How to Grow Carnation Flowers

carnation flowers in bloom

By Jennifer Poindexter

Do specific flowers remind you of certain people or places? My sister loves tulips and carnations. Every time I see a bouquet of either, she crosses my mind.

Whether you’d like to plant flowers to keep good thoughts in the front of your mind, or you’d just like to add a splash of beauty to your landscape, carnations could be a great choice.

I’m going to walk you through how you can plant, grow, care, and protect your carnations. If you’re interested, here’s all you should know to grow carnations successfully:

Growing Conditions for Carnations

Carnations have a few specific requirements when it comes to where they grow best. Begin by deciding if you’re growing an annual or perennial variety of the plant.

If you choose an annual variety, you can place them in a planter, hanging basket, or in the ground. With perennial varieties, you should ensure you’re planting the carnations where they won’t be disturbed.

This could be a perennial garden bed or a large planter for container gardening. The main thing is to ensure the carnations have room to grow and thrive. Carnations are hardy in planting zones three through nine.

Wherever you decide to plant carnations, they need approximately six hours of full sun. They must be planted in well-draining soil that is well amended with nutrients.

Be mindful that the soil isn’t too nutrient dense as this can negatively impact the color of the blooms. Also, note that carnations bloom when the temperatures are between 50- and 65-degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

If you provide these basic needs for your carnations’ grow area, you’re giving them the best chance to thrive and produce a multitude of beauty for your landscape.

How to Plant Carnations

There are numerous ways to plant and grow carnations. It is important to understand the different timings for each grow method and how to perform each method as well.

If you’re growing a perennial variety of carnations from seed, plant them in the fall and early spring. If you’re growing carnations from cuttings, plant in later spring or early summer.

For dividing and transplanting established carnation plants, do this in late fall. For annual seeds, you may start them during early spring in a greenhouse. For direct sowing annual seeds, plant in late spring.

To grow carnations from seed, you can start them indoors or direct sow. When starting indoors, begin the process two months before the final frost date.

Plant the seeds in grow trays in well-draining soil. Ensure the seeds are only planted 1/8 of an inch deep and are lightly covered with dirt.

You can care for the seeds indoors by lightly watering them twice a week during the germination and early seedling stage. Be mindful that the soil dries completely between watering sessions because it’s easy to drown carnations during this stage.

Depending upon how you handle this step in the process will determine how long germination takes. If you leave the plants indoors under typical circumstances, germination takes approximately three weeks.

However, if you place the grow tray inside a clear plastic bag to create a DIY greenhouse setting, germination could occur within a couple of days from planting. This is about your preference.

Once the seeds have sprouted, wait for them to develop three leaves each. When this happens, they’re ready to be placed in their own grow container.

When the plants have reached approximately a ½ foot in height, they’re ready to be moved outdoors to their permanent grow location.

If you choose to skip all the indoor fuss and direct sow the seeds, plant outdoors in a sunny location with well-draining soil after frost is over.

Plant the seeds and thin them to one foot apart once the seedlings have developed. Whether transplanting outdoors or direct sowing, ensure all carnations are spaced with a foot between each plant, once established, to ensure proper air flow around the plants.

The next method to growing carnations is from cuttings. When looking at your carnation plant, you may notice that sometimes a shoot branches off from the main stem of the plant.

Cut this shoot off and ensure the cutting is a ½ foot long. Place the cutting in sand and leave it for one month.

At the end of the month, the cutting should have roots and be ready for transplant.

The final method for growing carnations is from division. When established carnation plants become old and dull, it’s a sign they need to be split.

Retrieve the large root system beneath the plant by digging with a shovel. Once the entire plant is up, use a small spade or your hand, depending upon how tough the roots are, to divide the large plant into multiple smaller plants.

Replant each newly divided plant into a sunny, well-draining location. You’ll need to divide perennial carnations once every few years to keep them healthy and vibrant.

There are multiple ways and times to start growing carnations around your home. Pick the method which works best for you and try your hand at growing these gorgeous blooms.

Caring for Carnations

Carnations are simple to care for. Ensure they have an appropriate amount of water. I recommend using the deep watering method to avoid overwatering.

Water your carnations for longer periods two times per week to water down to the roots. This method will help you avoid applying too much water.

If the blooms or leaves become yellow, you’ll know you’re overwatering and should back down on how much is being applied.

Next, deadhead the blooms of your carnations. When they begin to die off, pull them away from the plant, and this should encourage new growth to occur.

Be sure not to mulch around your carnations. It can help with retaining moisture and keeping weeds down.

However, carnations are very susceptible to different fungal diseases which are sparked by too much water and poor airflow around the plant.

It’s better to water consistently and pull a few weeds than cause your carnations to become ill with mulch.

Add a slow-release fertilizer to your carnations every two months. This will help provide the nutrients your flowers need to produce gorgeous blooms. If you’re growing taller carnation varieties, use this time to see if any should be staked to keep them from flopping over.

Lastly, when your carnations begin to look shabby, top them by 1/3 of the plant. This pruning session will encourage new growth to return and keep your plants looking beautiful.

At the end of the grow season, cut perennial varieties of carnations back to the soil level to protect them over winter. Annuals should be pulled up.

By performing these few tasks, your carnations should bloom beautifully throughout their grow season each year.

Garden Pests and Diseases for Carnations

There are multiple pests and diseases you should be aware of when growing carnations. The first disease to be mindful of is fairy-ring leaf spot. This causes discolored spots all over the plant.

The spots will produce mold and cause the flowers to bloom abnormally. You can avoid this disease by avoiding overwatering.

The next disease is carnation rust. This is a fungal disease which attacks the foliage and stems. It also causes the leaves to turn yellow.

You may notice carnations, impacted by this disease, have skinny stems and either produce zero blooms or discolored blooms.

If this disease impacts your carnations, destroy any impacted plants. You can avoid this disease by not overwatering your plants.

The final diseases you should be made aware of are leaf spot and blight. They’re both fungal diseases which cause spotting and discoloration.

Treat these diseases with a fungicide. The best way to avoid all of these diseases is to avoid overwatering and provide adequate airflow around the plant by removing garden debris, weeds, and mulch.

There are only two pests you should be on the lookout for when raising carnations. The first are aphids. They’re a common garden pest which come in a variety of colors.

They live off the sap of your plant, causing discoloration. An infestation has the ability to kill your plants, so be aware of these tiny predators.

The best way to get rid of aphids is by spraying your plants with soapy water. This will dislodge them. Follow up by spraying each carnation with insecticidal soap. Be sure to repeat the process as needed.

Thrips are the other threat. They cause your plants to have a silver tint and seriously stunt their growth and overall health.

Get rid of thrips by pruning damaged areas of your plant and applying insecticidal soap. By staying alert to potential threats, you can help your carnations thrive under your care.

Carnations are gorgeous flowers which can be grown using a variety of methods. If you love their colorful blooms, you should try your hand at raising them.

They’re easy to care for and, though they have a few threats, they’re easy to treat and avoid. Adding color around your home can be an enjoyable experience when growing carnations.

Learn More About Carnations

pink carnation with text overlay how to grow carnation flowers

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