How to plant carnations?




According to a Christian legend, Carnations first appeared on earth as Jesus carried the Cross. Carnations sprang up from where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell as she cried over her son’s plight. Miss. Anna Jarvis (The Founder of Mother’s Day) used Carnations at the first Mother’s Day celebration because Carnations were her mother’s favorite flower.

Of the several kinds of Carnations, the three most common are the annual carnations, border carnations and perpetual-flowering carnations.

Carnations are also commonly referred to by their scientific name, “Dianthus”, the name given by the Greek botanist Theopharastus. Carnations got the name Dianthus from two Greek Words – “dios”, referring to the god Zeus, and “anthos”, meaning flower. Carnations are thus known as the “The Flowers of God”.

Kingdom Plantae Division Magnoliophyta Class Magnoliopsida Order Caryophyllales Family Caryophyllaceae Genus Dianthus

Carnations – Meanings

Another reason why carnations have become popular is because they come in numerous colors and each color of carnation has a different meaning. Some of these meanings are listed below.

Carnations What they Mean
Carnations in general Fascination, Woman’s Love
Pink Carnations Mother’s Love
Light red Carnations Admiration
Dark red Carnations Deep Love and a Woman’s Affection
White Carnations Pure Love and Good Luck
Striped Carnations Regret, Refusal
Green Carnations St. Patrick’s Day
Purple Carnations Capriciousness
Yellow Carnation Disappointment, Dejection

It is a good idea to check the meaning of the particular color or type of carnation before you gift them to someone.

Some Interesting Facts about Carnations

  • Carnations express love, fascination and distinction.
  • Carnations are native to Eurasia.
  • Historically, Carnations are known to have been used for the first time by Greeks and Romans in garlands.
  • Carnations are exotic to Australia but have been grown commercially as a flower crop since 1954.
  • Carnation blooms last a long time even after they are cut.
  • Carnation flowers have become symbolic of mother’s love and also of Mother’s Day. Learn why you should select carnations as Mother’s day flowers.

About the Carnation Flower and Plant

The single flowers of the Carnations species, Dianthus caryophyllus have 5 petals and vary from white to pink to purple in color. Border Carnation cultivars may have double flowers with as many as 40 petals.

When grown in gardens, Carnations grow to between 6 and 8.5 cm in diameter. Petals on Carnations are generally clawed or serrated.

Carnations are bisexual flowers and bloom simply or in a branched or forked cluster. The stamens on Carnations can occur in one or two whorls, in equal number or twice the number of the petals.

The Carnation leaves are narrow and stalk less and their color varies from green to grey-blue or purple. Carnations grow big, full blooms on strong, straight stems.

Types of Carnations

Carnation cultivars are mainly of three types:

  • Large flowered Carnations – one large flower per stem.
  • Spray Carnations (Mini Carnations) – with lots of smaller flowers.
  • Dwarf flowered Carnations – several small flowers on one stem.

Growing Carnations

  • Carnations grow readily from cuttings made from the suckers that form around the base of the stem, the side shoots of the flowering stem, or the main shoots before they show flower-buds.
  • The cuttings from the base make the best plants in most cases.
  • These cuttings may be taken from a plant at any time through fall or winter, rooted in sand and potted up.
  • They may be put in pots until the planting out time in spring, which is usually in April or in any time when the ground is ready to be handled.
  • The soil should be deep, friable and sandy loam.

Learn more on Growing Carnations…

Carnation Plant Care

  • Carnations need some hours of full sun each day and should be kept moist.
  • Avoid over-watering as this may tend to turn the foliage yellow.
  • Spent flowers should be removed promptly to promote continued blooming.
  • The quality of the bloom depends on the soil and irrigation aspects for growing carnations.
  • Those who grow carnations should know the importance of pinching, stopping and disbudding.
  • At the time of plucking carnations, leave three to four nodes at the base and remove the stem.
  • The plant foliage should not be exposed to the direct heat of a stove or the sun.

It is always a good idea for both an avid gardener as well as a beginner to invest in a good book on gardening. To view books on Gardening online .

Carnations literally means the “Flowers of Gods.” Its three main types are differentiated by size but it also comes in hundreds of varieties.

Carnations literally means the “Flowers of Gods.” Its three main types are differentiated by size but it also comes in hundreds of varieties.

You can find carnations in various colors with each color bearing a special meaning fit for different occasions or symbolisms.

Three Main Types

First, below are the three main types of carnations.

Large flowers, with one big flower per stem.

Dwarf flowers, which is the smallest type of carnation.

Spray flowers, with several smaller flowers per stem.

