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 Dianthus caryophyllus subsp. var.  Carnation, Clove Pink
Mini Carnations-2826.jpg
Habit: herbaceous
Height: to
Width: to
Height: cm to 80 cm
Width: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.
Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun
Water: moderate, dry
Features: flowers, fragrance, naturalizes
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 6 to 9
Sunset Zones: best in 1-24, 30-45
Flower features: red, orange, yellow, purple, multicolored, pink, white, double
Caryophyllaceae > Dianthus caryophyllus var. ,

Carnations are divided into two distinct categories, either florists' or border types. All of them have bluish-green leaves branching stems and double flowers. Stems have leaves and may become woody at the bottom with age. Under cultivation for 2,000 years, the plant is thought to be native to the Mediterranean.

Although originally applied to the species Dianthus caryophyllus, the name Carnation is also often applied to some of the other species of Dianthus, and more particularly to garden hybrids between D. caryophyllus and other species in the genus.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Carnation (Dianthus Caryophyllus, Linn.). Caryophyllaceae. Choice and popular flower-garden and greenhouse plants of the pink tribe; in North America grown mostly under glass as florists' flowers.

The carnation is a half-hardy perennial, herbaceous, suffrutescent at base: height 2 ft.: st. branching, with tumid joints: lvs. linear, glaucous, opposite: fls. terminal, mostly solitary; petals 5, flesh-colored, very broad, beardless, margins toothed; calyx cylindrical, with scaly bracts at base. June-Aug. S. Eu.; occasionally met in the wild state in England, where it was intro. through cult.

General development.

Theophrastus, who lived about 300 years B.C., gave the name Dianthus (Greek dios, divine; anthos, flower) to the group, probably suggested by the delightful fragrance. The specific name Caryophyllus (Greek, caryon, nut; and phyllon, leaf) has been applied to the clove-tree (Caryophyllus aromaticus), and because of the clove-like fragrance of the carnation this name was applied to it. The name carnation (Latin, carnatio, from caro, carnis, flesh) has reference to the flesh-color of the flowers of the original type. This plant has been in cultivation more than 2,000 years, for Theophrastus (History of Plants, translation) says: "The Greeks cultivate roses, gillyflowers, violets, narcissi, and iris," gillyflower being the old English name for the carnation. It was not, however, until the beginning of the sixteenth century that the development of the carnation into numerous varieties made an impression upon its history. The original flesh-color of its flowers was already broken up into red and white. The gardeners of Italy, France, Germany, Holland and England, with their respective ideals of beauty in this flower, contributed so many varieties that in 1597 Gerard wrote that "to describe each new variety of carnation were to roll Sisyphus' stone or number the sands."

There have been many attempts at classification, but most of them, like the varieties they serve, have disappeared. Two of them are as follows: A French scheme arranges all varieties into three classes: Grenadins (Fig. 801), including those with strong perfumes, flowers of medium size, either single or double, petals fringed, and of but one color; Flamands, including those with large flowers, round and double, rising in the center to form a convex surface, petals entire, either unicolored or striped with two or more colors; Fancies, including those with colors arranged in bands on light grounds, the petals toothed or not. The English classification of these varieties makes four categories: Selfs, or those possessing only one color in the petals; Flakes. or those having a pure ground of white or yellow and flaked or striped with one color, as scarlet, purple or rose; Bizarres, or those having a pure ground marked as in the Flakes, but with two or three colors; and Picotees (Fig. 804), or those having a pure ground of white or yellow, and each petal bordered with a band of color at the margin. This last class has been regarded with the distinction of a race.

In the early part of the nineteenth century, English gardeners exercised very great care in the growing of carnations to mature only perfect flowers. Imperfect and superfluous petals were extracted with forceps; petals appearing out of place were arranged in a perfect imbrication; the calyx-tube was cut partly down between the teeth, to prevent excessive splitting at one side and to give more freedom to the expansion of the flower. These and many more tedious details seem to have wrought the depreciation of this flower about the middle of the nineteenth century.

