What is a Maiden Pink?

Anna Harrison
Anna Harrison
Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

A maiden pink is a flowering plant which belongs to the Dianthus genus and is closely related to the carnation. While there are many species of pinks, Dianthus deltoides is the type most commonly called maiden pink. It has been grown in English cottage gardens for hundreds of years; it is prized for its long lasting flowers and colorful foliage, which varies from gray to blue green in color. The flowers of these perennial plants are single and upward facing with toothed petals, and range from dark crimson to pale pink. When used as cut flowers, they will fill an entire room with their spicy, clove-like scent.

Maiden pinks have great value as ornamental plants; they not only have an extremely long blooming season, but their grassy leaves are also evergreen, tuning bronze or red in fall and keeping their color throughout the winter. They are low growing, just 6-12 inches (15-30 cm) tall, and usually spread into a small attractive mound. This keeps them neat looking, and makes them a popular choice for the front of the border and as container plants.

These garden plants should be planted in full sun in most areas, though afternoon shade may be beneficial where the summers are very hot. While maiden pink plants will grow almost anywhere, they do best in soil that is high in humus content and slightly alkaline. They do not like overly acid or dry soil, and require watering in times of drought, as the leaves will quickly turn brown when given insufficient water. Overwatering should also be avoided, since these plants are prone to crown rot if left in standing water.

To keep maiden pink plants blooming, the spent flowers should be deadheaded. This can be difficult with so many small flowers, so occasional shearing of the entire plant accomplishes this task well. If the dead flowers are not removed, they will form little seed cups full of tiny black seeds, and the plant will stop producing new flowers.

New maiden pink plants are easy to grow from seed and should be started indoors early in winter to assure that they will bloom the same year. They are also easy to propagate from cuttings or by division of mature plants. Cuttings should be planted in a light, sandy soil and kept watered until roots have formed. They may be dipped into a rooting hormone powder before placing them in the soil, but this is not a necessity. Division of existing plants should be done when they are not blooming, usually in early spring.

Many types of butterflies are attracted to the maiden pink for its nectar. Hummingbirds are also frequent visitors to the colorful flowers. They are rarely severely damaged by harmful insects, though slugs may become a problem during wet weather. Maiden pink plants are resistant to deer browsing and are not generally bothered by other animals.

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