Types of Carnations

Dianthus Caryophyllus – Carnation

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These are what people generally think of when they hear the term “carnation.” They are always in colors such as pink, red, white, or salmon, and they come with foliage that is greyish-green in color. Carnations love humid conditions and therefore, they do very well in the South and other parts of the country where the humidity level is high. Since this type of carnation has been cultivated extensively for the past 2,000 years, it is difficult to know where it came from, but most professionals think it came from the Mediterranean region. They perform better in full sun and soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline, and their varieties include:

    • Red Rocket.
    • Laced Romeo. Red fringed with white and grows up to 18 inches in height. They bloom from May to July and have colorful leaves. They do best in zones 5-8.
    • Gina Porto.
    • Salmon in color, this carnation grows to approximately 12 inches in height and blooms in May. It is deer-resistant and does great in zones 5-8.
    • Grenadin King of the Blacks. These carnations are deep purple-red and look like black velvet.
    • Vienna Mix. As the name suggests, these flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, and yellow.

Dianthus Barbatus – Sweet William

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This type of carnation will germinate and grow the first year you plant them. In the second year, they start to bloom, and you get new crops every year thanks to the fact that they easily reseed. One of the biggest advantages of the Sweet William carnation is that it grows in all conditions and therefore, people living in any part of the country can grow it. Sweet Williams are usually salmon, pink, white, or red, and they have an exceptional fragrance and aroma. Sweet William is native to certain parts of Asia and Southern Europe and is edible. It grows up to two feet in height and contains half-inch blossoms in clusters. It may have some medicinal purposes as well, and it attracts bees, butterflies, and birds. It usually consists of five petals that each has serrated edges. Its types include:

    • Dianthus Barbatus var. Barbatus. Originated in southern Europe and has very wide leaves.
    • Dianthus Barbatus var. Asiaticus. Originating in northeastern Asia, its leaves are very slender and narrow.
    • Dwarf plants. These are double-flowered plants that only grow so high. The Pinocchio variety grows only to 9 inches in height, and the Wee Willie grows to only 5 inches. These flowers can be bi-colored as well as red, pink, or white.
    • Tall types. These include the Giant Imperial, the Hollandia series, the Cinderella Mix, and the Amazon series. These can grow up to 3 feet in height and do best in zone 5.
    • Medium tall types. Included in this category are the Heart Attack, which has reddish-black flowers and grows up to one foot tall in zones 3-8; and the Sooty, which does best in zones 3-9 and has blooms that are dark chocolate and maroon, red stems, and green leaves that turn to mahogany at the beginning of the summer.
    • Interspecific crosses. Since the Dianthus species cross-pollinates easily, many new hybrids exist. The Dianthus Chinensis x Barbatus is a cross between the Chinese Pinks and the Sweet William. This flower, therefore, tolerates both heat and cold better than other varieties, and also produce more flowers. Moreover, the Ideal series has flowers reaching up to 10 inches and comes in 18 different colors.
    • Scarlett Beauty. They contain clusters of bright-red flowers and have an extraordinary aroma.

Dianthus Grataniapolitensis – Cheddar Pinks

Cheddar Pinks are perennial flowers and bloom in the summer time, showing off blooms that are a beautiful shade of pink and which are very fragrant. The Cheddar Pinks are often used as a groundcover, in part because they grow in a dense mat. They work best in zones 4-8, and they bloom from May to June. The flowers also grow best in full sunlight and get up to one foot in height. They are extremely fragrant and grow best when they are not over or under watered. Moreover, they do not tolerate very wet soil or cold soil, and they are a beautiful rose-pink in color. The Cheddar Pinks are also a protected species in the U.K. since 1975.

Dianthus Deltoides – Maiden Pinks

These carnations are either red or pink, and they also bloom during the summer months. They can be used as a groundcover and are considered short-term perennials. Native to western Asia and most of Europe, they are an introduced species in the United States. The Maiden Pinks have blooms that are loosely tufted and leaves that are narrow and very green. Its varieties include:

    • These contain beautiful green foliage and blooms that are white, pink, and rosy-red, with crimson rings around the center; they also have a wonderful fragrance.
    • Confetti White. Delicate and containing deep-green foliage, these flowers sparkle like diamonds after it rains.
    • Flashing Light. These flowers bloom their very first year and are ruby-red in color with dark-green leaves. Striking!
    • Arctic Fire. These have white blooms with pink-and-white centers surrounded by a bright ruby-red line. Heat tolerant and beautiful.

Dianthus Chinensis – Hardy Annual Dianthus

This is one type of carnation that actually performs poorly in hot and humid weather. They grow best in alkaline soil and if exposed to hot and humid weather, they will not last and will simply wither away and die. Blooming from spring time until the fall, the Hardy Annual Dianthus are usually white, red, or pink in color. Native to northern China, Mongolia, southeastern Russia, and Korea, they are also called China Pinks or Rainbow Pinks. They have green to greyish-green leaves and can be produced singly or in small clusters.

Dianthus Plumarius

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This carnation is a basic pink color and is actually very common and popular with carnation lovers. They grow up to 2 feet in height and usually include five pink petals that have fringed edges. They flower from May to August. They originated in Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria, but are now commonly found throughout states in the Midwest and the south, as well as the northeast.

