Whether it’s a birthday, graduation, Mothers Day, Christmas, a thank you message, or a host of other special occasions, a bouquet of Carnation flowers is a timeless gift to friends and loved ones. Depending on the color you choose, they can express love, admiration, gratitude, sadness, sorrow, appreciation, and more. Carnation flowers are readily available year-round in various different colors and varieties, giving you plenty to choose from. In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Carnation flower meaning, including symbolism, popular varieties, and more.to know about Carnation Flower Meaning, Symbolism, Popular Varieties, and more.

Ultimate Guide to Carnation Flower Meaning, Symbolism, History, Origins, How to Grow, and How to Care

What Is A Carnation Flower?

The Carnation

Carnation, scientifically known as Dianthus caryophyllus, is a highly popular flower used in landscapes and home gardens. They are popular cut flowers for bouquets, flower arrangements, corsages, and boutonnieres.

One of the oldest cultivated ornamental crops, Carnations have been grown for more than 2,000 years. They remain adored for their fragrance, ruffle-like blooms, and long blooming period.

Also called grenadines or clove pinks, these plants are herbaceous perennials native to the Mediterranean.

Botanist Carl Linneaus coined the name Dianthus caryophyllus in 1753. The genus name comes from the Greek word dios, meaning divine, and refers to the god Zeus. The remainder anthos simply means flower. Because of this, the name ‘Flowers of God’ also refers to carnations.

These flowers are closely related to another member of the Dianthus genus and a popular garden plant, Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus).

The caryophyllus specific epithet originates from the Greek word karya for walnut tree and phyllon which means leaf, after its appearance.

Carnations usually appear in a single stem and predominantly in shades of pale pink and peach. But throughout the years, as these favorites have been cultivated and bred, more and more colors and varieties of carnations have emerged.

This beautiful flower is now available in a wide range of colors, including red, white, purple, green, and more.

Carnation Meaning

Mothers Day Carnations Flower Delivery
Mother’s Day Carnations

Much like roses, carnations are well-loved for the vast array of colors they offer. Each of these colors signifies a different meaning.

Generally, carnations are a symbol of fascination and motherly love. They produce elegant, attractive blooms that induce and symbolize a variety of emotions.

Pink Carnation Meaning:

Pink Carnations in particular symbolize a mother’s love. This symbolism traces back to an early Christian legend that these flowers bloomed when Virgin Mary started crying as Jesus carried the cross. Pink Carnations are also presented as a sign of appreciation.

Red Carnation Meaning:

Red Carnations are also a popular color choice, and different shades of red convey different meanings. Light red Carnations represent friendship and admiration, whereas the dark red variations express sincere love and affection.

White Carnation Meaning:

White Carnations, on the other hand, are a symbol of pure love and good luck.

Purple Carnation Meaning:

Although most Carnations signify positive meanings, some colors are the opposite. Striped Carnations, for example, are a symbol of regret and refusal. Purple Carnations symbolize capriciousness, and the yellow Carnation signifies disappointment and sorrow.

For those born in January, Carnations are the birth flower for the month.

Carnation Flower Symbolism

Renowned globally, these blooms play an essential role in various cultures worldwide.

Carnations are associated with Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis, the woman who founded Mother’s Day in the US, designated white carnations as the holiday’s emblem since it is her mother’s favorite flower.

Today, red Carnations are worn on this day if one’s mother is alive, white ones if she has died.

Carnations are also the official flowers for 1st Wedding Anniversaries.

Green carnations are often worn for St Patrick’s Day. Renowned Irish writer Oscar Wilde was believed to wear green Carnations in celebration of this cultural and religious celebration.

In Korea, Carnations are worn on Parents’ Day and Teachers’ Day.

The beauty of Carnations blends well with other flowers in wedding bouquets and almost any kind of flower arrangement. They are often used as filler flowers or volume flowers. Boutonnieres and corsages also use these blooms.

Carnations are short-lived perennials that typically bloom for three to four years. There are three distinct types:

  • Large-flowered Carnations
  • Spray or mini Carnations
  • Dwarf-flowered Carnations.

Large-flowered Carnations produce one prominent flower per stem. Spray or mini Carnations grow lots of small flowers per stem. Dwarf-flowered Carnations also form small flowers but in lesser quantities. They are the smallest type of carnations.

Below are some of the most recognized carnation color meanings:

White Carnation Flower Meaning

White Carnations
White Carnations

Thinking about giving someone flowers wishing her good luck? Or flowers to express pure love and affection? Then, white Carnations are the perfect blooms.

Available all year round, white Carnations flaunt a soft, tightly ruffled white blooms that smell sweet and spicy like a clove.

White Carnations also convey a message of a prosperous life. They make an ideal birthday gift to elders or to someone starting something new in life.

Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Floristan White’ is one of the most recognized white varieties of Carnation. Part of the distinguished Floristan series, it produces large white flowers with blue-green foliage. Floristan White Carnations are also long-lasting.

White carnations are also the official zodiac flower for the star sign Cancer.

Red Carnation Flower Meaning

Red Carnations
Red Carnations

Like the red rose, red Carnations are the ideal flower when you are planning to express deep love and affection with a romantic gesture. These flowers display ruffled petals that add just the right texture to any arrangement. The vivid red gives a pop of color that quickly turns heads.

One of the most popular cultivars is ‘Laced Romeo’. It displays double red flowers fringed with white stems. Like other Carnations, they are fragrant and available all year round.

‘King of the Blacks’ Carnations are hardy and effortlessly bring a touch of almost black, deep red color to any arrangement. This fascinating cut flower displays velvety, burgundy double flowers atop firm stems. The leaves are evergreen with a gray-green color.

Another popular red Carnation is ‘Garden Spice Red’. These plants produce small, frilly, and red double flowers that bloom for a long season. Like other Carnations, the Garden Spice Red flowers are also fragrant and add a nice texture to floral arrangements.

Pink Carnation Flower Meaning

Pink Carnation
Pink Carnation

Exquisite pink Carnations symbolize a mother’s pure and never-ending love. Because of this symbolism, pink Carnations make the perfect flower for Mother’s Day.

They are also known to symbolize gratitude. Hence, pink Carnations are ideal if you would like to show appreciation to someone.

The ‘Chomley Farran’ Carnation is a famed cut flower and an excellent border plant. The bi-color double flowers display pink and purple petals that are about 1.5 inches wide. The stems are typically 12 to 18 inches long.

‘Grenadin Pink’ Carnations are popular options, part of the Grenadin series. Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin Pink’ displays enticing deep pink flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The large, ruffled, double flowers radiate a long-lasting spicy-sweet scent. Complementing the beautiful blooms of this garden favorite are glossy bronze or blue-green leaves and sturdy stems.

Another popular cultivar of pink Carnation is Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Peach Delight.’ This fascinating ornamental plant produces fragrant flowers that are peach-colored at first, but turn pinkish over time. Multiple flowers grow per stem.

Yellow Carnation Flower Meaning

Yellow Carnations
Yellow Carnations

Some schools of thought link yellow Carnations (or more specifically the color yellow) to feelings of rejection and disappointment. However, this epic flower is so radiant that it would be silly to overlook it.

Some of the most recognized yellow Carnations are the ‘Clarion’ Carnations and the ‘Golden Sun’ Carnations. Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Clarion’ shows double yellow flowers atop a sturdy upright stem and silver foliage.

‘Golden Sun’ Carnations, known for being excellent cut flowers, boast long stems and attractive large yellow blooms that smell like clove.

What to Look for When Buying Carnations

Like other cut flowers, Carnations are ethylene-sensitive. Exposure to ethylene speeds up blooming, making them deteriorate faster. When buying Carnation as a cut flower, choose one that is pre-treated with an anti-ethylene product to ensure a long-lasting bloom.

Also, check on the storage conditions of flowers before purchasing. Carnations that have been stored for too long or cut improperly could stop the flower buds from opening.

If you are looking for fresh Carnations, look for half-open flowers, with some still in bud form. They will fully open after a day or so in water and will be at their best bloom within 3 to 4 days.

Key Tips for Caring for Carnation Flowers

One of the key characteristics that made Carnations so famous is their ability to live long postharvest. They usually live up to 10 days to 2 weeks in a vase, as long as proper treatment is received.

Here are some essential tips to help you maximize carnations’ long-lasting blooms.

  • Place Carnation cut flowers in a clean vase with fresh water and flower food to promote hydration and water uptake.
  • Remove the Carnation leaves below the water level and recut the stems with a clean and sharp knife.
  • If your carnations have not been treated, treat them with any commercially available anti-ethylene product as soon as possible. A few drops of vodka are also said to inhibit ethylene production.
  • Keep the flowers away from direct sunlight and heat.
  • Be careful when handling the flower heads, as they can pop off easily.

For more, see our in-depth guide on where to plant carnations and the best companion plants for carnations in your garden.

Petal Republic’s Flower and Plant Guides:

Looking for a particular stem or in need of some inspiration on the best blooms for a certain occasion? Check out Petal Republic’s expert flower guides to Roses, Goldenrod, Bouvardia, Acanthus, Ranunculus, Lilies, Irises, Tulips, Orchids, Gerbera Daisies, Gladiolus, Borage, Clovers, Camellia, Freesia, Anemone, Begonia, and Peonies.  

Contributing Editor | Full Bio | + posts

Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.

Author Madison Moulton

Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.

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