How To Grow Carnations

It is a tradition at the Oxford University to wear carnations during exams – white carnation to the first exam, red to the last and pink to every exam in between.

Carnations are easy to grow. Carnations grow 18" to 24" tall, and produce a spicy clove-like fragrance. There are over 300 species of Carnations, and hundreds more of hybrid varieties. Though each hybrid comes in a different color, white, pink and red are the most common ones.

Carnations come as annual, biennial and perennial varieties. Carnations can be planted in flowerbeds, borders, rock gardens and even containers like pots. Carnations will flower well into fall if they are guarded against harsh weather.

Carnations are one of the flowers with the longest vase-life, lasting up to 2-3 weeks. Though growing Carnations does not require much labor, some factors are to be considered while growing them.

Factors Influencing Growth of Carnations

Some of the main factors affecting the growth of Carnations are listed below:

  • Sunlight: Carnations need full sunlight, about 4-5 hours everyday.
  • Soil: Carnations thrive in fertile, well- drained, slightly alkaline (pH 6.75) soil.
  • Water: Carnations do not require much water, except in the hot months.You must be careful not to make the soil too wet which can produce yellow foliage.You must spray water on the plants instead of splashing.
  • Temperatures and Lighting: The optimum temperature for growing Carnations range from 50 – 59°F at daytime and 41- 46°F at night. The production and development of flower buds are improved under long-day conditions. Extended daylight at the level of 10w/m2 for at least two weeks after pinching. The extended day length will increase plant size.
  • Manure: Peat is an excellent organic matter that can be added when growing Carnations. Pulverized and decomposed pine bark and well-rotted cow manure also serve as good manure. A prior soil analysis may help in deciding the kind of manure. A soil rich in manure or well-fed with nitrogen is not suited to the carnation. It may cause heavy vegetative growth, fewer blooms or even lead to the splitting of the calyx (green cup-like structure that holds the petals).
  • Mulching: Mulching should not be done when growing Carnations. Sufficient air circulation around the stems is very necessary for their appropriate growth.They must be kept free from foliage moisture always.

Propagating Carnations

Carnations can be propagated by three ways:

  • By seeds: Seeds can be sowed, 1/8 inch deep in a well-drained mix.Space seeds 12" apart. Make sure the compost is moist but not wet. Firm soil over seed and mist spray occasionally and keep it moist. The seeds will germinate in 2 to 3 weeks.
  • By cuttings: Cuttings taken from the terminal growth can also be used to propagate Carnations. The cuttings, varying from four to six inches long are taken and the basal leaves of at least two to three nodes are removed. The cuttings are then inserted in pure sand. The lower leaves must not touch the surface. Cuttings become ready for transplantation in 25 to 30 days.This method is preferably used in case of perennial Carnations.
  • By division: Carnations can also be grown by division through which we can rejuvenate older plants. Dig up an entire clump, and either pull it apart using your hands to separate the plant segments, or use two gardening forks inserted in the center of the clump, to gently pry the plant apart. Replant each new division as you would a new perennial or annual, and water it in very well.

Taking Care of Carnations

  • Insects and Diseases: Insect and disease problems are infrequent. If insect or disease problems occur, treat early with insecticides, repellents, or fungicide.
  • Supporting Tall Carnations: You need to know ahead how tall each variety will grow in order to provide the right kind of support. The support should be set in place soon after planting, or as the plants emerge from the ground in the spring, so the stems will remain up.