Alpine Garden Society

Ulster Group

Plant of the Month, September  2010
Dianthus alpinus - by Harold McBride


I would regard Dianthus Alpinus as a rock garden’ indispensable’, and it is certainly among my favourites from a family of plants that has approximately 300 members to chose from .

Dianthus alpinus is a mat forming plant and is available in several colour forms from pink to a deep red or indeed a white form  ( Alba ) .

The best forms have good broad - petalled solid flowers , although some forms with squinny petals exist; only the best forms should be chosen when taking cuttings or collecting seed.


Dianthus alpinus

Several variations have been given cultivar names. D.alpinus ‘Adonis’ is a salmon pink form found by Farrer, but this plant is now rare in cultivation. A plant with deep red flowers, D.alpinus ‘Joans Blood’, arose at the Cotswold nursery of the late Joe Eliott and is named after his wife. Plant folklore has it that Joan Eliott cut her finger on the day Joe found it growing in his sales beds, hence the name. I once enquired from Joe if the story was true and with a smile he said “of course it is “. This form is a strong grower and comes true from seed.

D.alpinus 'Adonis'

D.alpinus 'Alba'

D.alpinus 'Joan's blood'

An unusual pink form arose in my garden some years ago; it has been named D.alpinus ’Gwens Blush’ and I note it is still registered in the Dianthus Society plant lists, although it seems to have disappeared from nursery catalogues. This plant probably arose from a cross of D.alpinus Joan's Blood x Forma Alba.
D. Alpinus grows best in a gritty, leafy soil in full sun. I have had some success with this plant in my crevice garden, but a trough or raised - bed provides it with a suitable home.

D.alpinus 'Gwen's blush'

D. alpinus in a trough

Like most dianthus it is easily raised from seed, indeed I find when conditions are suitable it will germinate 7/10 days after sowing. It is also easily raised from cuttings if you can manage to find a non-flowering shoot on this very abundant flower producer.
Always listed on the AGS seed exchange lists, if you have not previously tried growing alpines from seed, dianthus are a very rewarding plant to start with.