Carnations: Plant Care and Complete Growing Guide

Carnations Flowers, often known as the (Dianthus caryophyllus), is a perennial plant that is planted for its cut bloom. Who among us hasn’t received a bouquet, boutonniere, or corsage made with carnations? As a kind of dianthus, carnation plants are sometimes referred to as pinks because of the spectrum of natural colors they exhibit, which include pink, white, coral, and red. For holidays, white carnations are often colored in different colors (e.g., pastel colors for Easter, and green for Saint Patrick’s Day).

True carnations are recognizable by their ruffled look, which makes them stand out in floral arrangements, and by their spicy, slightly clove-like aroma, which is adored by many. Plant them a few weeks after the last frost in the early spring, in April or May. In six weeks, you might be lucky and see a blossom, but more often than not, these plants don’t flower, so patience is essential. Remember that carnations have a minor toxicological effect on animals.

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Common Name Carnation, pinks
Botanical Name Dianthus caryophyllus
Family Caryophyllaceae
Plant Type Perennial
Mature Size 6-24 in. tall, 10-14 in. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White, pink, red
Hardiness Zones 7-10 (USDA)
Native Areas Europe
Toxicity Toxic to animals

Carnation Meaning and Symbolism

Based on its mention in Greek writings, the dianthus has been commonly cultivated for over two millennia. Although its exact origin is unknown, some botanists speculate that it may have started in the Mediterranean. The Greek language defines dianthus as a “divine flower,” and the Latin language defines “carnation” as a “crown” or “garland.”

Carnations have always been associated with passion, individuality, and love—especially maternal love. The flower’s deep affinity with motherhood can be attributed to its association with the tears shed by the Virgin Mary in Christian tradition.

Carnation Care

Dianthus carophyllus is not as cold-resistant as other dianthus types, doing best in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 10. Even though dianthus are frequently seen of as short-lived perennials, they can provide years of beauty and scent under the correct conditions.

Carnations are a lovely addition to a cottage garden because of their vivid colors. Deadheading them after their first bloom helps assure reblooming later in the season, and is an easy seasonal care practice. They thrive without mulch, but if you must use it, use natural mulch rather than one that has been dyed. Like all dianthus, carnations are resistant to deer, while rabbits might like to nibble on the foliage.


Carnations thrive in full sun, although they may also tolerate some partial shade. Brightly colored carnations may fade in the face of too much midday sun. If you can, plant your carnations where they will receive early sun to preserve the vibrancy of the colors and the fresh appearance of the blooms.


Alkaline soil, sometimes called “sweet” soil, and good drainage is essential for carnations. Calcium, magnesium, and salt concentrations are generally marginally greater in alkaline soil. When planting carnations, a small amount of lime will help them get off to a good start if your soil has an acidic tendency.


Dianthus carophyllus can withstand some drought, but during the spring when their flower buds are growing, they require continuous irrigation. They might need to drink more water in the summertime when it’s dry outside. Water near the plant’s base. But take care not to overwater; otherwise, the flower petals may break off and the foliage may turn yellow.

Temperature and Humidity

Carnations prefer a warm environment, but intense heat will cause them to wilt. The ideal humidity for them is low. But in extremely hot weather, a little mist of cool water every now and then might help relieve some of their heat.


A tiny bit of slow-release fertilizer can be beneficial for carnations that are just starting to grow. The plant may burn from fertilizer applied quickly. The carnation’s roots may shrivel as a result of overfertilization, which could create the ideal environment for root rot.

Types of Carnations

Large-flowered carnations, sometimes referred to as standard carnations, dwarf-flowered carnations, and spray or miniature carnations are the three main varieties of carnations that are accessible to home growers. Out of the thousands of variants available, the following cultivars represent a very small sample.

Chabaud carnations: Numerous varieties of these huge standard carnations are available, such as “Jeanne Dionis” (white), “Benigna” (picotee white-edged with magenta), “Aurora” (ranging from medium to dark pink), “Orange Sherbet” (warm, deep coral), and “La France” (traditional pale pink).

Spray carnations: “Elegance” (pink with white edges), “Exquisite” (purple with white edges), and “Rony” (scarlet red) are some of these cultivars.

Full double-petaled carnation: “Appleblossom Burst” (pink with deep red centers), “Double Bubble” (bright bubble gum pink), “Grace Bay” (cream flower heads rimmed in magenta), and “Rosy Cheeks” (medium pink with orange centers) are some great smaller types with full double-petaled flowers.

How to Grow Carnations in the Garden?

