Carnation: planting and maintaining

Carnation: planting and maintaining


Carnations are different breeds of a wild species that originally came from the Mediterranean region. The plants belong to the carnation family and are sometimes referred to as sweet carnations. The wild species is known as the carnation and has the scientific name Dianthus caryophyllus. The carnation plant has been grown as an ornamental plant since ancient times. Carnations grow wild in Greece, Italy, Sardinia and Sicily.

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Carnations grow as herbaceous plants that are perennial in their natural habitats. The plants reach heights of 40 to 80 centimeters and develop a spherical to bushy habit. As an ornamental plant, the carnation is usually cultivated as an annual.


The leaves of the noble carnation are arranged opposite one another. Your leaf blade is entire and drawn out long. The blue-green color of the leaves is striking, creating an aesthetic contrast to the flowers. The leaf shapes of the hybrids vary from the basic shape. Pot carnations often develop wider leaves that appear greener.


Carnations develop several flowers on a central shoot that branches like panicles or appears simple. The crown consists of five intensely colored petals with a frayed edge. They are surrounded by four to six sepals. The carnation plants develop hermaphroditic flowers with a light fragrance.


The flowering times of carnations differ depending on the variety. Carnations bloom between June and September in white, yellow, pink or intense red. Some varieties develop two-colored flowers that are often double and have a pleasant smell. The wild species Dianthus caryophyllus develops bright pink to purple colored petals.


At the end of the flowering period, the flowers turn into capsule fruits that contain numerous seeds. When the fruit ripe, the capsule walls dry up and tear open. When the stems are moved by the wind, the plant spreads its seeds.


Carnations transform beds and borders into a colorful sea of ​​flowers. Their growth habit is best shown to advantage in sunny places. The special requirements of these plants make them perfect companions for heather and rock gardens. They adorn terrace slopes and should not be missing in any farm garden. Some varieties, such as the mountain carnation, which has almost been forgotten, are suitable for cultivation in pots or in hanging baskets. (€ 14.99 at Amazon *)

Is Carnation Poisonous?

Dianthus caryophyllus can be cultivated on the balcony without hesitation, even if it belongs to the cat's territory. Carnations are non-toxic to humans and animals. The plant parts were used in the past to flavor wine and beer or vinegar and syrup. The flowers are suitable for refining salads, desserts and sauces. They can be candied and used as a decoration for cakes.

Which location is suitable?

Carnations love a location in the blazing sun. They prove to be problem-free crops in hot and dry locations, with many hybrids relying on more humid conditions. Some varieties should be planted in a sheltered place, as their shoots break easily. The wild species grows in natural habitats even on places exposed to the wind.

What soil does the plant need?

The noble carnation finds perfect growth conditions on a very loose substrate. It needs a high level of permeability. The stony and sandy the soil, the better the carnation will thrive. A slightly nutrient-rich substrate ensures optimal starting conditions. Cultivated forms need a little more nutrients than the wild species. Mix some compost into the substrate a few weeks before planting so that the soil is enriched but not over-fertilized. The flower formation is promoted by adding lime.

What carnations need:

  • moderately fresh conditions
  • uniform moisture
  • rather low in nutrients

Propagate carnation

Carnations can be propagated by sowing the seeds, provided the varieties are fruitful. Filled F1 series hybrids will not develop seeds. Hanging cultivars are suitable for cutting cuttings.


The seeds can be brought forward between mid-February and early March. The seeds germinate best in nutrient-poor potting soil with consistently moist conditions. At 15 to 18 degrees Celsius, seedlings will appear after two to three weeks. When the first pair of leaves sprout, the young plants can be pricked out and cultivated further at 12 degrees Celsius. After the last late frosts, the carnation moves into the garden.


Hanging varieties can be propagated vegetatively via head cuttings or trunks. While head cuttings are cut between September and November and overwintered in a nursery at five to six degrees, the period from January to March is suitable for cutting pruning shoots. In spring, both types of cuttings are grown in a room with temperatures between twelve and 14 degrees Celsius.

