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Carnation

Facts, Types, Meaning and Care Tips

The carnation is a universally known and loved flower. For the florist, its wide spectrum of colours and fantastic vase life make it indispensable in flower arrangements. For the recipient, it's light, sweet fragrance and pretty petal formation make it a delight for all the senses.

Carnation meaning


In the language of flowers carnations symbolise 'devotion'. It's for this reason that many Renaissance painters chose to include this flower in their engagement scenes in the 15th and 16th century.

Today, in many countries around the world, pink carnations are often given to mothers on Mothering Sunday as an expression of love and gratitude.

Carnation mythology

With a history that dates back more than 2,000 years, it's not surprising that carnations are deeply embedded in symbolism. Originating in the Mediterranean region, the flower takes its Latin name from 'Dios' (God) and 'anthos' (flower) indicating just how high a regard the carnation was held in.

The flowers were extremely popular with the ancient Romans, who used them to create wreaths and sweet smelling perfumes. They were also often depicted in religious art and for Christians became a symbol for the suffering of Christ.
While they may not be as highly revered today, carnations remain one of the best-selling cut flowers in the world.
Scientific name: Dianthus.
Common name: Peruvian lily, Ulster Mary or Inca lily.
Family: Caryophyllaceae.
Availability: All year round.
Vase life: Approx. 14 days
Colour range: All colours in all tones, shades and tints apart from blue and black.

a few facts about carnations

These beautiful flowers are quite interesting too. Here's a few things you probably didn't know about Lilies:

  • The carnation is one of the world's bestselling flowers.

  • Carnations are the birth flower for January.

  • The carnation is the state flower for Ohio.

For the Home

Carnations are hugely versatile flowers whether used as a focal flower or as a support act in a vase of other blooms. They work particularly well with bold flowers such as large headed roses, sunflowers or lilies. The spray varieties are equally versatile and look especially nice when combined with similar sized summer flowers such as nigella, spray roses or veronica.

Why not experiment at home or ask your florist to create a bespoke bouquet in your favourite colours?

For Brides

Carnations are a pretty flower for weddings and offer good value for money due to their year round availability. They are especially a popular choice for buttonholes but would work just as well in arrangements for the wedding venue, adding colour and texture. The beautifully fragrant Dianthus plumarius (pinks) are a perfect vintage wedding flower.
"The versatility of the carnation and the fact that they are available in so many colours and forms makes them ideal for brides looking to co-ordinate their wedding theme. Carnations are also great for creating pomanders for flower girls or younger bridesmaids to carry or even to decorate pew ends."


Karen Broxholme, Wedding Flowers Expert.

Carnation Care Tips

As Carnations are such wonderful flowers, you'll want them to last as long as possible. Here's how to get the most from your carnation flowers:

  1. Re-cut the stems between the nodes and remove all foliage below the waterline.

  2. Fill a clean vase with fresh water and add flower food. Note- stems can become slimy if stood in deep water so do not fill your vase too full.

  3. Carefully place the flowers into the vase.

  4. Change the water every 2-3 days and recut the stems when you do so.

  5. Faded spray carnation heads should be removed promptly to help prolong flowering.

Top Tip:

  • Tease out closed carnations by cupping the flower between thumb and forefinger and fluff gently.