Carnation Flower Meaning

Discover details about the symbolism of carnations.

bouquet

Add Carnations

Florists and gardeners mix carnations and other flowers to convey love and other meanings.

Photo by: Photo by Ben Rollins

Photo by Ben Rollins

Florists and gardeners mix carnations and other flowers to convey love and other meanings.

Related To:

Give a carnation, and you’re speaking volumes in the language of flowers. These classic blooms are florist shop favorites and are given for all kinds of occasions, from birthdays to retirements. Carnation meaning varies depending on the flower color. But at its heart, basic carnation flower meaning embraces the ideas of fascination, distinction and love. The love aspect of carnation meaning includes everything from a mother’s devoted love to a suitor’s passion for his bride.

One of the most well-known stories of carnation flower meaning has to do with the flower’s symbolism of a mother’s love. Early Christians held that carnations sprang from the place where tears fell from the eyes of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as he carried his cross.

In 1907, carnations became the official flower of Mother’s Day. Ann Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, selected carnations because they were her mother’s favorite flower and to her symbolized the purity of a mother’s love. On the first Mother’s Day, Jarvis sought to memorialize her recently deceased mother by sending 500 white carnations to the church where her mother had taught Sunday School.

The history of the carnation traces back to ancient Greece and Rome. At that point in time, carnations were primarily available in peach and pale pink shades. The color was thought to resemble human flesh and carnation flower meaning took on the idea of the incarnation, God being made flesh. This carnation meaning traces to the Latin root “carnis,” which means flesh.

Plant breeding efforts have produced a literal rainbow of carnation flower hues, from red, to purple, to green. Each color of carnation flower has a separate, definitive meaning. A pale red denotes admiration and the idea that “my heart aches for you,” while dark red conveys feelings of deep love and affection.

Pink carnation flower meanings include gratitude and the concept of never forgetting someone. A yellow carnation bloom expresses the idea of rejection and disappointment with someone. White carnations usually carry the thought of purity and sweetness. When given on Mother’s Day, they also are said to bring a mother good luck. 

Some carnation petals are solid hues, while others are striped. Solid blossoms embody the idea of an affirmative answer (yes), while striped carnation flower meaning signifies refusal (no). Purple carnations are said to represent carpriciousness, while green carnations seem to be reserved for St. Patrick’s Day and giving to teachers.

Carnations are the official state flower of Ohio, as well as the official national flower of Spain. In Korea, children give parents carnations on Parents’ Day, which is a combination of Mother’s and Father’s Days. For the first wedding anniversary, carnations are the traditional gift. This familiar blossom is also the birth flower for the month of January.

Next Up

Growing Carnation Flowers

Wonderfully fragrant and old-fashioned, carnation plants bring scent-sational beauty to the garden.

How to Care for Your African Violet

African violets have been among the world's most popular houseplants for more than a century. Here's how to take care of these exotic tropical beauties.

How to Plant and Care for Verbena

Verbenas add a punch of long-lasting color to gardens and containers from spring into fall. These easy-to-grow, reliable beauties love the sun.

20 Flowers for a Cutting Garden

Plant these flowers in your garden to yield endless vases filled with beautiful blooms.

Tips for Growing and Caring for Camellia Plants

Discover the beauty of camellias in your garden. HGTV has tips on caring for camellia plants and growing their stunning blooms.

Growing Sweet Peas Flowers

Lots of blooms, lots of color and great fragrance--sweet peas have everything you could want in a flower.

How to Care for Fuchsias

Learn how to properly care for budding fuchsias all year with these simple gardening tips.

Black-Eyed Susan: How to Grow and Care for This Cheery Perennial

Ignite your garden with the floral fireworks of black-eyed Susan.

How to Grow and Care for Primrose Flowers

Primrose comes from the Latin word for first, and these easy-to-grow beauties are among the first flowers to bloom in spring.

How to Grow Oakleaf Hydrangea

With their big flowers, brilliant fall foliage and shaggy winter bark, oakleaf hydrangeas are year-round showstoppers for gardens and containers.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.