Pinks are easy to grow. They need a well-drained soil and an open, sunny situation. Both are essential: even partial shade from overhanging shrubs or other perennials will reduce flowering and in a wet soil the plants will rot. Heavy clay soils should be improved by adding lots of horticultural grit. Don’t be tempted to use an organic mulch to feed pinks, as its moisture content can cause the plant to rot. By the end of summer plants can become straggly and mess, although this can be avoided by deadheading hard as the flowers fade throughout the summer, it is also a good idea to cut them back by about a third at the end of the season. I do mine in early September.
Pinks are not long-lived and after a few years plants become woody and sprawling. When that happens, dig them up and plant new ones. Some modern hybrids that are marketed as long-flowering or even perpetual flowering tend to need replacing more often, usually after just two years.
Pinks work well in pots, using a John Innes No. 2 loambased compost, mixed half-and-half with horticultural grit. They are among the easiest plants to propagate. Cuttings, taken between June and September will root quickly and make strong plants the following year. To take cuttings, known as pipings, firmly hold a non-flowering shoot in one hand just below a leaf node and pull the rest of the stem sharply with the other hand. Remove the lower leaves and you have a cutting. I learned from Mark Trenear that soaking the pipings in water overnight produces successful cuttings. Pot them into a cuttings compost, inserting them around the edge of the pot. I find that loam-based composts are more reliable than coir or peat-based ones. Keep in a shady place outdoors, in a cold frame or a cool greenhouse that is shaded from direct sunlight. After three or four weeks the pipings should be rooted and can be repotted on in 9cm pots of potting compost and grown on until the following spring.