Carnation Flowers

Learn about these classic flower bouquet favorites.
bouquet

The Possibilities Are Endless

Carnations last a long time--often up to 14 days--in vases and bouquets.

Photo by: Photo by Ben Rollins

Photo by Ben Rollins

Carnations last a long time--often up to 14 days--in vases and bouquets.

Related To:

Uncover some interesting details and easy-grows-it tips for raising carnation flowers. These familiar floral faces are a common addition to commercial bouquets because they last so long in the vase—up to 14 days, and frequently longer. Commercially the majority of carnations are grown in Colombia, Spain and Israel. These pretty blooms can be harvested while in a tight bud stage, shipped worldwide and reliably open in a vase.

The first carnations came to the United States in 1852 as part of a French flower shipment. The flowers’ spicy clove scent and long-lasting blooms quickly earned carnation a devoted following. At one point, carnations went by the name of clove gilly flowers in reference to the blossoms’ strong clove scent.

During the Victorian Era, the language of flowers blossomed, and carnations earned a host of different meanings, based on petal color. The carnation flower itself represented love, distinction and fascination and was sometimes said to symbolize a woman’s love. Red carnations mean deep love and admiration, while white ones refer to pure love. During the early 21st Century white carnations became the official flower of Mother’s Day and took on the meaning of a mother’s love. A yellow carnation is a sign of rejection or disappointment, while a pink carnation shows gratitude.

Commercially, carnation flowers are sold as standards or sprays. Standards are a large single flower at the end of a single stem. These are the type of carnation flower used most often for boutonierres or corsages. Spray carnations are smaller flowers, and usually there are several small blooms on one single stem. Also called miniature carnations, spray carnations last even longer in the vase when you replace the water with commercial floral preservative, available in those little packets you get at the florist.

Growing carnations in the garden can be tricky. The florist carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus), which is the one most people recognize, requires consistent staking efforts to help hold stems upright under the weight of flowers, especially the standard carnation types. Border carnations (Dianthus x allwoodii) don’t grow as tall as the florist types, but they yield nice size flowers that make wonderful additions to garden bouquets. They also look great in planting beds with their colorful blooms. 

When growing carnations, pick blooms when they’re half open. The best time of day to pick is in the morning, after the dew has dried, or in the early evening. After picking, recut stems underwater and place them into cool water overnight. This is called conditioning the flowers. During this time, the stems will take up water and become fully hydrated.

The next morning, arrange your carnations as you desire in the vase. If you’re re-cutting stems, do so underwater. Use commercial flower preservative in the vase, which helps to prolong flower life.

Next Up

Growing Carnation Flowers

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

Growing Sweet Peas Flowers

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

20 Flowers for a Cutting Garden

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

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.

Planting and Growing Zinnia Flowers

Celebrate summer by planting a mix of zinnia flowers you can pick and plunk into vases.

How to Grow Gladiolus Flowers

Plant easy-to-grow gladioli in spring and watch them burst into beautiful summertime blooms.

Petunia Flowers: Planting and Caring for Petunias

Easy-care petunias can't get enough of the sun. Plant petunia flowers in pots, hanging baskets or beds for vibrant summer color.

How to Grow Flowering Quince

These gorgeous flowering shrubs will brighten up any dreary winter yard.

How to Plant and Grow Balloon Flower

The easy-to-grow, old-fashioned balloon flower brings showy blooms to the late summer garden.

How to Choose, Plant and Grow Flowering Shrubs

Flowering shrubs, like azalaea, hydrangea, camellia and more, provide multi-season color and interest. Learn how to add them to your garden or landscape with this expert advice.

Go Shopping

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

Follow Us Everywhere

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