Sweet William (Seeds)

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Sweet William (Seeds)

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The Raging Name Debate– There is much debate over who Sweet William was named for. The list of honorees includes: William the Conqueror, Saint William of York, and  Prince William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland.

Plant Height: 12″ – 24″


Plant Propagation:

Sweet William are grown from seeds. They can be directly seeded into your flower garden, or seeded indoors for transplanting later. For spring blooms, start indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Young seedlings will transplant well into their permanent home.

Sow Sweet William seeds early in the season and cover lightly with 1/8″ of fine garden or potting soil. Water thoroughly once.

Transplant Sweet William into your garden after the last frost date for your area. Space them six inches apart. They will tolerate a little crowding. They will look great filling in a flowerbed, or as a border edging.

Sweet William can also be grown from cuttings or plant division.

Days to Germination: 10 – 15


How to Grow Sweet William Plants:

Sweet William plants like full sun. They will tolerate a light shade. They prefer rich, loose soil that drains well. Add a general purpose fertilizer when planting them, then once a month after that.

Once your Sweet William are established, they should grow well with few problems. Keep the soil moist to slightly dry. Water them during dry periods, once or twice per week. Keep them well weeded, or apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch for a tidy appearance.

Flowers Bloom: Spring to Summer


Insect and Disease:

Nematodes can be a problem. Treat early with insecticides specific to nematode. If disease problems occur, treat early with fungicide.

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The reason the Dianthus barbatus plant is called Sweet William has been forgotten, but the poetry of the name fits the pleasant aroma and bright range of possible colors. Full-grown plants reach 12-inches (30 cm) or more in height, depending on variety. Sweet William is easy to grow and maintain, but may need to be replanted after one or two years, since they rarely survive longer. Fortunately, you can harvest the seeds from your first plant or allow it to reseed by itself, spreading years of enjoyment from a single initial plant.


Before you plant Sweet William seeds, find the ideal location for them. They need full sun and moderately rich, well-drained soil. Sweet William is plagued by a host of fungal diseases in wet, heavy soil. Amend these soils with compost or choose another spot. In hot, Southern climates, plant Sweet William in a place with light shade.


Remove any weeds and rocks and till the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Plant Sweet William in summer, after the last frost. Sow seeds 3 inches apart and ¼ inch deep. Keep the soil evenly moist. Don’t allow it to dry out while seeds are germinating.


Once the seeds germinate and stand 3 inches tall, thin them to at 12 inches apart. As the plants grow, you may have to thin them again. Sweet William grows slowly, but eventually can grow 3 feet high and 2 feet wide. Sweet William plants needs plenty of air circulation so don’t overcrowd them.


Sweet William seeds sown directly in the garden won’t bloom the first year. Don’t give up on them though. Come next spring, you’ll have prolific blooms.


You may also sow Sweet William seeds in containers and pots in summer. Use a lightweight potting soil and sow seeds ¼ inch deep. Pots and containers dry out more quickly than the garden, so be sure to water frequently.

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