Carnations are beautiful flowers known for their frilly petals and sweet, spicy fragrance, in addition to being one of the two January birth flowers. Carnations are also pretty easy to grow, even for inexperienced gardeners. In this article, we’ll reveal whether carnations are annuals or perennials.
Are Carnations Annuals or Perennials?
Most types of carnations are short-lived herbaceous perennials. Carnations prefer cooler temperatures and grow as perennials in Zones 3 to 8. This means that carnations will grow back every year.
During the winter, carnations die back completely and enter a dormant state. However, carnations grown in colder areas may behave like annuals rather than perennials. Although carnations like cool temperatures, they can struggle and even die completely if temperatures drop below freezing.
What Are Carnations?
Carnations, also known as pinks, are members of the Dianthus genus. This genus contains hundreds of species and belongs to the broader carnation or pink family (Caryophyllaceae). Most carnations are native to grasslands and open meadows in parts of Asia and Europe.
These herbaceous perennials have star-shaped flowers with frilly petals. Most carnations are clump-forming plants that have slender, grass-like bluish-green or grayish-green leaves. However, some alpine species are low-growing plants that form mats of short stems topped with fragrant flowers.
Carnations are pretty hardy plants that prefer cooler temperatures in USDA Zones 3 to 8. They are usually grown as ornamentals and make excellent cut flowers for vases and bouquets, and can also be dried or preserved. Carnation flowers are suitable for a host of gifting occasions.
The Life Cycle of Carnations
Carnations are short-lived perennials that generally live for approximately three to four years. Towards the end of their life, carnations will be less productive and will produce fewer flowers. During the blooming season, carnations can flower for up to eight weeks.
Carnations grow fairly quickly; most varieties should bloom within four to six weeks of sprouting. Each season they will bloom from late spring until late summer or early fall. Once flowering finishes, carnations die back completely during the winter but survive underground. Carnations will regrow each spring until their lifespan is over.
Do Carnations Die During the Winter?
In Zones 3 to 8, carnations won’t die during the winter. Like many herbaceous perennials, carnations go dormant and survive underground. Their leaves will die back to conserve energy. Carnations begin growing again in the spring.
How to Care for Carnations
Carnations are adaptable plants that are easy to care for, even for novice gardeners. They need to be planted in a sheltered spot that receives approximately four to six hours of full sun daily. Carnations also require fertile, well-draining soils with pH levels ranging from 6.5 to 8.5.
Water carnations once a week or whenever the top 2 to 3 inches of soil feel dry. Fertilize every three to four months using a slow-release fertilizer. Alternatively, feed carnations every month or two using diluted liquid fertilizer.
Once your carnations have exhausted their first round of flowers, cut back the stems. This can produce a second flush of flowers later in the season. Deadhead your carnations throughout the season to encourage more blooms.
These herbaceous perennials plants can survive winters outdoors in Zones 3 to 8. However, applying a thick layer of mulch is best to conserve water and provide extra insulation. In colder areas, grow carnations in pots and either bring them indoors or wrap them in fleece during harsh winters.
Are Carnations Annuals or Perennials FAQs:
Do Carnations Come Back Every Year?
Carnations are herbaceous perennials in Zones 3 to 8. As perennials, carnation flowers come back every year. Although carnations die back entirely during the winter, they will reemerge in the spring.
How Do You Look After Carnations in the Winter?
Carnations are reasonably hardy plants but can struggle if temperatures drop below freezing. Adding a thick layer of mulch during the winter helps your carnations conserve water while providing extra insulation. Alternatively, wrap potted carnations in fleece or bring them indoors.
Do You Cut Back Carnations After Flowering?
Cut back the stems once your carnations have finished flowering in early summer. This promotes a second flush of flowers later in the season, helping you get the most out of your carnations.
Should You Deadhead Carnations?
Deadhead carnations throughout the flowering season to keep them looking lovely. This also encourages your carnations to produce extra flowers. Always use clean, sharp tools when deadheading your carnations.
What is the Lifespan of a Carnation Flower?
Carnations are short-lived perennials that only live for three or four years. Carnations may start slowing down and producing fewer blooms once they reach a few years old.
Carnations are attractive, short-lived perennials that live for approximately three to four years. During the winter, carnations die back to the ground and enter a dormant state. Once spring arrives, carnations begin growing again.
For more, see our in-depth guide to carnation growing zones and native ranges, the uses and benefits of carnation flowers, tips on managing non-flowering carnations, beautiful flowers that pair well with carnations, how to propagate and transplant carnation flowers in your garden, and why the carnation is Ohio’s State Flower and Spain’s National Flower.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.
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