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When to Plant Carnations

Make sure the cultivars you choose for your carnation planting from seed are appropriate for the growing zone. A sunny window is a good place to start them indoors, six to eight weeks ahead of your area’s last frost date. After the frost season is over, you can still sow carnations outside, though it’s unlikely they’ll bloom the first year. Make sure they will survive the winter as a perennial by doing this only if your growing zone is at least USDA 6.

How to Plant Carnations?

Plant them in potting soil, and softly cover them with earth after scattering seeds over the surface. To produce a greenhouse effect, keep them damp with a mist sprayer and lightly cover the planting container with plastic. In three days, seedlings should begin to sprout. When two or three leaves appear, place them in individual pots and wait until they are at least 4 to 5 inches tall before moving them outside after the risk of frost has passed.

Propagating Carnations

There are two alternative ways to produce carnations besides starting from seed. Grow them from division or cuttings.

How to propagate carnations from cuttings

Most professional carnation growers start with cuttings when growing carnations. Cuttings from terminal flowers—flowers that grow at the end of a sprout rather than where the stem and branch meet—are used to do this. There should be 4 to 6 inches in these cuttings. They must be placed in pure sand for the propagation process, and after 25 to 30 days, they will be prepared for transplantation.

How to propagate carnations with division

By dividing them, you may easily tidy up straggling, elderly carnation plants in your landscape. Reviving and maintaining the health of the plants can be achieved by dividing them every two to three years. Execute the subsequent actions:

  • Pull a bunch of carnations out of the earth.
  • To get a few carnation pieces, carefully separate the plant with your hands, taking care not to tear apart the roots.
  • Examine the roots for any decay that requires snippers to be cleaned.
  • Plant the segments again in a sunny location and give them plenty of water.

Potting and Repotting Carnations

On a terrace, potted carnations might look lovely and soft. Select pots with holes for drainage made of any material. Make sure the pot is big enough—an 8-inch pot would work well, or go one size larger than the pot the plant is now in. Carnations that require rejuvenation or are root-bound should be removed from their old container. Remove any old dirt from the roots and use a sterilized cutting tool to look for any rotting roots that can be cut out. Repot the carnation into a container with high-quality potting mix and water thoroughly, being careful not to overwater or wet the soil.


Carnations can withstand harsh winters because they are sturdy plants. Before winter arrives, trim the plants to a few inches above the ground to ensure their survival.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Pests like aphids, spider mites, and cutworms can harm carnations. Aphids and spider mites can be managed with insecticidal soap. Although eliminating cutworms is a bit more difficult, you can attempt physical removal or use collars to protect your plants.

Fungal diseases like leaf spot, rust, and botrytis flower rot can affect carnations. Bacterial wilt (oozing symptoms) and vascular wilt (discoloration) can also affect the plant.

How to Get Carnations to Bloom

Plant ruffle-edged carnation flowers where they will get at least six hours of sun per day for maximum bloom production. In order to bloom, carnations need well-draining soil; otherwise, they can seem discolored.

Carnation buds can occasionally be tight or partially closed. The simplest techniques for cutting carnations or carnations in a container are these two. The flower head of an older carnation can be used to gently brush open a bud that is resistant to opening; this will encourage the bloom to open. To encourage the flower to “bloom,” brush from its center to its periphery. Squeeze the bud lightly at its base if it appears to be ready to open but is closed. This will assist release any tension and may give the bud a little push to bloom.

Common Problems With Carnation

Dianthus are not too difficult to grow and maintain. However, you might encounter a few issues along the road, such as the following:

Brown Blooms and/or Leaves

The plants are afflicted with botrytis blossom rot if portions of the flower are turning brown and feel papery to the touch. Browning and leaf curl may also be caused by rust and leaf spots. In each of these situations, get rid of the decayed sections and avoid watering plants from above to prevent getting too much water on the buds and leaves. To enhance air circulation, place the plants apart.

Yellowing Leaves

Examine the underside of the leaves for spider mites and their tiny webs if the leaves are turning an extremely pale yellow color. To manage the problem, apply soap that kills insects. The yellowing of the leaves could also be due to aphids.

Holes in Buds

Cutworms most likely made the holes in the buds by feeding on them. Plants will require protection in the future, or insecticides as a last resort.

Wilting and Split Stems

The plants may have contracted bacterial wilt, a disease that more easily affects younger plants. To stop the disease from spreading, cut away any affected areas using a thoroughly sterilized cutting tool. Going forward, water with caution to avoid splashing leaves or buds. Wilting due to root rot can also result in yellowing leaves and eventually, the plant’s demise.

Also Read: Grandiflora Rose: A Guide to Plant, Care And Growing

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