All the foregoing has reference to those types of carnations that are little known or grown in America at the present day; the varieties so common in Europe are usually kept in coldframes or coolhouses during the winter, and as spring approaches the plants are brought into their blooming quarters, for no flower is expected to appear until the month of July, when there is a great profusion of blossoms, but for a short season. Therefore, they can all be classed as a summer race. They are also grown permanently in the open.

Development of the perpetual-flowering carnation (Remontant, Monthly, Forcing, or Tree).

The perpetual-flowering race of carnation, which has been brought to its highest state of perfection by American growers, and which is generally regarded as the "American carnation," really originated in France, and was grown in that country from its origin in 1840 until about the year 1856, before it was introduced to America. A French gardener, named M. Dalmais, obtained a constant-blooming carnation by crossing (Eillet de Mahon, which bloomed in November, with pollen from (Eillet Biohon, crossing again with the Flemish carnation, the first-named sort being disseminated under the name "Atim." By the year 1846 varieties in all colors had been secured and the type permanently fixed. These were taken up and improved upon in quality by other enthusiasts, among whom were M. Schmidt and M. Alphonse Alegatiere, of Lyons, France. The latter succeeded in securing varieties with rigid stems which in 1866 were given the name "tree-carnation”. M. Schmidt's most prominent varieties were Arc-en-ciel and Etoile Polaire, which were grown for several years. But the strong rigid-stemmed varieties obtained by Alegatiere, which were termed tree-carnations in 1866, proved of greater value commercially, and became more generally cultivated. About the year 1852, a native of France who had settled near New York City, imported plants of this strain and cultivated several varieties for a number of years. About the year 1856 the firm of Dailledouze, Zeller & Gard imported plants of La Purite, a rose-colored variety, also Mont Blanc and Edwardsii, white, and Manteaux Royal, red-and-white variegated. These were used for crossing, and the first variety produced in America, about the year 1858, proved to be a great improvement on existing varieties. It was named "Mrs.Degraw," and with another white variety named "Flatbush’’, was disseminated about the year 1864. Other varieties followed, and the work was taken up by other growers, among whom were M. Donati, who raised Astoria, a yellow which is conceded to be the ancestor of all the yellow varieties grown today; Rudolph Heintz, who raised Heintz's White in 1876; Chas. T. Starr, whose most famous variety was Buttercup, introduced in 1884; Jos. Tailby, whose Grace Wilder became and remained the standard rose-pink variety until the introduction of Wm. Scott in 1893; John Thorpe and W. P. Simmons, who introduced Portia, Tidal Wave, Silver Spray and Daybreak in the eighties; Sewal Fisher, whose Mrs. Fisher appeared in 1890 and became one of the leading whites; E. G. Hill, whose most notable productions were Flora Hill, the leading white for several years, and America, a scarlet; R. Witterstaetter, who obtained Estelle, Aristocrat, Afterglow and Pres. J. A. Valentine; John Hartie, who raised the scarlet Jubilee; Peter Fisher, whose Mrs. Thos. W. Lawson, Beacon, and Enchantress with its several sports, became leaders in their respective colors; C. W. Ward, who disseminated Governor Roosevelt, Harry Fenn and Mrs. C. W. Ward.

The late Frederick Dorner conducted the most systematic work in developing the carnation, and succeeded in producing a strain which is recognized as the highest development of the American carnation. His records, which cover a period of 22 years, contain a complete list of the many thousands of crosses made during that time. This strain is distinguished for its easy-growing habit, its freedom and steadiness in producing blooms, the diversity of colors and its adaptability to commercial growing. His labors produced such varieties as Wm. Scott, Mme. Diaz Albertini, White Cloud, Mrs. Geo. M. Bradt, G. H. Crane, Lady Bountiful, White Perfection, Pink Delight, White Wonder and Gloriosa, all leaders in their respective colors.

Through the rapid strides in its development, after being introduced in this country, the carnation established itself as one of the leading flowers for commercial growing and now stands second only to the rose in commercial importance. Not only does it share equally with the rose the bench space in most large growing establishments, but many large ranges are devoted entirely to the carnation. Growing methods have been perfected by the carnation specialists until the practices employed during its early history have been entirely superseded. Since its first arrival in America, over 1,200 varieties have been introduced, and the quality has been improved until the highest developed varieties produce blooms measuring 4½ inches in diameter and are carried on rigid stems 3 feet long.

