About Sweet William: Sweet William belongs to the Dianthus flower family, which also includes pinks and carnations. Greek botanist Theophrastus gave these flowers the genus name Dianthus, which means “divine flower.” The origin of the common name Sweet William has been debated, though one interesting theory states that the “William” comes from a mispronunciation of the French word for the flower, “oiellet.” The name has also been said to honor either William Shakespeare, the Duke of York, the Duke of Cumberland, or William the Conqueror. Their sweetness comes from the distinctive clove-like scent of the blossoms; in the language of flowers, this flower symbolizes gallantry.
Sweet William Germination: Direct sow the seed after the last spring frost, planting it just below the surface and compacting the soil slightly. To start the seed indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost of spring, sow just below the surface of a flat; compress the soil slightly and keep it consistently moist. Keep the temperature at 60 degrees F until germination, which should take place within 14-20 days. Thin or transplant the seedlings to 12-15” apart. This plant adapts well to dry or rocky soils.
Growing Sweet William Seeds: Water seedlings until they become established; mature plants are drought tolerant and will only need watering in exceptionally dry periods. This plant usually develops a rosette of leaves in its first season and a flowering stalk in the second summer, though it may bloom in the first year if started early enough. Deadhead the faded blossoms for prolonged blooming. After 2 years of growth, divide the plant for healthy growth. This plant readily reseeds itself, but volunteer seedlings can easily be removed if not wanted. This plant attracts bees and butterflies while resisting deer.
Harvesting Sweet William: For sweet-scented fresh flowers, cut long stems of flowers that have just opened and place them in water immediately; strip the leaves that will fall below the water. For dried flowers, choose blossoms that have just opened and dry them whole or on the stem. The petals are also edible, and make colorful garnishes.
Saving Sweet William Seeds: At the end of the season, allow the blossoms to mature and produce seed pods. The pods will turn dry and brown, splitting open on the top when ripe. Shake the pods over a container to remove the seeds, which are tiny black discs. Store the seed in a cool, dry place.
Detailed Sweet William Info: Origin: Southern Europe Other Common Names: Sweet-William, Sweetwilliam Duration: Perennial Bloom Time: Summer Height: 12-15 inches Spacing: 12-15 inches Light: Full Sun to Part Shade Soil Moisture: Medium USDA Zone: 4a-8b Seeds Per Oz: 10,000 Produces plants with smooth, lance-shaped leaves and 1-1˝” fragrant flowers with five jagged-edged petals in varied combinations of white, red, or pink.