Sweet Williams in a Wildlife Garden


Easy to grow and low maintenance Sweet William is a colourful garden favourite. Often used as a border plant or as annual bedding, it can brighten up any dull patch with fabulous shades of red, pink and white. The attractive blue green leaves also make useful winter ground cover.

Wildlife Garden

Sweet Williams make great plants for a Wildlife garden, planted in full sun they will often flower from May through to August, the bright colours and sweet scented flowers are attractive to a variety of Summer Butterflies, Moths and Bees.

Planting and Growing Sweet William

Sweet William should be planted on a site with full sun and grows best if planted in fairly dry lime or chalky Soils. They are usually grown as an annual or biennial and can be planted singular or as a mass planting of mixed colours and varieties to create a striking display. They are so undemanding that they need no extra feed and will tolerate salty sea spray in coastal areas.

You actually can grow Sweet William as a short lived perennial for 2 or 3 years. Cutting back the old flower stems at the end of each year, will keep the plants strong. It is well worth remembering when cutting back, to leave on just a few of the old flower-heads for the plant to self seed itself. The new seedlings can be thinned out and grown on, to replace older flowers.

Grow from seed as an Annual

To grow Sweet William as an Annual (flower in the same year), the seeds should be planted in March and kept between 12-15 C. After germination the young seedlings can be moved to seed-trays and spaced around 10cm apart. After all frost has passed plant out doors late May-early June in their summer flowering positions.

Grow as an Biennial

It is easier to grow Sweet Williams as a Biennials, as the seed can be sown directly into the ground in a prepared seed-bed in early summer or alternatively buy plants late Summer, these can then be planted in their flowering positions in September or October. Water in until well established. The Sweet Williams will flower June or July of the coming year.

Plant Information

  • Name: Sweet William or (Dianthus barbatus)
  • Family: caryophyllaceae
  • Type: Annual, Biennial, Short lived Perennial
  • Related to: Carnation, Garden pink
  • Flowering: May-August
  • Light: Full sun
  • Height: around 15-60cm
  • Soil: well drained, lime or chalky but not acid.
  • Plant Spacing: 20-25cm standard, 10-15cm Dwarf varieties
  • Ideal plants for: Wildlife gardens, Cottage garden, Borders, Containers.
  • Nectar Plant to: Swallowtail, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Peacock
  • Photographed: 30th June 2013.
Visit and See the range of Sweet William plants and seeds here at Thompson & Morgan
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