In 1891 the American Carnation Society was organized to promote the interests of the carnation. By holding exhibitions annually it has assisted materially in popularizing the flower. A system of registering new varieties is in operation, which prevents confusion in nomenclature.

From this country, the improved strain of the perpetual-flowering carnation has returned to European countries, being grown in increased quantities each year and displacing all the older types of carnation for commercial growing.


The leading varieties in cultivation in this country at this time are—White: White Perfection, White Enchantress, White Wonder, Shasta, Matchless. Flesh-Pink: Enchantress, Pink Delight, Mayday, Pres. Valentine. Rose-Pink: Rose-Pink Enchantress, Dorothy Gordon, Gloriosa, Mrs. C. W. Ward. Philadelphia Pink. Dark Pink: Rosette, Washington, Peerless Pink, Northport. Scarlet: Beacon. Victory, St. Nicholas, Herald, Commodore. Crimson: Harry Fenn, Octoroon, Pocahontas. Yellow: Yellow Prince, Yellowstone. White Variegated: Benora, Mrs. B. P. Cheney. Any other color: Gorgeous, Rainbow. New varieties are being registered with the American Carnation Society at the rate of about twenty-five each year. Few varieties remain in cultivation longer than ten years, Bo that the list changes continually.

Raising new varieties.

It is a long way from the undeveloped five-petaled carnation (Fig. 813) of early days to the perfectly formed full bloom of today. This filling out of the bloom has evolved gradually, and has been assisted by cross-fertilization and selection by the carnation- breeders through the many years in which the flower has been cultivated. This crossing, which has been the means of perfecting the American strain of the perpetual-flowering carnation, has been prosecuted continuously ever since the arrival of the first plants in this country. Many men have found both pleasure and profit in the work; and those with scientific inclination will find no subject more interesting. Not only have the blooms become larger, but the color has varied widely, the "substance" has been much improved, the calyx has been developed for non-bursting (Figs. 814, 815), the keeping qualities of the flowers have been improved, and the stems have been lengthened.

The operation of pollinating the bloom, or transferring the pollen from one flower to the stigma of another, is a simple matter, and is perhaps of less importance than other parts of the work of producing desirable new varieties.

The Fig. 816 is a section of a flower showing the reproductive organs; a shows the pod which encases the ovules or forming seeds, b. From the tip of the pod rises the style which has usually two, but frequently three curved ends, or stigmas, c. When the stigma is in the proper stage to be fertilized, which is indicated by the fuzzy appearance of the upper part, the pollen, which is the powdery substance released by the anthers, d, is applied to the fuzzy parts. To prevent self-fertilization, these anthers should be removed from flowers intended to be pollinated, before the pollen is released. Within one to three days, if fertilization has taken place, the bloom will wilt, the ovary will begin to swell and within a week the seed-pod can be seen to increase in size. As soon as the bloom has wilted, the petals should be removed and the calyx slit down the sides to prevent water from standing inside the calyx and causing the pod to decay. In six to eight weeks the seeds will be ripe and should be sown at once. Each seed may prove to be the beginning of a variety which will be one of the milestones of progress in the improvement of the carnation. Not one should be discarded until it has bloomed.

The seedlings should be potted as soon as the first pair of character-leaves appears. Later on they may be shifted into larger pots and bloomed, or they may be planted in the field and marked as they bloom and only the promising ones housed in the fall. The selecting of the plants for further trial is of the very greatest importance and requires a thorough knowledge of the subject. There are many points in the make-up of a first-class carnation, and a combination of as many of these as is possible to get in one plant is the object sought. No carnation has ever been found which was perfect in every way. The hybridist must be able to judge correctly as to the relative value or loss represented in certain characteristics shown by a seedling plant. This discrimination between the desirable and undesirable calls for the clearest judgment, and a valuable variety might be discarded through the failure of the grower to see its good points.