Dianthus Armeria

Native to most of Europe, the Dianthus Armeria is a grassy-pink color and consists of five bright red petals in small clusters located at the top of the stems. They bloom from early to late summer and can even grow up to 12 inches in the wild, although they grow much higher when properly taken care of. Because of its basic color, this type of carnation is often used in gardens as an ornamental flower and to highlight other flowers.

Dianthus Pavonius

These carnations are peacock (dark) pink and short-stemmed, growing less than 10 inches high. The leaves are pointed and bluish-green in color, and the blooms are purple-pink and have centers that are either brown or blue. They flower from April to May and have fruit capsules containing several seeds that are brown and flat in nature. They are a very eye-catching and noticeable carnation.

Dianthus Seguieri

A beautiful shade of medium pink, its petals are wide and they almost look like they have only one. They can grow to almost 2 feet in height and have green leaflets and pink flowers with purple markings in the center. They flower from June to September and have capsuled fruit that contains several brown seeds. The flowers grow well in dry areas that are very low-lying.

Dianthus Superbus

This is a very popular type of carnation and can come with regular or fringed edges. It is available in red, white, or purple with a green center. If you deadhead the flower, you can extend its blooming period, and it has a very sweet scent, as well. Since it grows low to the ground, it is easy to enjoy the scent of the Dianthus Superbus, and the flower also contains sweet nectar. This is one flower that is edible if you boil it first, and the resulting tea is good for uses that include contraception, to ward off infections, and for diuretic purposes, to name a few. Anyone interested in learning more about its uses should do some research on the Internet to find additional information.

Carnation Meanings

  1. Light red – admiration.
  2. Dark red – love and affection.
  3. White – purity, luck, or love.
  4. Yellow – dejection or unhappiness.
  5. Pink – gratitude.
  6. Purple – capriciousness.
  7. Striped – refusal or regret.
  8. Green – St. Patrick’s Day.

Things You Never Knew about Carnations

1. The flower comes in numerous colors, including the multi-colored varieties that can have two or more colors. Many thousands of years ago, carnations were used to improve health and beauty, and today they are known for their medicinal and nutritional uses, as well.

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2. Carnations have been a symbol of love for many centuries. Even its scientific name, Dianthus, means “love.” At one time, if you sent a carnation it symbolized a certain message that required a response. According to custom, if a solid-colored carnation was sent back, it meant “yes;” if a striped carnation was sent, it meant “I can’t be with you right now;” and a yellow carnation meant “no.”

3. There are many health benefits of using carnations both internally and externally. Although studies still need to be performed to know more about their benefits and everyone is advised to see a doctor before using carnations, the flower has been known to help calm the nervous system, reduce muscle spasms, improve heart health, help in the production of sweat, and help with topical problems such as dry skin, rashes, and eczema. Carnations are even currently used in various skin care products, including creams, lotions, and perfumes.

4. In addition to physical problems, emotional challenges can be eliminated or reduced with the use of carnations. This includes a variety of nervous disorders, such as basic tension and nervousness, which is why the flower is often used in massage oils. In fact, their nerve-calming capabilities are impressive, although many of them are not yet backed up by science. Again, visiting a physician before trying anything with carnations in it is always highly recommended.

5. To reduce or eliminate physical and emotional symptoms, the carnation can be used in several ways, including:

    • In an essential oil, which you can often find online.
    • As a tea, most commonly made with a powder made of dried carnations; if you make the tea yourself, grind up the flowers and stems and place one teaspoon of the dried flowers in one cup of boiling water, then let it steep for five minutes before drinking it.

6. Many medical conditions have been shown to be relieved by using carnation, including inflammation, endometriosis, skin irritations, nausea, chest congestion, flu and cold symptoms, anxiety, PMS, diarrhea, sagging skin, and even depression.

7. You can also enjoy some culinary delights when you choose to cook with carnations. Before doing anything else, you need to be sure you remove the base of the petal, as it is extremely bitter when cooked. You can use the petals to liven up your pies, salads, and sandwiches, and if you crystallize the petals you can make cakes and pastries more dressy and more attractive.

8. Of course, as with many herbs and flowers, there are some contraindications that everyone needs to be aware of. The most important one is the fact that carnations can stimulate the uterus, which means lactating and pregnant women should never use it. Although no known drugs have been shown to interact negatively with carnations, it is still a good idea to check with your doctor if you are currently taking any prescriptions, just to make sure that you will be safe should you decide to consume or topically apply carnations.

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Tags: Flowers Categories: Gardens and Landscaping

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Flowers That Look Like Carnations

carnations on the street image by timur1970 from

Carnations are flowers about the size of small peaches with ruffle-edged petals packed tightly together. Carnations come in every color except blue. Carnations are perennials; plant them once in the garden and they’ll come back every year with the right care. If you love the look of carnations but would prefer other plants, don’t give up. There are many flowers that resemble carnations and will do well in your garden.


Dianthus, sometimes called pinks, look like miniature carnations. The flowers grow to only 1 inch across, and the plant grows only up to 18 inches. The entire plant will be covered with blooms. They’re called pinks because the edges of the petals look like they’ve been cut with pinking shears. Dianthus comes in red, pink, white and salmon. The petals are often tipped with a contrasting color. Dianthus likes a well-drained sunny location and slightly alkaline soil. The flowers have a spicy, pleasant scent.

