FEBRUARY
2006

 

 

 

By
B. Rosie Lerner
 
Purdue Extension
Consumer
Horticulturist

 

 

 

 

 

02-02-06

Firewitch Dianthus Named 2006 Perennial of the Year

The Perennial Plant Association has selected Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Firewitch' ('Feuerhexe') as its 2006 Perennial Plant of the Year. Also known as a cheddar pink, the perennial dianthus is an excellent choice for use as an edging plant, as a rock garden specimen, to soften retaining walls, and in container gardens.

'Firewitch' has hot pink flowers that bloom profusely in mid to late spring, with some repeat bloom in summer and fall if you deadhead faded blooms. As an added bonus, the flowers have a spicy clove-like fragrance. The bluish-gray evergreen foliage forms solid mats, making it an excellent ground cover, even when not in bloom. Plants reach only 3-4 inches tall, though the blooming stems add a few more inches.

Dianthus performs best in full sun, though light shade is helpful in particularly hot locations. The plant is rather adaptable, but well-drained soil is a must. Plants are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9. Plants are easy to propagate by division or by stem cuttings taken just before or immediately after flowering.

This particular selection of Dianthus was introduced by a German nursery in 1957 as 'Fererhexe' but was mostly unknown in the United States until the late 1980s, when a Connecticut nursery (Sunny Border) took up its cultivation. Commonly sold now as 'Firewitch' in the United States, you can find it in many local garden centers and mail-order catalogs, wherever perennials are sold.

Members of the Perennial Plant Association, generally professional plant growers, select one perennial each year to educate the gardening public and to promote planting of perennial flowers. For more information, visit the association's Web site at http://www.perennialplant.org.

 

Writer: B. Rosie Lerner
Editor: Olivia Maddox