Versatile and long-lasting as cut flowers, carnations have much to offer in the garden, too. Learn about growing methods, varieties, and maintenance.
Dianthus caryophyllus, commonly called carnations, have been recognised as a symbol of love and affection for centuries. They are a favourite flower of florists because of their longevity in the vase, and gardeners love them for their sweet, sometimes spicy scent. Beyond bouquets, they often enhance beauty products and can even be brewed into a tea.
Would you love to grow carnations in your garden or backyard? Here’s everything you need to know to get started, plus some maintenance tips to help ensure your success.
Types of Carnations You Can Grow at Home
Carnations come in a wide assortment of colours and styles. You can also choose from annual, biennial, perennial varieties, depending on your preference and growing space. They are also extremely adaptable and can be grown in containers, raised beds, or in the ground.
There are three types of carnations for home growers: dwarf flowered varieties, spray varieties, and large-flowered carnations. Florists tend to prefer the large, flowered type, which grows on long straight stems. Dwarf and spray types usually have multiple small blooms on branching stems. All three types can be grown at home, but the smaller varieties are usually the most popular.
Nowadays with the use of various artificial technology and vertical farming techniques people can grow carnations in abundance in smaller spaces for commercial purposes as well as offering scalable production with low maintenance.
Best Growing Conditions for Carnations
Set aside a space in your garden that gets at least four to six hours of sunlight per day. Carnations prefer sun over shade, and they need soil that drains well. Without proper drainage, they won’t bloom well.
Slightly alkaline soil is best for carnations, and it shouldn’t be too rich in nitrogen. Carnations also perform best when temperatures are at least 60 to 65 degrees in the daytime and 50 degrees at night.
When to Plant Your Carnations
Perennial carnations should be planted from seed in the late fall or early spring. If you are growing your carnations from cuttings, plan on having your cutting ready to set out right after your last spring frost. If you are dividing mature plants, that should be late in the fall.
When it comes to growing annual carnations from seed, you can start them indoors about eight weeks before your last frost date for earlier blooms. Or you can simply plant the seeds directly in the garden about two weeks before your last frost.
- Growing Carnations from Seed
Carnation seeds can be planted right where they’re going to grow. Plant the seeds about 1/8th of an inch deep in soil that has good drainage. Allow about twelve inches between each seed and be careful not to overwater. The soil should be kept moist, but not wet. It takes about two to three weeks for carnation seeds to germinate.
- Growing Carnations from Cuttings
Growing carnations from cuttings is probably the easiest way to get started, and it’s the method most professional growers use. With the help of agriculture technology, thousands of carnation cuttings can be grown into starter plants and transplanted into the field in record time.
To mimic this method at home, take a four-to-six-inch cutting from the flowering end of the stem. Insert your cutting into sterile sand and keep it moist for about a month. When roots form, your new little plant is ready to be transplanted in its permanent growing location.
- Growing Carnations from Division
If you have a perennial carnation plant that has gotten quite large or needs reviving, you can divide the plant into segments to create multiple plants. Simply dig up the entire plant, retaining as many roots as possible. Pull apart the plant segments gently with your hands and replant the segments in the same way you would a new plant. Do this every few years to keep perennial carnations thriving and healthy.
Maintenance Tips for Growing Carnations at Home
Carnations are surprisingly easy to care for. Once you have an established plant, their upkeep is minimal, and you can expect cut stems to last in the vase for two weeks or more.
- Be sure your carnations are getting 4 to 6 hours of sunlight every day to promote blooms.
- Watch for signs of overwatering, such as yellowing of the leaves and foliage. Two or three waterings per week is usually plenty for carnations.
- Remove dead foliage and flowers to promote reblooming through the entire growing season.
- Carnations require lots of air circulation, so avoid mulching and ensure there’s plenty of room for airflow between the plants. These steps will prevent issues with mildew, fungus, and mold on your plants and blooms.
- There’s no need to use pesticides as these plants aren’t usually bothered by bugs.
- If you are planting tall carnation varieties, be sure to provide some support, such as stakes, so they don’t fall over as the stem grows.
- A light application of compost in the spring and again midway through the growing season is usually the only fertilizer carnations need.
Wrapping Things Up: Caring for Cut Carnations
Beyond adding beauty to your garden, cut carnations can be brought indoors and added to floral arrangements throughout the summer. They have beautiful long stems that are incredibly versatile for arranging on their own or with other flowers.
Carnations have one of the most extended vase lives of any cut flower. Be sure to cut the stems at a 45-degree angle right before arranging in room temperature water that’s about 2 to 3 inches deep. Keep the vase in a cool area away from drafts and direct sun.
Planting perennial carnations in your garden or backyard can reward you with years of beauty indoors and out.