Double Hibiscus

Most hibiscus are frost tender. They grow to 5 feet high and have rounded arrow-shaped leaves. Single hibiscus flowers are 3 to 5 inches across with five ruffled petals and a prominent yellow stamen in the center. Double hibiscus are smaller and the stamen isn’t visible. They look like huge carnations. The blossoms only last a day or two, and unlike carnations they close at night. Since they don’t last long, hibiscus flowers don’t make good flowers for bouquets.

Double Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks are a cottage garden flower and one of the tallest flowers around, up to 7 feet tall. The plant has large arrow-shaped leaves. The flower stalk has up to 50 flowers that bloom from the bottom of the stem up to the top. Hollyhocks will throw out side flower stalks that aren’t as tall as the center main stalk. Double hollyhocks flowers are not quite as big as double hibiscus. Hollyhocks will last as a cut flower if the stem is seared with an open flame. The flowers are pretty floating in a bowl of water.

Grandiflora Petunias

Petunias come in a myriad of shapes, flower types, colors and growth habits. Some varieties are edged in a contrasting color. Flower size ranges from 3/4 of an inch to 3 inches across. The ruffled double grandiflora petunias look like carnations. Petunias have a slightly sweet honey fragrance. They prefer well-drained soil in a sunny location. Most petunias are hybrids. If they go to seed, their offspring may not look like the parent plant. Keep the plant deadheaded and it will continue blooming profusely.

A cottage garden favorite, Dianthus is a genus of flowering plants in the family Caryophyllaceae. Of the 300 species, most are native to Europe and Asia, a few are indigenous to north Africa, and one alpine species is native to the arctic regions of North America.

Many are herbaceous perennials, but there are some hardy annuals and biennials available, and even a few that are classified as dwarf shrubs.

They feature narrow, linear leaves of a blue-green hue that appear opposite one another on narrow stems.

Flowers are typically made up of five petals, often with a frilled or zigzag edge, in hues of white or red tones that range from pale pink through to deep maroon. They are often two-toned.

Long-blooming from late spring until early autumn, their attractive mounding growth and pretty flowers are complemented by a heady fragrance of spicy sweetness that is reminiscent of cinnamon and cloves.

Photo by Allison Sidhu.

With so much to love, you’re probably eager to learn how to grow these beauties in the garden. Here’s what’s to come:

How to Grow Dianthus Flowers

  • Flower of the Gods
  • In the Garden
  • Propagation
  • Pests and Problems
  • Where to Buy
  • In the Pink

Let’s dig in!

Flower of the Gods

One of the earliest cultivated flowers, Dianthus species have been revered for centuries, and were common in the Greek and Roman eras. They were often featured in ornate friezes adorning buildings of importance, and were added to celebratory garlands.

The name is derived from a combination of the Greek words dios (god) and anthos (flower), or “flower of the gods.”

How they came to be so named is a bit murky, but there are a couple of viable tales to consider:

One myth holds that Diana, Greek goddess of the hunt, blamed a flute-playing shepherd for scaring away her prey. In a fit of pique, she plucked out his eyes, and where they fell, red carnations grew – symbolizing innocent blood.

In Christian mythology, it’s believed that carnations first bloomed along the Via Dolorosa where Mary’s tears fell as Jesus carried the cross to Golgotha – another reference to the symbolism of innocent blood.

Pinks and carnations have long been a cottage garden favorite, and are highly popular for use in rockeries. And thanks to their outstanding longevity when cut, and their gorgeous fragrance, they also make an outstanding cut flower for floral arrangements – and carnations are still the flower of choice for boutonnieres.

Pinks feature a zigzag petal edge. Photo by Lorna Kring.

With their many shades ranging from white to pink to red, it’s easy to see why D. plumarius picked up the moniker “pinks.”

As a side note, the verb “to pink” was popularized in the fifteenth century, and means “to finish an edge with a scalloped, notched, or other ornamental pattern.” As if they were trimmed with pinking shears, D. plumaris exhibits delicately notched petals, in addition to a rosy hue.

In the Garden

Hardiness varies between the species, ranging from Zones 3-9, but all are easily grown in the home garden.

If you’re not sure yours will survive the winter in your area, be sure to take some cuttings or start seedlings to overwinter until the next spring. (See Propagation notes below.)

Carnations grow to a height of 24 inches, sweet williams have an upright habit of up to 18 inches, and old-fashioned pinks form mounds that can reach 6-10 inches. Alpine pinks are the smallest, forming mats only 4-6 inches high.

Alpine pink Dianthus is perfect for rock gardens.

The short, mound-forming pinks make a striking accent at the front of borders, rockeries, and window boxes. Taller sweet williams and carnations can be placed further back in garden beds for an attractive second layer of color.

