Carnation: plant and care

Carnation: plant and care

Origin and Distribution

"Vexiernelke" is one of the common German names of the crown light carnation. He refers to the fact that the pink blooming plant does not have a scented fragrance. Since 1995, the species has been assigned to the 500 to 600 different species of calyx herbs (bot. Silene), which in turn belongs to the carnation family (bot. Caryophyllaceae). The species is originally widespread in Southeast Europe and Asia Minor - up to the foothills of the Himalayas - where it grows wild in sparse forests, in bushes and on rocky slopes. However, since carnations quickly grow wild in suitable locations, they can also be found in numerous places in Germany in the wild.It has been in culture for a long time - the first pictorial representation dates back to 1410.

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Do not plant the attractive light carnation individually in the bed, as the plant feels most comfortable in the company of its own kind - and is also best shown in groups. The species is suitable both for planting open spaces and as an accompanying perennial in beds and borders, where it creates a harmoniously colorful overall picture together with yellow, white or blue flowering species such as sun-eye, delphinium, garden sage, evening primrose or yarrow. As in its natural location, the carnation also feels very comfortable on the sunny edge of a woody plantation - for example along a hedge. The pretty flowers attract numerous insects to the garden during their flowering period. Especially butterflies fly to the pink flowers.

Appearance and stature

The evergreen carnation is a very short-lived, clump-forming perennial that can only be cultivated for two to a maximum of three years, but can be easily reproduced in suitable locations by self-sowing. The herbaceous plant forms flat rosettes, while the flower-bearing stems reach heights of between 40 and 90 centimeters. All parts of the plant above ground are hairy tomentose.


The year-round leafy Silene coronaria develops its dense, white-gray hairy leaf rosettes in autumn and keeps them through the winter. In spring, the up to 90 centimeters high, tomentose-white flower stems sprout from these. These also have a few leaves that are narrowly lanceolate in shape.

Blossoms and flowering period

The pretty flowers of the carnation, about three centimeters wide, appear between June and August. They stand individually on the loosely branched flower stalks and, depending on the variety, have a carmine-red to purple color. There are also some white flowering varieties. The broad, undivided petals are connected at their base and give the whole flower a plate-like appearance. Crowned light carnations bloom most beautifully in their second year.


After flowering, numerous capsule fruits containing seeds form.


The carnation is considered non-toxic, but it is also not suitable for consumption. Neither the leaves nor the flowers taste particularly pleasant.

Which location is suitable?

Place the carnation in a location that is as sunny and warm as possible. Although the perennial still thrives well in light partial shade, it only develops a few flowers there.


A place on nutrient-rich, fresh and sandy-humic soil that is loose and well-drained is perfect. Carnations wither very quickly in very drought conditions, which is why the sunnier the perennial, the more humid the soil should be. The plant, on the other hand, does not tolerate winter moisture - just like waterlogging or a wet subsoil, by the way. You should therefore plant the perennials on the edge of a garden pond or along a hedge, the vigorous plants can also often be found on a sunny slope or embankment.

Plant the carnation correctly

As a rule, the carnation is sown in spring, but you can also plant purchased or grown plants directly at the desired location. The ideal planting time is spring, but container goods can in principle be placed in the garden until winter. The only requirement is frost-free, mild and not too humid weather. When planting, keep a planting distance of between 20 and 30 centimeters to other plants - you can plan about eight to ten plants per square meter of planting area. And this is how it is planted:

  • Moisten the root ball well before planting
  • Dig the planting hole - twice as wide and deep as the root ball
  • Mix the excavation with compost and, if necessary, sand / gravel
  • Plant the carnation as deep as in the pot
  • Press the bottom well
  • Water well and keep slightly moist for the following weeks

Watering and fertilizing

Carnations that are planted in the garden do not need fertilization, but need an additional water supply during longer periods of drought.

Cut the carnation correctly

Even pruning is only necessary with the very easy to care for perennial if self-sowing is to be avoided. In this case, cut the plants to about 15 centimeters above the ground after the flowering period, then they can no longer develop the seed-containing capsule fruits. You can also remove withered leaves from time to time.

