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Herb Gallery

Qu Mai (Dianthus superbus)

  • Botanical name: Dianthus superbus
  • Common name: Dianthus, Fringed pink
  • Family: Caryophyllaceae, pink family
  • Part used in Chinese medicine: aerial parts
  • Major Chinese medicine actions:
  • Clears damp-heat, promotes urination, unblocks urine,
    invigorates blood
Dianthus superbus
Dianthus superbus

Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Dianthus superbus; 04/2006; author Stan Shebs; permission under GFDL
Photo 2: Dianthus superbus; 08/2003; author BerndH; permission under GFDL

Growing and Propagation

Dianthus superbus (Fringed pink) is a perennial plant growing to about 3 feet, with highly fragrant flowers that bloom in a variety of shades of pink, purple and white. Dianthus chinensis (Chinese pink) is a bushy short-lived perennial or biennial, often grown as an annual in colder regions. The plant grows 8-20 inches high and the scentless flowers are also found in a variety of bright colors from pink and red, to lavender and white, often with dark purple eyes. These plants are very cold sensitive and require mulching to protect them from frost.

Dianthus are easily propagated by seed sown directly in the ground in late March to early April. Seeds may be also planted in the fall in warmer climates, or in containers in a cold frame in cold climates. Propagation by division may be done in the spring when plants are 3-5 inches high. Plants are dug up, divided into 3 or 4 clumps, and replanted. Dianthus grows best in well-drained, rich sandy loam, with full sun. The plant is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8.

When planting grown plants, the lowest leaves on the plant should not be buried, and when cultivating, care should be taken not to damage the feeder roots that lie close to the ground surface. Dianthus chinensis

Harvesting and Preparation

Dianthus is harvested in summer or fall when the flower bud is swollen and just about to open. The whole plant is then dried in the sun, or cut into pieces and then dried.


There are over 300 species of the genus Dianthus, many of which are cultivated in gardens for their pretty, highly fragrant flowers. The plants flower profusely and bloom over a long period of time in the summer.

Chinese pink, as D. chinensis is commonly called in English, is sometimes called “Shi Zhu” or “stone bamboo” in China, referring to the large bamboo-like nodes on its stems and because it is often planted in rock gardens. Dianthus chinensis is the usual species used medicinally, though Dianthus superbus can be used interchangeably and is more commonly available in the U.S.. The two species are very closely related and are both indigenous to mountainous regions of Asia. Many cultivars of these species can be found in garden nurseries.