All like a full sun location where they receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day, and need well-drained soil. Adequate air circulation is also important.

Before planting, provide them with a rich soil that has 2-4 inches of well-rotted compost worked in to a depth of 12 inches, and reapply a top dressing of compost in spring.

Mound-forming pinks. Photo by Lorna Kring.

Water new plants weekly. They can be fertilized every 4-6 weeks with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer such as 20-10-20 during the growing season, or apply a slow-release pellet-form fertilizer in the spring.

Pinch or snip off dead flowers to prevent seed formation and encourage additional blooming. At the end of the growing season, cut flower stems back to the ground.

For winter protection, add a 4-inch layer of dry mulch after the first hard frost, and remove in spring once new growth begins.


Dianthus can be propagated from seeds started indoors, directly sown into the garden, or grown from stem cuttings.

To plant from seed, begin indoors 2-8 weeks prior to the last frost for your area. Plant in a light, loamy soil mix, sprinkling seeds over the top, and then covering with a light layer of soil.

D. gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch’ garden pinks.

Cover the container with a cloche or plastic bag to keep the soil moist and warm. Once seedlings have 2-3 leaves, move into their own pots. Transplant outdoors once they’re 4-5 inches high.

To direct sow outdoors, plant seeds to a depth of 1/8 inch once all danger of frost has passed. Keep the soil moist, and once they have 2-3 leaves, thin to 8-12 inches apart.

To start from stem cuttings, cut away several non-flowering stems from the parent plant just below a leaf joint.

Trim away the lower leaves, leaving 4-5 sets of leaves at the top of the stem. Dip the base into hormone rooting powder, and pot up around the perimeter of a container filled with a light potting soil.

Water, then place in a plastic bag, securing the top with a twist tie. Set in a sheltered spot in the garden that receives morning sunlight, but out of hot afternoon sun.

Stem cuttings should root in about 4-5 weeks. Remove the soil ball and gently separate the cuttings, then pot up into individual containers.

Overwinter in a sheltered spot that is protected them from frost and freezing temperatures. Plant out in spring once the soil warms up.

Pests and Problems

New species are bred for disease resistance, and are mostly problem-free.

They don’t like wet feet or damp, humid conditions. Cater to these needs, and they will be well prepared to combat attack.

An Aporia crataegi butterfly pollinates a D. barbatus flower.

Aphids sometimes feed on the stems and may be easily controlled with a sharp spray of water from a hose, or with ladybugs which serve as a natural predator.

Carnation flies sometimes lay their eggs on the foliage of carnations, burrowing into the leaves and creating pale “tunnels.” Companion planting with garlic or spraying with a garlic tea will eliminate flies and their larvae.

Rust can be prevented by providing adequate ventilation. Remove and dispose of any leaves infected with rusty or brownish marks on the leaves, or treat with an application of copper oxychloride. Infected plant matter should be thrown in the garbage, not added to the compost pile.

Powdery mildew forms on leaves in warm, humid conditions. Provide proper ventilation and destroy any affected plants, or treat with a benomyl fungicide.

Where to Buy

For long-stemmed carnations, ‘Cancan Scarlet’ is a good choice for the garden.

100 D. Caryophyllus ‘Cancan Scarlet’ Seeds

Hardy with a bold fragrance, seeds can be purchased online at True Leaf Market.

‘Telstar’ Dianthus Seeds, in Packages of 100 or 500

True Leaf also carries a selection hybrid Dianthus seeds, a cross between D. chinensis (China pink) and D. barbatus – try the dwarf ‘Telstar’ mixed series for continuous, colorful blooms all summer.

‘Coconut Surprise’ Live Plants in 4-Inch Pots

Or, try a 4-inch pot of ‘Coconut Surprise’ – a mid-sized sweet william with white petals and deep burgundy centers, available on from Hirt’s Gardens.

‘La France’ Carnation Seeds, available from Eden Brothers

A large variety of Dianthus seeds are also available from Eden Brothers.

‘King of Blacks’ Carnation Seeds, available from Eden Brothers

Try ‘La France’ carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Chabaud’) for a classic pink version, or ‘King of Blacks’ (Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin’) for an incredible deep purple.

‘Pink Beauty’ Sweet William Seeds, available from Eden Brothers

‘Pink Beauty’ sweet williams are another lovely option, with clusters of vibrant bubblegum-colored and sweet-smelling flowers.

In the Pink

Colorful, fragrant, and easy to grow Dianthus cultivars make a delightful addition to the garden or containers.

Give them lots of sunlight, good drainage, and plenty of fresh air for blooms and fragrance all summer.

Try a mix of pinks and sweet williams for borders and rockeries, and add in some carnations to bring indoors for floral arrangements.

Fragrant and pretty, for continuous blooms all summer long. Photo by Lorna Kring.

And be sure to read our article on globe thistle – another excellent cut flower that you’ll have fun growing at home!


