The Colour of Love

During the month of February, whether you’re in a relationship or not, there is hardly a soul alive who can escape the fact that it is the month of love. With everything from shopping centres to TV screens painting our lives red and pink, why not join in with a little madness of your own? ‘Paint’ a bed or pot in your garden red, white and pink this February with our plant of the month, Dianthus, and her lovely companion, Salvia.

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There is a Dianthus to suit every gardener’s want, ranging from edging and borders to rockeries or ground covers and even pots and hanging baskets. Make sure you’ve decided how you’d like to apply your splash of love before choosing which variety you’d like to buy though. Once in full bloom Dianthus can either be brought inside as a living bouquet, or given as a gift to that someone special!

  • Location: Dianthus will benefit the most from a position that receives at least four or five hours of full sun every day, although in summer, they will tolerate a little more shade than in winter.
  • Soil: Dianthus prefer a more alkaline soil, so add some lime or fire ash to yours before planting if it’s a bit more acidic. Add in some compost and ensure it drains well or you could be faced with stem rot. The most obvious sign of poor drainage or too much water is the yellowing of the leaves.
  • Watering: Being “Water-Wise”, Dianthus prefer infrequent but deep watering. Pots on sunny patios may need a little more attention, with regards to more frequent watering, than the Dianthus planted in the garden. Quite important to remember with these lovelies though, is that they perform better if kept slightly drier than most other annuals. Being prone to stem rot, keeping enough air circulation around them by spacing correctly during planting and avoiding mulching goes a long way to ensuring they stay dry enough.
  • Care: Adding a slow release fertiliser before planting will ensure you only really need to supplement with a very light feed every couple of months as Dianthus are not very heavy eaters. Deadhead with abandon and remember they love to be picked for the vase, so don’t be shy, they will give you more than enough blooms for both inside and outside.

Salvia splendens

What a splendid companion for our darling Dianthus. Also enjoying the full impact of our South African sun, the red salvia will reward you with a richer red the more sun you give it. Not being terribly thirsty annuals that also need well-draining composted soil, it’s easy to see why they’re perfectly suited to sharing a bed with Dianthus. Don’t be shy when it comes to deadheading or using them for cut flowers either as this will encourage new flushes of flowers, leaving you wondering if you’d even removed any to start and they’ll encourage butterflies and bees to visit your garden with their rich source of nectar and pollen.

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