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Sweet Williams

Guest Author - Hellie T.

Sweet Williams or Dianthus Barbatus are traditional English Garden plants. They have clusters of deliciously clove scented flowers with notched petals and quite broad leaves with entertaining whiskery tufts poking through the flowers.

They are excellent as cut flowers so grow some for show in your borders or containers and some just for cutting! They will last for a least a week in a vase but do not place in a sunny spot. Sweet William flowers can also be dried and used for pot pourri.

They come in all shades of lilac, pink, white and red; there are single or double varieties; a selection of markings and eyes and in a range of heights – from 6 inches to 2 foot (15 to 60 cms) – so it is easy to find one that is suitable for your garden


They are very easy to grow and flower from late spring through to summer and are much loved by butterflies and bees.


Sweet Williams are biennials which means that the seed is sown one year and then they flower the next year. In milder climates they can survive the winter - in USA -zones 4-10.



They need

  • A sunny spot (with protection from the midday sun if you live in a hot climate)
  • Well drained soil – but water regularly.
  • Non-acid soil
  • Plant seeds in the spring
  • Or buy plants from the garden center in autumn – don’t be put off by the mass of green leaves! – and plant where you want them to flower.
  • They grow well in containers on a balcony or patio as well as in the garden.

Try these varieties but remember don't be taken in by the colours - choose only the scented ones as some of the modern varieties are disappointing with little or no scent.

  • Nigricans - has rich deep crimson scented flowers with dark leaves.
  • Sooty - has deep maroon chocolate fragrant blooms on red stems. The foliage goes mahogany coloured as it ages.
  • Auricula Eyed - has a range of coloured flowers from crimson, purple to pink and all have a contrasting eye.
  • Messenger – has lovely scented multi-coloured flowers.
Or browse through a seed catalogue to find the ones to suit you – don’t just go for the colour range remember to check whether they are scented or not!
If you have the space Sweet Williams look especially good when massed planted in a border or try several pots grouped together.

Enjoy your garden!


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Content copyright © 2014 by Hellie T.. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Hellie T.. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Carol Chernega for details.

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