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Photos by Lorna Kring and Allison Sidhu © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product photos via True Leaf Market, Eden Brothers, and Hirt’s Gardens. Uncredited photos: . With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

About Lorna Kring

A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

How To Grow Carnations

It is a tradition at the Oxford University to wear carnations during exams – white carnation to the first exam, red to the last and pink to every exam in between.

Carnations are easy to grow. Carnations grow 18″ to 24″ tall, and produce a spicy clove-like fragrance. There are over 300 species of Carnations, and hundreds more of hybrid varieties. Though each hybrid comes in a different color, white, pink and red are the most common ones.

Carnations come as annual, biennial and perennial varieties. Carnations can be planted in flowerbeds, borders, rock gardens and even containers like pots. Carnations will flower well into fall if they are guarded against harsh weather.

Carnations are one of the flowers with the longest vase-life, lasting up to 2-3 weeks. Though growing Carnations does not require much labor, some factors are to be considered while growing them.

Factors Influencing Growth of Carnations

Some of the main factors affecting the growth of Carnations are listed below:

  • Sunlight: Carnations need full sunlight, about 4-5 hours everyday.
  • Soil: Carnations thrive in fertile, well- drained, slightly alkaline (pH 6.75) soil.
  • Water: Carnations do not require much water, except in the hot months.You must be careful not to make the soil too wet which can produce yellow foliage.You must spray water on the plants instead of splashing.
  • Temperatures and Lighting: The optimum temperature for growing Carnations range from 50 – 59°F at daytime and 41- 46°F at night. The production and development of flower buds are improved under long-day conditions. Extended daylight at the level of 10w/m2 for at least two weeks after pinching. The extended day length will increase plant size.
  • Manure: Peat is an excellent organic matter that can be added when growing Carnations. Pulverized and decomposed pine bark and well-rotted cow manure also serve as good manure. A prior soil analysis may help in deciding the kind of manure. A soil rich in manure or well-fed with nitrogen is not suited to the carnation. It may cause heavy vegetative growth, fewer blooms or even lead to the splitting of the calyx (green cup-like structure that holds the petals).
  • Mulching: Mulching should not be done when growing Carnations. Sufficient air circulation around the stems is very necessary for their appropriate growth.They must be kept free from foliage moisture always.

Propagating Carnations

Carnations can be propagated by three ways:

  • By seeds: Seeds can be sowed, 1/8 inch deep in a well-drained mix.Space seeds 12″ apart. Make sure the compost is moist but not wet. Firm soil over seed and mist spray occasionally and keep it moist. The seeds will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks.
  • By cuttings: Cuttings taken from the terminal growth can also be used to propagate Carnations. The cuttings, varying from four to six inches long are taken and the basal leaves of at least two to three nodes are removed. The cuttings are then inserted in pure sand. The lower leaves must not touch the surface. Cuttings become ready for transplantation in 25 to 30 days.This method is preferably used in case of perennial Carnations.
  • By division: Carnations can also be grown by division through which we can rejuvenate older plants. Dig up an entire clump, and either pull it apart using your hands to separate the plant segments, or use two gardening forks inserted in the center of the clump, to gently pry the plant apart. Replant each new division as you would a new perennial or annual, and water it in very well.

Taking Care of Carnations

  • Insects and Diseases: Insect and disease problems are infrequent. If insect or disease problems occur, treat early with insecticides, repellents, or fungicide.
  • Supporting Tall Carnations: You need to know ahead how tall each variety will grow in order to provide the right kind of support. The support should be set in place soon after planting, or as the plants emerge from the ground in the spring, so the stems will remain up.

Gardening Tips For Growing Carnations

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Add Color And Scent To Your Garden With Beautiful Dianthus Varieties

These helpful tips will make growing Carnations super easy! Carnation flowers add long lasting color and beautiful scent to your garden. Dianthus are also great as cut flowers!

Carnation flowers, which are also known as Dianthus, are a popular choice for home gardens and professional horticulturists alike.

With more than 300 various dianthus carnation species from which to choose, as well as hundreds of lovely hybrids, it is a sure bet that you will find some that will work in your own garden.

Most of the Dianthus varieties will reach heights of 18-24 inches, but there are a few dwarf carnations that grow 9-12″ tall. Shades of pinks and purple, white and red flowers are the colors that are most commonly available and some heavily scented carnations have a intoxicating, spicy fragrance that is very appealing.

We love to grow the compact varieties in containers and window boxes around the patio. If you place them near your sitting area you can really enjoy their beautiful scent. They are a great perennial flower for container growing but they are also a great addition to flower beds and rockeries.

Photo: dick_pountain

Find a colorful selection of Carnations here

Carnation flowers are available as annuals, biennials or perennials. The choice is up to you and many gardeners have Dianthus beds that contain specimens of all of these varieties. Growing carnations lets you create a spectacular flower garden with a simple to maintain look that effortlessly changes from one year to the next.

There are few flowering plants that are as versatile and hardy as the dependable carnation flower.

You can use them as companion plants or main attractions; use them as the mainstay in a cutting garden, create borders with them, plant them in containers or even use them for colorful beauty in a rock garden setting.

