4 Types of Dianthus for your Dry Garden!

Dianthus, also known as Pinks, are resilient plants that can thrive in the face of climate changes. If you are looking for hardy and drought-tolerant plants with vibrant flowers and attractive foliage for your low-maintenance dry garden, you have come to the right place.

Among the several types of Dianthus plants, I have picked four that look wonderful in gravel gardens.

four types of Dianths plants (Pinks, Carnations)

Enjoy the manually created images as I present descriptions of each plant, allowing you to easily compare the size, hardiness, drought tolerance, and blooming times of these 4 Dianthus.

But before that, you may also want to grab some free drought-tolerant plant guides.

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Varieties of Dianthus

Dianthus are a diverse and fascinating genus of plants with a vast array of species mostly herbaceous perennials and some subshrubs. There are also a few annuals and biennials.

They are appreciated for their colourful, fragrant blooms and ability to withstand extreme weather conditions.

They are native to Europe and Asia, and my selection in this article is mostly limited to the Mediterranean Basin.

These beautiful and robust plants can be very diverse:

  • Foliage can vary from green to blue-green.
  • Flowers come in shades of pink, from dark pink to a whitish faded pink.
  • Habit can be spreading to mounding.
  • Height can range from 10 cm (0.3 ft) to 50 cm (1.5 ft).

Dianthus lusitanus (Rock Carnation)

Dianthus lusitanus, is commonly known as Rock Carnation or Portuguese Pink.

It´s a charming small evergreen subshrub with a compact cushion shape formed by dense grey-green stems and leaves. As spring unfolds, delicate wiry stems emerge and elegantly culminate in lovely pink flowers that appear to be suspended in mid-air.

It’s an excellent option for any style of xeriscape, due to its drought tolerance and ability to thrive in poor soil conditions. When planted among rocks and gravel, it creates a naturalistic display.

Other popular uses are in borders, beds, containers and wildlife gardens.

Dianthus lusitanus (Rock Carnation, Portuguese Pink)
  • Size: 10 to 40 cm  (0.3 to 1.3 ft) height, 40 to 50 cm (1.3 to 1.6 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -15º C (5 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Iberian Peninsula and Northwest Africa

Learn more about this subshrub in our detailed description of Rock Carnation

Dianthus fruticosus (Shrubby Pink)

Dianthus fruticosus, also known as shrubby pink is an evergreen subshrub with a thick trunk and dense woody branches covered with fleshy green leaves. It forms a compact cushion shape.

During early summer, soft pink fringed flowers emerge gently from the thick foliage, adding a delicate touch.

In the garden, it can be used in borders, beds and containers.

It looks lovely in any style of xeriscape, creating a naturalistic display, and its resistance to salt spray makes it a good choice for seaside gardens.

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Dianthus fruticosus (Shrubby Pink)
  • Size: 30 to 50 cm (1 to 1.6 ft) height, 30 to 40 cm (1 to 1.3 ft) width.
  • Hardiness: -8º C (17 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 5 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin (Greece)

Learn more about this subshrub in our detailed description of the Shrubby Pink.

Dianthus anatolicus (Anatolian Pink)

Dianthus anatolicus, also known as Anatolian Pink or Turkish Pink, is an evergreen herbaceous perennial forming a spreading cushion of narrow grey-green leaves. 

During late spring, delicate fringed flowers of a pale pink colour, emerge gracefully from above the dense cushion of foliage.

It’s a fantastic choice for xeriscape gardens, creating a naturalistic display when planted amidst rocks and gravel.

Additionally, this versatile plant is popular in borders, beds, containers, and wildlife gardens attracting pollinators to the surroundings.

Dianthus antolicus (Anatolian Pink)
  • Size: 10 to 25 cm  (0.3 to 0.8 ft) height, 40 cm (1.3 ft) width.
  • Hardiness: -15º C (5 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun
  • Drought-tolerance: Approx 3 months
  • Origin: Turkey, Armenia, Pakistan, W. Himalaya

Learn more about this perennial in our detailed description of Anatolian Pink

Dianthus corsicus (Corsican Pink)

Dianthus corsicus, also known as Corsican Pink or Corsican Carnation is a small evergreen perennial, with blue-green foliage that forms a dense grassy cushion shape.

