How to Grow Carnations and Some More Tips on How to Care for Them

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Are you looking for a flower variety that will last for more seasons without planting it again? If you want something that looks good both in the garden, but also as a cut flower, then carnations are the right choice for you. These blooms come in a variety of colors and are perfect both as borders for other plants or as individual plantations. Here is a short guide on how to grow carnations and turn your garden into a colorful fairytale.

Carnations of all colors in a vase
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A Brief History of the Carnation

Carnations are native both to Asia and to Europe and are well-known for being the wreath flowers in the Greek and Roman culture. In fact, their symbolism is much stronger, as their name translates as the “flower of the gods”.

They came to the United States in 1852 on a French ship that transported flowers. This is how the carnation became popular as a cut flower, so Americans started growing it as well. They quickly discovered it was perennial, so it required less effort. Therefore, they also discovered it grew perfectly well as borders between other flowers.

What to Know Before Planting

If you have decided upon carnations for your garden, make sure you know all the tricks that will keep your plants sturdy and healthy. Before learning how to grow carnations, you’ll need to take care of a few details. Making sure your soil is good for the planting, as well as choosing the perfect spot and moment of planting are essential for a successful growing attempt.

Choose the Soil

Carnations need a soil with good draining, so make sure your garden has such properties. If not, you can add some sand and turn it into loam, so that you will avoid soaking. Also, the plant needs a rich soil to grow healthy. In case your soil is not rich in nutrients, you need to get it ready for the planting.

A few weeks before the operation, mix the area you will use for planting with some manure and a layer of compost. Mix the holes you’ll prepare for the carnations with the organic mixture, and then cover the seed with the same mix.

Mend the Soil pH

Learning how to grow carnations also means learning what soil they need. They grow the best in an alkaline environment, with a pH ranging from 6.6 to 7.8. If you need to increase the pH of your soil, mix some lime in it. In case it needs some decreasing, add some sulfur.

Choose the Spot

Carnations achieve their best bushiest state if they get full sunlight. They need it for about 4 or 5 hours during the day. The ideal place would be somewhere they get full light during morning hours. If your area is a hot one and summers are too harsh, you will need some shade for the carnations during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

Also, to reduce the risks of getting the plants sick, make sure the spot allows for a good air circulation. If your plants don’t get aerated enough, their roots might start rotting, or they might develop fungi and other diseases.

Red carnation with full petals
Image source: Pixabay

Choose the Right Moment for Planting

An important part of learning how to grow carnations is finding out about all the methods of planting. Therefore, the ideal moment to plant the flowers depends on how you are going to do it. You can sow carnation seeds once it’s warm enough outside. This means around May when you no longer risk being surprised by some sudden frost.

If you choose to start your seeds indoors and then transplant them, you can do it ten weeks before the last frost date. Then, once the last frost is gone, you can start the planting.

How to Grow Carnations

Now, it’s time to choose your preferred method of planting. You can start the plants from seed either directly outside, or indoors when it’s still too cold. These methods are almost identical. The main difference is the moment of planting and the fact that the latter will need transplanting.

If you like, you can breed them as potted plants as well. However, carnations get pretty tall, reaching even 24 inches in height. If you want to keep them in pots, make sure you pick a smaller variety. The next available method of planting is by using cuttings, or by dividing individual carnations from a bush.

Learning how to grow carnations implies being familiar with all these methods, so here is how to do all the plantings.

Starting the Carnations from Seeds

After you have made sure your soil is rich enough for the carnations, you can start making the holes. Dig holes of 1/4 or 1/8 inches at a spacing of 12 inches from each other. Then, add the seeds and cover them with the mixture you have prepared for the soil. The organic mixture solution applies only to a soil that is poor in nutrients. If it’s not, you no longer need some extra compost and manure.

After you have pressed the soil firmly over the seeds, you can apply some water with a spray. Overwatering might prevent the carnations from growing, but the soil still needs a little moisture for the plants to grow. This will kickstart the germination, and in two or three weeks you’ll see the first sprouts.

In case you have started the seeds indoors, transplant them outside when the soil is workable and the threat of frost is gone. This means you’ll have to water the plants from time to time and avoid soaking the soil and threatening the roots.

Growing Carnations from Cuttings

If you are not patient enough to sow seeds, you can start a carnation plantation from individual flowers. Choose a healthy flower, and cut a few tips from it that have at least two or three leaf nodes. Also, make sure you make the cut right under such a node. One half of this stem will go in the ground, so cut the leaves from it. The other half will stay above the ground, so the leaves will allow a more rapid growth.

These stems need to develop roots before planting in the soil, so they will need a container. Pour some sand into this container, then add some water to make it moist. Insert about half of the stem in the sand. Of course, you need to pick that half where the leaves have already been cut. If any other leaves from the top half touch the sand, cut them as well.

This sand will need to stay moist, so spray some water on it every day. Keep the container in a place where it gets plenty of indirect light. This way, it will start developing roots, and you can move it in a different container or in the garden.

Moondust purple carnation
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Dividing Carnations

This method is great if you already have some carnations in your garden that have grown in compact bushes. Find such a clump of more carnations, and dig it up. Then, use some gardening tools to split each individual carnation from each other.

Be careful not to damage any of the roots or stems, as these flowers will no longer be able to grow on their own. Once you’ve done the splitting, you can plant each carnation in a rich soil with great draining properties.

How to Take Care of Carnations

To keep your carnations healthy and in bloom, you need to make sure they get all the water and fertilizer they need. These flowers are relatively low maintenance, so you won’t need to worry they won’t grow properly.


Carnations need plenty of water only when during the warm season when it might get too hot outside. During these moments, make sure you water them regularly. When temperatures are normal, you only need to keep the soil moist. Instead of splashing water over them, spray it gently over the plants.


To keep the plants sturdy, you only need to regularly add some manure or other organic matter. Any kind of decomposing matter will keep the soil well fed and will assure the growth of the plant. Make sure you don’t add too much nitrogen to the soil, as it will prevent the flowers from growing properly.

Pests and Diseases

Carnations aren’t victims of too many vulnerabilities. As long as you keep the air circulating around the plants, they should catch no disease. In case some insects start attacking your blooms, you can apply a mild insecticide and other popular insect repellents.


If you are growing a tall variety, your carnations will need a little support to avoid breakage. Therefore, insert a stake near all the flowers even before they start growing. This way, they’ll get the support they need as soon as they reach maturity, and won’t suffer a premature death.

Turkish pink carnations in a garden
Image source:

Summing Up

You have a few things to pay attention to if you want to learn how to grow carnations. The plants are relatively easy to grow and tend to, and they will raise no difficulties. Carnations can serve either as cut flowers or as colorful borders for other plants, and decorate your garden with bright shades and nice petals with a great aesthetic effect.

Image source: Flickr

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