The cottage pink is also very undemanding when it comes to pruning. First, withered flowers should be removed regularly. This not only extends the flowering period, but also avoids longer flowering breaks. Dianthus plumarius does not necessarily have to be pruned. However, if the polster is too lush or dense, it can easily be cut back. This can either happen immediately after flowering or in early spring. Otherwise, cut out damaged and dead plant parts after winter. If the plants are heavily bare, a stronger pruning is also possible. Reduce by about a third. Afterwards they shoot out again without problems.


If the leaf-polster get too lush over time, you can prune early in spring or immediately after flowering by a good third. This also prevents double flower varieties from self-sowing. If you want the bloom to last longer, it helps to remove faded flowers regularly.

If the perennials age after three or four years, they can be taken out of the ground, divided and planted again before or after flowering.

Diseases and pests

Feather cloves are generally and if the location is right, insensitive to pests and plant diseases. From time to time you will find snails hiding under their leaves, but the leaves covered with a layer of wax are not nibbled.


Cottage pink are very hardy, sometimes down to -37 °C / -35 °F, so they normally do not need any winter protection. Plants in a bucket or balcony box can be placed a little higher, for example on wooden strips to protect them from the cold from below and possibly cover them with a bit of fir twigs. Water occasionally on frost-free days.

Use in the garden

Cottage pink feels just as good in the rock garden as in gravel beds, on dry stone walls or in container and pots. Compact varieties are great on graves, on the edge of the bed or even as a border. Combine the pink there with, for example, creeping baby’s-breath (Gypsophila repens), iris (Iris barbata), bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) or ashy cranesbill (Geranium cinereum). Sunroses (Helianthemum hybrids), small Canterbury bells (Campanula portenschlagiana), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and perennial flax (Linum perenne) go very well with it.


There are a lot of varieties of the spring carnation. They are particularly valuable if they have been propagated vegetatively, i.e. via cuttings. For example, the proven, double-flowering varieties ‘Maggie’ (pink with a red ring in the center, compact 10 to 25 centimeters (4 to 10 in) high), ‘Maischnee (May Snow)’ (bright white, blooming profusely, 10 to centimeters (4 in) high), ‘Munot’ (red, 30 cm high (12 in)), ‘Doris’ (pink with red eye, 30 cm high (12 in)) or ‘Ine’ (white with red center, 30 cm high (12 in)).

A modern representative is the large and perennially blooming, snow-white, up to 35 centimeters (14 in) high ‘Haytor White’. The also white ‘Mrs. Sinkins’ has particularly feathery petals.

Seedling varieties such as ‘Nanus Sweetness’ have their own charm, and their blossoms appear in different shades from light pink to dark red.

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