In spring, a multitude of delicate, dark pink flowers with a spicy fragrance, emerge on wiry stems that rise gracefully from a cushion of lush foliage.

It’s an excellent choice for xeriscape gardens, creating a naturalistic display when planted amongst rocks and gravel.Additionally, it´s popular in borders, beds, containers, and wildlife gardens adding vibrant colour and attracting pollinators to the surroundings

Dianthus corsicus (Corsican Pink)
  • Size: 5 to 15 cm (0.2 to 0.5 ft) height, 30 cm (1 ft) width
  • Hardiness: -10º C (14 ºF)
  • Sunlight: Full Sun 
  • Drought tolerance: Approx 3 months
  • Origin: Mediterranean Basin 

Learn more about this perennial in our detailed description of Corsican Pink.

What do Dianthus look like?

4 types of Dianthus compared (chart)

Dianthus plants such as Corsican Pink can have a spreading mat form or they can also have a mounding form.

The flowers have 5 deeply toothed petals which are held in a long thin calyx. The colour can come in various shades of pink: from dark pink to very pale pink.

The leaves are entire and are usually narrow and linear but can also be elliptical. The colour can vary from green to blue-green.

In the chart, you may see how the different parts of the selected Dianthus compare.

Height and Width of Dianthus

Dianthus height and width

The size of any plant can vary based on many factors, such as soil, weather, watering and so on. However, the height and width of the four selected Dianthus in this article are on average those shown in the chart. The shortest one, almost hugging the ground at 5 to10 cm (0.1 to 0.3 ft) is Dianthus corsicus, and the largest one is Dianthus fruticosus that can reach up to 50 cm ( 1.6 ft) height when in bloom.

Which dianthus is a good ground cover?

The best dianthus for ground cover is Dianthus corisucus (Coriscan Pink) due to its low growing and spreading habit.

Dianthus Bloom Times

Dianthus bloom times chart

Dianthus plants will bloom mainly in Spring and Summer. The herbaceous types such as Corsican Pink and Anatolian pink, will start earlier during Spring. The subshrubs, Rock carnation and Shrubby pink, appear later in the year, from late spring until late summer.

Many factors affect flowering, such as temperature, sunlight availability, and soil fertility, so slight variations may depend on your garden´s environment. But generally, the bloom times for the 4 selected species in this article are shown on the chart.

Dianthus Hardiness Compared

Dianthus cold hardiness chart

If you give your Dianthus plants the right growing conditions, such as well-drained soil and no fertilization, most will be pretty hardy. They will only suffer in very wet and cold winters.

However, some dianthus are naturally more cold-tolerant than others. The hardier types of our four are Rock Carnation and Anatolian Pink. A little less hardy are the Corsican Pink and Shrubby Pink.

Depending on your climate, you may choose the best ones for your garden based on the hardiness chart shown here.

If you select a type that is tender in your region then you may need to plant the Dianthus in pots so you can move it to a sheltered place in the winter.

Dianthus Drought-Tolerance

Dianthus drought tolerance chart

Dianthus are very resilient plants that can survive hot and dry weather for long periods of time and remain evergreen with showy blooms.

All the Dianthus from our collection are drought-tolerant. The subshrubs (Rock carnation and Shrubby Pink) are extremely drought tolerant, while the herbaceous types (Anatolian Pink and Corsican Pink) are a little less drought tolerant, but still very tough.

The chart uses the drought-tolerance code defined by Olivier Filippi (https://jardin-sec.com/), which I find very useful and have found to be correct based on my own experience.

Which is the Best Dianthus for your Garden?

The most suitable Dianthus will vary for different environments and different people.

While some conditions you cannot change, such as the aspect and hardiness of the plant, others you can adjust, like soil and watering.

Steps to choose the best Dianthus for your garden

  • Check if the Dianthus is hardy enough for your climate. If not, then you need to select a different one.
  • Check if you have poor, well-drained soil. If not, see if you can adjust it.
  • Check if the size and shape are appropriate for the spot you want to plant in your garden.
  • Check if your climate can support the water needs of the santolina. If not, plan to water in extreme drought and heat.

If you follow these steps, you will find the right plant for your garden.

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