Among the seedlings will probably appear variety of colors, shapes and sizes of bloom, different types of growth, perfect in some respects and faulty in others. From these the hybridist is to select those which most nearly represent his ideal of the perfect carnation. This ideal should be of a pleasing shade of color, pure in tone, so as to hold when the bloom ages. The form should be symmetrical, resembling as nearly as possible a half sphere with just enough petals to fill the bloom nicely without crowding. The petals may range from the smooth-edged, as soon in Fig. 817, to the deeply-serrated, as seen in Fig. 818. The texture of the petals should be such as will resist bruising. The odor should be strong clove. The size should be as near 4 inches across as possible under ordinary culture. The calyx should be strong and large enough to hold the petals firmly at all stages of development. The stem should be 30 to 36 inches long, and strong enough to hold the bloom erect. The plant should have a free-growing habit, throwing blooming shoots freely after a shoot is topped or a bloom is cut. It should also be healthy and disease-resistant. The

American Carnation Society uses the following scale of points for new varieties: Color 28 Size 20 Calyx 6 Stem 20 Substance 15 Form 10 Fragrance 5 . 100

The most uniform results have been secured by confining the breeding to separate colors; as, for example, crossing white with white, red with red or crimson, pink with pink, and so on. This method has been proved to produce the largest percentage of self-colors, which are considered the most valuable commercially in this country. New varieties are frequently secured by sporting or mutation. A variety of a certain color may produce a bloom of another color, and by propagating the cuttings from the stem which carried the odd bloom a new variety is established. The securing of a new variety in this way is purely a matter of good fortune, as no method for causing the sporting is yet known. Leading books on the carnation are: "The American Carnation," by C. W. Ward; "Carnations, Picotees and Pinks," by T. W. Sanders; "Carnations and Pinks," by T. H. Cook, Jas. Douglas and J. F. McLeod; "Carnation Culture," by B. C. Ravenscroft. The last three are English.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Border Carnations

A Carnation cultivar

Border carnations are the most widespread, and are the bushier and more compact type, reaching 12-14 inches high. The flowers come in profusions, and each is between 2 - 2 1/4 in. wide, and fragrant. Hybrids planted from seed are often treated as annuals, though they may live overwinter. All work well as borders, container plants and in mixed flower beds.


  • 'Juliet' - scarlet flowers (2.5 inches), compact, 12 inch clumps, long bloom period
  • 'Luminette' - similar to Juliet, but 2 feet tall.
  • 'Pixie Delight' - similar to Juliet, but flowers have full range of colors
  • 'Knight' - stems are strong, flowers 5 months after sowing
  • 'Bambino' - slower to flower
  • 'Hanging Mixed' - flowers are red or pink, plants hang down from pots.

Florists' Carnations

These are the ones you get at the florists, with the long stems, and are grown in greenhouses, or outdoors in areas with mild winters. In the greenhouse they can reach 4 ft with fragrant flowers, 3 inches wide. Colors include red, white, pink, orange, yellow, purple and mixed. Only the terminal bud on a stem is allowed to develop in order to get the largest flowers, while the rest get pinched off down to the 5th joint, which is under where new flower stems may develop. To prevent sprawling, staking is necessary. Grow plants from strong cuttings of varieties you like. Plants are sturdy and tidy, concealing supports.

Carnations are cultivars of Dianthus caryophyllus - a species of Dianthus.

It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 80 cm tall. The leaves are glaucous greyish green to blue-green, slender, up to 15 cm long. The flowers are produced singly or up to five together in a cyme; they are 3–5 cm diameter, and sweetly scented; the original natural flower colour is bright pinkish-purple, but cultivars of other colours, including red, white, yellow and green, have been developed.


Carnations require well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, and full sun. Numerous cultivars have been selected for garden planting.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Culture of outdoor or flower-garden carnations. Fig. 808.

