Looking for a little something to brighten up your garden that doesn’t take too much effort? We’ve got just the thing you’re looking for. Carnations are not only bright and beautiful but they’re also really easy to grow.
Read on for some tips and tricks on how to grow carnations in your garden.
What are carnations?
Carnations or Dianthus caryophyllus are bright flowers with a double layer of silky petals that come in an array of colours. They are a popular choice for cut flowers because of their long, sturdy stems. Along with Snowdrops, they’re the January birth flower.
Carnations have a long history and each colour has a unique symbolism and meaning. When you look into it, it’s fascinating to see how the flower has grown to have such strong cultural relevance in so many countries and that it represents such a wide range of strong emotions.
How to grow carnations
The best time to plant carnations is during transition seasons like spring or autumn when it’s not too hot and not too cold. If the mood strikes in winter, you can also start sprouting your carnation seeds inside the house and then transfer them out into the garden when the temperature rises again.
It’s important that your carnation seeds get at least four hours of sunlight per day, so make sure that when you’re choosing where to plant them that there is adequate sunlight. Drainage is also key, so pick a bed that’s deep enough to accommodate the carnation’s strong root system.
Once you’ve chosen a good, sunny patch of soil, plant your carnation seeds about 30cm apart, right under the surface of the topsoil. To make sure the flowers are bright and healthy, use a bit of compost so that the soil is extra fertile.
If you opt to plant them indoors first, make sure you choose a container with enough drainage, and sprinkle the seeds on the surface, covering them with a soft layer of soil. Moisten the soil, pop the whole container in a plastic bag and voila, you’ve got your very own hothouse!
You should see action within a few days and once your seedlings grow to about 11cm or so, you can transfer them into the garden. Doing it this way also increases the chances that your carnation flowers will bloom within the first year, so that’s an added bonus.
Caring for carnations
When you’ve planted new carnation seeds, it’s important in the first few weeks that they get a lot of water in order to establish their root systems. It’s crucial to have soil with adequate drainage because the water needs to get all the way down to the deepest root. Water your carnations thoroughly once a week until a root system is nice and firmly in place. After that, you can water them when the topsoil is dry.
One key step in caring for carnations and keeping them healthy and strong is to prune them carefully. When your plants are still in the early stages, you can prune by removing old flowers and leaves so that more water and nutrients can be dedicated to the healthy parts of the plant.
Once your carnation is blooming, you’ll need to prune it to promote new growth. In the summertime, pruning your plant will keep it generating new flowers. Cut the spent flowers just above the leaf node and soon you’ll see new growth in its place.
Flowering plants like carnations have specific fertilizer that helps them grow. It’s best to add a good fertilizer to your carnations once every two months or so, to ensure they’re getting the TLC they need.
Common carnations questions
Are carnations easy to grow?
Yes! Carnations are actually one of the easiest flowers to grow and they’re perfect for anyone looking for something easy to get started on in their garden.
When do carnations bloom?
Carnations usually bloom in late spring up until early summer. Their blooming period can last up to eight weeks which is another reason why they’re such a firm favourite for brightening up your garden.
Do carnations come back every year?
Yes! Given the conditions are right, your carnation plant will bloom every year.
Do you need to cut off the flowers after blooming?
It’s best to remove spent carnation flowers so that the nutrients and water can be used to fuel new growth instead.
Are carnations poisonous to dogs?
Unfortunately, yes. A toxin in carnations can cause both dogs and cats skin irritation or intestinal issues so best to keep this bloom away from your furry friends.
Can carnations grow in pots?
Yes, absolutely! Carnations a great way to add a little bit of colour to an indoor space. Just make sure they’ve got adequate drainage, sunlight and water.
Do carnations spread?
Carnation bushes can spread once you’ve planted them, which is why it’s important to plant them far enough apart. If the plants get too close to one another, they can block out each other’s sunlight and affect their growth.
How long do carnation plants live?
Compared to other flowering plants, carnations have a relatively short lifespan. They usually only last three or four years before their blooms begin to fade.
Why are my carnations dying?
The most common cause of carnations not flourishing as they should is water. Giving your new plant babies either too much or too little water can leave them limp and lifeless. If your soil is too moist, your roots will rot and if it’s too dry, your flowers won’t have the moisture they need to keep going. As a first step, stick your finger into the soil to see which you’re dealing with.
How to press carnations
Carnations are a favourite in the flower pressing community. Their layers of brightly coloured petals translate beautifully when pressed. Whether you’ve got a special flower press or a trusty pile of books that you like to use, it’s really easy to make these pretty blooms last.
When you’re putting your carnation flower into your press, make sure it’s stem side down so that you can smooth out the petals before placing your piece of paper over the top of the bloom. Leave your press in a cool, dry place for at least three weeks so that the moisture has time to leave the petals.
If you’re in a rush and need a pressed carnation for a birthday present or wedding anniversary that’s in a few days time, you can try drying the flower out in the microwave. Pop it in for 30-second increments and keep an eye on it until it’s sufficiently dry.
Carnations have a long and interesting history, and they’re loved by flower fundi across the globe for their bright and diverse hues. The best part? You don’t even need green fingers to add these blooms to your flower bed. They’re that easy.