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Sweet William Fast Facts

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) is a biennial plant native to the mountainous regions of southern Europe. It is most commonly found in landscaping and cut flower gardens.


In the 16th century, sweet William was introduced to northern Europe and later to North America.


Sweet William is prized for its variety of color. Its white, pink, red or purple blooms are popular in ornamental gardens, borders, and window boxes from early spring into summer.


Sweet William can be found in dwarf forms that grow from 6 to 8 inches tall. The full-sized plant grows 12 to 18 inches tall.


Seeds can be sown directly into the garden, spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. Spent blooms should be left to reseed themselves for the following season.

Fun Fact

In the Victorian flower language, sweet William symbolizes gallantry. It is uncertain if the flower was named for Saint William of York, William the Conqueror or Prince William Augustus.

Prune Sweet William

Cut individual stems back, using pruning shears, to the base of the plant if the whole plant is still blooming, but the flowers on one stem are wilting or drying out. In some cases, the plant will come back again with blooms for a third year. Leave at least a few of the dead flower heads at the end of the bloom period in late summer if you want the Sweet William to continue.

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