Americans are not sufficiently aware of the excellence of some of the forms of the flower-garden or border carnation. While perennial, like the greenhouse carnation, many of them bloom profusely the first year from seed and are described as annuals. The Marguerite type is one of the most useful. These forms bloom by midsummer from early-sown seeds, and with some protection the plants will pass the winter in the open and bloom again the following spring. The Margaret strain, distinct from the Marguerite, bears double flowers, sulfur-yellow, and also blooms the first season from early-sown seed. The Chabaud strains behave similarly. The Grenadins (Fig. 801) bloom the first year from seed. They produce fine singles, of simple form and strong fragrance, although more than hall of any sowing from improved seed may produce various degrees of double bloom. Riviera Market and others bloom in autumn from spring-sown seeds. The culture of the hardy or flower-garden carnations is very simple. Their profusion of summer bloom makes them desirable.

The Picotee class (Fig. 804) is little known in this country. It is a hardy perennial in England, and the fine strains are often propagated by layers (Fig. 809). They also do well from seeds, blooming freely the second year.

The Malmaison strain, which was the leading carnation in England before the advent of the Perpetual- flowering strain, has been found of little value in this country. On account of its large size it was used to some extent for breeding purposes, but with unsatisfactory results.

The border carnation is a more condensed and bushy plant than the long-stemmed few-flowered plant seen in the American greenhouses, although there are different families or groups of them as there are of phlox or snapdragons. Some forms are dwarf and some tall-growing.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

See also: Greenhouse cultivation of Carnations


Seed, cutting. Typically border carnations are propagated by seed, while florists' carnations are propagated by cuttings.

Pests and diseases

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture


Stemrot (Rhizoctonia) is the common wet stemrot which does perhaps more damage than all the other diseases combined, and it is also more difficult to control than any of the others. Its presence does not manifest itself until its damage is wrought, and the plant is seen to wilt and die. The cause of the disease is a fungus which exists in the soil, and which will lie dormant in the soil for several years if there are no plants to attack. Hence no carnations should be planted for several years in soil which is known to have this fungus present.

Species of Fusarium cause a slow rot of the heart of the plant; the treatment is same as above.

Carnation-rust (Uromyces caryophyllinus) is more common than stemrot, but not nearly so destructive. A slight welling of the outer tissue of the leaf is the first sign of its presence. Later on this bursts open, releasing a brown-colored powdery substance, comprising the spores by which the fungus is propagated. Keeping the foliage dry and the atmosphere buoyant and bracing will prevent the appearance of this disease. Spraying with bordeaux mixture has been found effective in combating this disease after it has gained a foot-bold.

Fairy-ring (Heterosporium echinulatum) is perhaps the most destructive of the spot diseases. It is brought on by a humid or foul atmosphere, and must be fought with remedies which will produce the opposite in atmospheric condition. Bordeaux is the standard remedy for all spot diseases.

Bench rot may be caused by any one of a number of organisms attacking the ends of the cuttings in the propagating-bench. It is frequently a very serious disease. The fungi most frequently causing the trouble are in the sand and under the ideal conditions of temperature and moisture of the propagating-bench spread very rapidly. The use of clean sand, free from all organic matter, and the securing of new sand for each lot of cuttings and cleanliness in the propagating - house will help to control this trouble.

Insect pests.

A green plant-louse (Myzus persicae) is frequently troublesome on carnations. It also attacks a large number of greenhouse and garden plants as well as several fruit trees. Nicotine applied in one of the many forms will destroy it. Spraying and vaporizing are both employed successfully as preventives of the attacks of aphids.

Thrips (Heliothrips haemorrhoidalis) are equally destructive and more difficult to control. The same treatment as for aphis is suggested. Sweetened paris green used as a spray is also effective (three gallons of water; two pounds of brown sugar; two tablespoonfuls paris green).

The punctures made by thrips and plant-lice cause yellowish spots on the leaves, a diseased condition known as stigmanose. Red-spider (Tetranychus bimaculatus) is found mostly where plants grow near steam-pipes, where ventilation is poor, or in houses kept too dry. Persistent syringing with water will usually destroy them if the spray is applied to the under surface. Use much force and little water to avoid drenching the beds. Sulfur as a dust or in water will also destroy them.

The carnation mite (Pediculopsis graminum) injures the buds by transmitting the spores of a fungus (Sporotrichum poae) which causes them to decay. The injured buds are easily recognized and should be promptly gathered and burned to prevent further spread of the trouble.CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.




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