The correct planting distance

Place carnations in the bed taking into account the maximum growth width. A guide value is a distance of 20 centimeters between the plants. The carnation plants are placed so deep into the prepared planting hole that the stem base is flush with the surface of the earth. Press the substrate lightly so that the bottom leaves are not covered with soil. Water the carnations to close gaps in the ground.

Carnation in a pot

Self-grown young plants can be placed in a planter with a diameter of twelve centimeters. A well-drained substrate with good water drainage is a prerequisite for pot culture. Hanging carnations are better suited for planting in pots. Make sure that the soil moisture is even.

The ideal vessel:

  • consists of natural materials
  • has drain holes
  • is larger than the root ball


Like the wild species, carnation hybrids also require an outdoor location. If you cultivate the plants in pots, you should treat them to a sunny spot on the balcony or terrace from spring. The carnation plants need a lot of light. If they are cultivated in the room all year round, the shoots quickly deteriorate due to a lack of light.

Water carnation

Carnations can be left to their own devices in the bed. In particularly long drying times, you should use a watering can. Ten liters of water per square meter are enough to provide the plants with moisture. Hanging carnations have a greater need for water and prefer a higher level of humidity. Spray the plants regularly and water more often once the top soil has dried.

Fertilize carnation properly

Carnations are fertilized every four to six weeks during the vegetation phase, if no compost has been mixed with the substrate in spring. The fertilizer should be nitrogen-reduced. Use an organic complete fertilizer in the form of balls or sticks. This will prevent the soil from becoming over-fertilized and the plant will not absorb excessive nutrients.

Cut the carnation correctly

Regularly remove dead shoots and occasionally snap off side flowers. This means that the plant puts more energy into developing the main flowers. These flower shoots make good cut flowers. Further cutting measures are not required.

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How do I transplant properly?

Since carnations in beds are often grown as an annual, transplanting is not necessary. You can propagate the plant from seeds or cuttings if you want to enjoy the blossoms again next year.


As a plant of Mediterranean climatic regions, the wild form of the carnation does not survive frosty temperatures. Wintering in the bucket is possible. However, transplanting from the field into the pots is stressful for the carnations. Therefore, you should cut head cuttings in autumn and overwinter them. Too much moisture in the substrate is the biggest problem during overwintering. Therefore, pay attention to economical watering.

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Fungal attack

Various fungi can spread on the carnation plants if the site conditions are incorrect. Proper care prevents infestation.


This disease manifests itself by initially light and later brownish spots on the leaves. They are outlined in red and occasionally appear on buds and shoots. Black fungal spores form in the center of the spots.

Falling sickness

If seeds are sown too densely, the seedlings will compete for light and develop unstable stems. The same applies to seeds that are grown under very warm conditions and little light. The base of the stem often looks incised and easily kinks. It turns black as various fungal spores settle at the kinks.


There are a number of pests that prefer to colonize carnation varieties. They should be combated promptly so that the plant is not damaged too much.


Silvery white or nut-brown spots on the fresh leaves indicate a thrips infestation. The leaves wither because the sucking insects negatively affect growth.


Aphids occasionally appear on young shoots and leaves when the air is too dry. They leave a sticky substance on which rust fungi settle.

Carnation flies

The larvae of these pests eat their way through the leaf tissue of the fresh leaves and leave microscopic ducts behind. The foliage turns yellow and slowly dies.

Spider mites

These red insects settle on the underside of the leaves and leave behind a fine web that becomes visible when sprayed with a fine mist of water. A heavy infestation leads to the leaves becoming stained and later turning yellow.


Some carnations are suitable as cut flowers. For a regular and straight growth habit, you should stick a stick into the soil when planting and attach the stem to it.


  • Grenadin : Perennial carnation plant, is propagated via seeds. Flowers white, pink and red with a pleasant scent of cloves. Forms stable stems, up to 40 centimeters high.
  • Ikat : frost-resistant and robust. Flowers mottled pink, blooms from June to September. Up to 50 centimeters high.
  • Chabaud : Biennial perennial. Colorful flowers from July to October. Up to 60 centimeters high.

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