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Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus (Caryophyllaceae))




Sweet William is an herbaceous biennial and perennial variety of plant. It grows for two years, blooming in the second year. It is native to the mountains of southern Europe from the Pyrenees east to the Carpathians and the Balkans, with a variety disjunction in northeastern China, Korea, and south easternmost Russia. But it has escaped cultivation and adapted to all regions of the United States. It usually blooms from April to September. It grows up to 30-75cm tall. The leaves are green to glaucous blue-green and tapered which are 4-10cm in length and 1-2cm in breadth. The flowers are in dense clusters of 30 and 2-3cm in diameter. They are at the top of the stems and are five petalled with serrated edges. The flowers are scented with a spicy, clove-like smell. The petals are red with base being white. The flower blooms 60 to 90 days after planting. The flowers are considered edible.
In some places Sweet William is referred to as “Stinking Billy” like Ireland and Scotland. It’s used in landscaping and flower arrangements. In flower beds, put these small plants at the front of the garden. Its nectar attracts birds, bees and butterflies. It is an ornamental plant and it is widely used in rock gardens and borders and as cottage style gardens. The flower color ranges from white, pink, red and purple. It prefers moist, well-drained soil in full sun. In extremely hot summers, plant in partial shade for best results.

Growing Conditions for Sweet William

• Sweet William is grown from seeds.
• Germination of the seed is usually 14-30 days.
• Optimum soil temperature for germination required is 60-70F.
• They can be directly seeded into your flower garden with sowing depth of 1/16 inches.
• Sowing indoors for transplanting later is another option.
• For spring blooms, start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost.
• Sow the seeds early in the season and cover lightly with 1/8″ of fine garden or potting soil.
• Transplant the young seedlings into a flower garden or where they can be left permanent after the last frost date for your area
• Space them six inches apart.
• Water well once in a day.
• Sweet William can also be grown from cuttings or plant division.

Care for Sweet William

• Sweet William plants like full sun.
• They will tolerate a light shade.
• They prefer rich, loose well drained soil.
• It grows well in loamy, slightly alkaline soil.
• Optimum soil temperature for germination required is 60-70F.
• Add a general purpose fertilizer when planting them, then once a month after that.
• Keep the soil moist to slightly dry.
• Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week.
• The plant is self-seeding.
• They will tolerate a little crowding.
• Keep them well weeded, or apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch for a tidy appearance.
• Nematodes can be a problem.
• Treat early with insecticides specific to nematode.
• If disease problems occur, treat early with fungicide.





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