Propagate the carnation

The perennials die after about two to three years, but multiply very reliably by self-sowing or by the numerous runners. Within a short period of time, dense carpets of plants are formed, which have to be limited rather than transported in their spread. An increase by division, however, is not necessary.

A targeted propagation is best achieved by sowing, whereby you can either purchase the seeds in stores or collect them yourself - the capsules are ripe as soon as they open and release the seeds. This is how it is sown:

  • It is sown in spring
  • Sow directly on site or in a container
  • sunny to light partially shaded location
  • Use loose potting soil containing humus
  • Prepare them well, loosen them up and remove weeds
  • Scatter seeds, but do not cover with soil - light germs
  • just press lightly
  • Moisten the soil slightly and always keep it slightly moist
  • Avoid waterlogging
  • Prick plants as soon as they have at least four leaves

Incidentally, carnations can be socialized very well with other species of light carnations, which not only creates an exciting picture in the flowerbed - the closely related varieties cross with each other, so that with a little luck new varieties will come out.


Carnations are hardy and do not require additional winter protection. Only winter wetness should be avoided, as the plants cannot tolerate it. You can cover them with fir or spruce branches to protect them from constant rain and snow.

Diseases and pests

The carnation is not only extremely easy to care for, but also very resistant to diseases and pests. The only problem is usually a fungal attack due to excessive moisture or even waterlogging in the bed. In this case, the infected plants should be removed immediately to prevent further spread. Aphids in particular are common among pests, but they are quite easy to remove. Snails, on the other hand, avoid the plants, so there is no danger from this direction.

Carnations do not bloom, what to do?

The per se blooming crown light carnations often show their colorful blossoms only in the second year of standing. If the flowers do not want to bloom at all, either the location is not suitable (too dark and / or too humid) or pests rob the plants of the strength to develop their blossoms. So either move the carnations or put an end to the pest infestation with the help of suitable means.


Carnations make - especially in combination with other summer flowers - pretty and very durable cut flowers for the vase.

Species and varieties

Numerous different cultivars of the crown carnation are available in stores. These varieties are particularly attractive in the flower bed:

  • 'Abbotswood Rose': pretty, pink flowers
  • 'Alba': pure white flowers that go wonderfully with other white flowering perennials
  • 'Angel's Blush': also flowering white, but with a pink eye
  • 'Atrosanguinea': group of varieties with strong magenta to carmine-red flowers
  • 'Blushing Bride': white flowers with a pretty pink eye
  • 'Dancing Ladies': Mixture of varieties of white, pink and cherry-red blooming varieties
  • 'Hutchinson's Cream': white flowers and pretty spotted leaves

If you want to create variety in the flowerbed, plant other types of light carnations in addition to the carnation carnations, such as these:

  • Alpine light carnation (Silene suecica or Lychnis alpina): purple-red, dense flower clusters between May and June, bushy, spreading growth, up to 15 centimeters high
  • Common Pechnelke (Silene viscaria): pretty pink to red flowers between May and June, growth height up to 40 centimeters, strongly branched growth, for dry locations, varieties are for example 'Feuer' or 'Plena' (variety with double flowers)
  • Cuckoo's light carnation (Silene flos-cuculi): native species with fringed, pink flowers between May and June, heavily branched, bushy growth with heights of up to 40 centimeters
  • Lychnis x arkwrightii 'Vesuvius': Hybrid of the scarlet light carnation and the garden light carnation, forms bright orange-red umbels between June and July, has dark foliage, height of up to 40 centimeters
  • Red light carnation (Silene dioica): native species with heavily branched inflorescences and bright red flowers, blooms for a long time between April and October - the individual flowers only open for one day at a time, bushy growth with heights of up to 90 centimeters, for moist ones and calcareous soils
  • Scarlet light carnation or burning love (Lychnis chalcedonica): forms spherical, bright red umbels between June and July, bushy growth with heights of up to 80 centimeters, for locations in full sun
  • White light carnation (Silene latifolia): native species with numerous white flowers that do not open until the afternoon and have a strong smell, blooms between June and September mainly on nitrogen-rich clay soils, bushy growth with heights of up to 120 centimeters