China Pinks

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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China Pinks or Dianthus chinensis
China Pinks or Dianthus chinensis
Dianthus chinensis
Dianthus chinensis

Common Name: China Pinks, Indian Pinks[1]

Scientific Name: Dianthus chinensis variety

Jefferson first planted “China Pinks” at Shadwell, his birthplace, in 1767 and again at Monticello in 1807.[2] Also known as Indian Pinks, the species was introduced from China and has been cultivated in Europe and America since the early 18th century. (Lady Skipwith and John Bartram mention this plant in the first half of the 18th century.)[3]

China Pinks is a summer flowering annual or short-lived perennial with large single flowers with fringed petals in colorful patterns of pink and crimson to white shades.

Dianthus chinensis
Dianthus chinensis

Primary Source References[4]

1812 December 1. (Bernard McMahon to Jefferson). "I also do myself the pleasure of enclosing you some superior China Pink and Auricula seeds."[5]

1813 January 11. (Jefferson to Bernard McMahon). "I have too long delayed returning you thanks for your favors of Nov. 24. & Dec. 1. and the hyacinth roots with the seeds of the China pink...which came safely to hand."[6]


  1. This section is based on a Center for Historic Plant Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 4 and 335. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society. See also Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch, Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 59.
  3. Joan Parry Dutton, Plants of Colonial Williamsburg (Williamsburg: Colonial Williamsburg, 1979), 130-131.
  4. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  5. Betts, Garden Book, 492. Copy at Library of Congress.
  6. Ibid, 504. Polygraph Copy at Library of Congress.

Further Sources