Growing Carnations As Cut Flowers

Many types of carnations will provide you with lovely blooms beginning in the late spring and continuing well into the autumn months. Growing carnation flowers will enable you to always have available some of the most common additions for a fresh flower arrangement. They are a heavy favorite for use in any floral arrangement because of their outstanding beauty and long lived blooms.

With minimal care and water these cut flowers can be enjoyed for several weeks. Other flowers may wither, droop and shed their petals but you can count on the perky carnation to maintain its cheery disposition and appearance.

How To Grow Carnations

When planting carnations (or Dianthus) you should remember that they prefer full sunlight to partial shade. A minimum of 4-6 hours of sun is required for healthy blooms and foliage.

The soil should be well drained, fertile and tend toward a slightly alkaline pH level of 6.7-6.9. Do not plant these flowers in soil that is too rich and fertile, or too water absorbent. If the soil is too rich you will end up with lots of green leaves and very few blooms. Wet soil that drains poorly will create yellowed, discoloured leaves and can even kill the plant.

Photo: Valter Jacinto¦Portugal

Maintenance and Care

Once established a carnation can handle drought easily and you should take care not to water them too much which can cause yellowing of the leaves, root rot and blossom drop. A light spray of water onto the plant 2-3 times a week should be sufficient to meet the watering needs unless the weather is extremely hot and dry.

When you are trying to sprout carnation seeds remember that they will grow best when the temperatures are about 50-65 degrees F during the day and 40-50 degrees F at night. As these plants mature you will find them easier to do because then they are better able to handle warmer temperatures.

Deadheading spent blossoms and clipping fresh blossoms for use in cut flower arrangements should be done on a regular basis when growing carnations. This will help prevent mildew on the stem and leaves and it also encourages the plant to keep producing new blooms. Carnations are easy to deadhead with a finger pinch just beyond the junction of stem and flower. If you use shears always cut above or below one of the leaf nodes for maximum re-growth and flowering.

Find a colorful selection of Carnations for sale here

Pests and Diseases

Fungus, moulds and mildews can be problems for those gardeners who are busy growing dianthus and carnations. Make sure that you have enough room between each plant for proper air circulation which will help prevent moulds and mildew from attacking your lovely carnation flowers. There are few pests that will ever attack members of the Dianthus family which means that you do not have to worry about applying pesticides.

If you are one who wants to enjoy growing carnations this spring and summer you should keep all of these helpful tips in mind. Then you will be able to create a lovely garden where these flowers can assume a starring role.

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  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
  • When to plant: Spring or fall
  • Recommended varieties: Fruit Punch Cherry Vanilla, Fruit Punch Spiked Punch, Fruit Punch Classic Coral, EverLast Raspberry Cream, SuperTrouper White, Pink Kisses
  • Pests and diseases to watch out for: Spider mites, rust

How to Plant Carnations

Space plants about 6 to 12 inches apart. Dig a hole and keep the root ball level with the soil surface, pressing soil down firmly when you backfill around the plant. Add compost when planting, then mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water thoroughly.

Eddie Phan

How to Care for Carnations

These perennials aren’t super-fussy and come in a host of colors and sizes, ranging from creeping ground covers to taller types suitable for cutting. Your grandmother may have called some types “pinks” due to their fringed edges that appear to have been trimmed by pinking shears.

Divide the clumps every few years in the early spring to keep them strong; just use a hand spade to chunk off a piece along the edges and replant elsewhere. Feed in early spring with a balanced fertilizer. If the plants start to look scruffy, shear off the top one-third of leafy growth and spent flower stems to rejuvenate. Some types bloom again later in the season. Dianthus typically don’t like wet soils, so don’t drown them. Using drip irrigation or soaker hoses, instead of overhead watering, also may help prevent some fungal leaf diseases. Some tall varieties might need staked to keep them upright.

Are carnations difficult to grow?

Not especially. They can take cold temperatures, and some types stay green all winter in mild climates. Make sure to choose a type that is suited to your area’s USDA hardiness zone so it will come back next year.

Do you need to cut off the flowers after blooming?

Yes and no. Removing the spent flowers (called “deadheading”) will increase the number of flowers and encourage repeat blooms in some types, but it isn’t absolutely necessary.

GROWER TIP: “Plant fragrant carnations in containers near entry doors to add a welcoming spicy scent,” says Gary Vollmer, product and technical manager for Selecta North America. “They work nicely in combination pots or as a stand-alone plant.”

Arricca SanSone Arricca SanSone writes for,, Family Circle,, Cooking Light,, and many others.

Flower Care Guide: Carnation Bouquets

These days, carnations have lost much of their appeal.

Maybe it’s because they were the focus of the floral industry for so many years and wore out their welcome, like that overplayed pop song you liked so much. Or maybe it’s because they can be found at almost any local grocery store and are usually dyed tacky, unappealing colors that—if we’re being honest— look about as unnatural as the bleached blonde hair in your prom photo.

Whatever the case, we’re telling you now: don’t you dare sleep on carnations. Because, when done right, they have the potential to wow people with their beautiful, uniquely textured, and bright-colored petals.

Don’t just take our word for it. Martha Stewart, dubbed the “Coolest Lady on the Planet” by BuzzFeed (we agree!), is also a self-professed carnation fangirl. We don’t take words of wisdom from the ultimate homemaker with a grain of salt, and neither should you.

Carnation Symbolism

Like any good character (or flower), carnations have a killer backstory. Their proper name, Dianthus caryophyllus (try saying that three times fast), means“flower of the gods”, and they were often used in Greek and Roman ceremonial crowns. On top of that, it’s said that the Virgin Mary’s tears sprouted from the earth as carnations as she watched Jesus carry the cross.

Since the start of the 20th century, pink carnations have become the official flower of Mother’s Day. On top of symbolizing a mother’s love, these gorgeous flowers also represent fascination, admiration, and good fortune. And their natural colors range from pink and light-red to green, purple, and yellow, meaning you don’t need to make a beeline for the food dye aisle to find a nicely colored carnation.

On top of that, each different colored carnation carries its own unique symbolism and meanings. From Mother’s Day carnations to light red dianthus, here’s more symbolism information about carnations:

  • White carnations represent purity and luck
  • Purple carnations are associated with capriciousness
  • Pink carnations, also called Mother’s Day carnations, represent gratitude
  • Yellow dianthus symbolize disappointment
  • Dark red carnations symbolize love, passion, and affection
  • Light red dianthus caryophyllus symbolize admiration

When it comes down to it, carnations are a sweetly fragrant, versatile, and visually appealing flower. With that being said, we hope you’re on board and want to grab a carnation Bouq for yourself or for that special someone in your life. But before you do, we’re going to give you the lowdown on how to care for carnations so they’ll stay looking fresh and stunning for up to three weeks. You have our word!

Get Those Beauts in a Vase

So, you bought some carnations, or if you’re a lucky girl, were gifted some, and now it’s time to find them the perfect home. When it comes to proper carnation care, it starts with the vase. Here are the very first steps in proper dianthus care:

  • Find a very clean vase (the cleanest one you can get your hands on.)
  • Hold each carnation next to the vase to determine how much of the stems to remove.
  • Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle so it’s easier for the flowers to absorb water and stay healthy.
  • When cutting stems, cut them under water–this helps prevent nasty air bubbles.
  • Don’t forget to drop the included flower food in your vase of carnations. C’est tres important!

Additionally, to extend your carnations’ lifespan even more, you’ll want to recut the stems each time you change the water and get rid of any leaves that dwell under the waterline.

Lastly, whatever you do, don’t put your carnations in an area that has abnormal heat sources, direct sunlight, cold drafts, ripening fruits, or near other wilting plants because well…science. You don’t want your carnation bouquet going to flower heaven before it’s lived a long and fulfilled life, now do you?

Add H2O, But Only the Right Amount

Carnations love, love, love water, but don’t give them too much—one to two inches is best, or three to four at max. This will prevent stem rot, which carnations are extremely susceptible to. Here are some more water-related carnation care tips:

  • Give your carnations room-temperature water to sip on—it’s easier for them to absorb.
  • Never use hard or softened water. Both contain minerals that could be harmful to your carnations health.
  • Change the water at least every two days, and remember to re-cut your stems each time you do.

Furthermore, to fight off pesky bacteria, add 1/4 tablespoon of household bleach per quart of water in the vase. If you don’t add an antibacterial agent, your carnations’ stems run the risk of being clogged which will can make it impossible for them to absorb the water they need to survive. Also, if you want to go the extra mile during your routine carnation care, you can use lemon juice or an aspirin tablet as an acidifier. This will help maintain a healthy pH level and destroy any harmful fungi running amok. Two tablespoons should do the trick.

Finally, you should use one tablespoon of sugar to keep your carnations feeling in tip-top shape as it’s similar to the natural nutrients flowers consume from the soil. Besides, natural remedies are the best remedies, just ask Gwyneth Paltrow.

Recondition Every 2-3 Days

So, are your healthy carnations in a vase with clean water looking all kinds of pretty? Great work! But don’t stop there.

If you want your carnations to live a long and happy life, you should share the occasional moments of love and affection with them, meaning you should re-cut their stems, change their water, and give them nutrients every two or three days. They’ll need it to stay at peak cuteness levels. While you’re at it, tell them how much you love them–some studies show that plants respond to sound.

So there you have it: everything you need to know about carnations, specifically how to care for carnations. As you can see, it’s not rocket science and doesn’t require a sophisticated pantsuit—just a couple minutes of your day and some good information. With proper carnation care, you’ll no doubt see why carnations are making a comeback.

Heck, who doesn’t want an eye-catching Bouq of “flowers of the gods” sprucing up their home? Grab an artisan, handcrafted carnation Bouq for your loved one (or yourself)! We’re absolutely positive you’ll love them—just don’t forget to give them some much-deserved TLC.

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