My garden carnations (Dianthus) grow best in fertile, well-draining soils with good aeration. The trick to keeping them happy and flourishing throughout the season is to plant in soil that drains well but retains some moisture. Carnations also prefer neutral to alkaline soils with a pH range between 6.5 and 8.5. Make sure you’re setting your plants up for success with this helpful guide to the best soil types for thriving carnations.
Carnation Soil Requirements
In my experience, chalky, loamy, or sandy soils are ideal for carnations. These types of soils provide lots of drainage and aeration, which helps prevent waterlogged soil. However, chalky and sandy soils lose nutrients quickly, so they should be amended with some organic matter. Chalky soils are also alkaline, which works well for carnations.
I find that clay and peat-based soils are too dense (and acidic) for these plants and can quickly become waterlogged. Clay soils hold lots of nutrients but also retain too much moisture.
How to Amend Your Soil for Carnations
If your soil doesn’t provide enough aeration or drainage for carnations, you can amend it by adding some grit or sand. Adding organic matter such as compost also slightly improves drainage while adding lots of nutrients. Adding these components to the soil reduces the soil density, improving drainage.
Some types of soils, such as clay or peat, may be too acidic for carnations. These plants prefer neutral to alkaline soils with pH levels ranging from 6.5 to 8.5. If your soil is too acidic, add in some lime. Use a soil testing kit to identify the pH levels in your soil before planting.
For more, see our in-depth guide on how to amend soil in your garden.
Soil Conditions Carnations Receive in their Native Habitats
Most types of carnations are herbaceous perennials native to parts of Asia and Europe. Some species also grow in Africa and North America. Most types thrive in open grasslands or rocky areas with well-draining soils.
Some carnations are low-growing plants native to mountainous areas such as the Alps and Carpathians in Europe. These alpine varieties grow on mountain slopes or meadows with dry to moist soils that have good drainage.
For more, see our in-depth guide to how tall and wide carnations grow under optimal conditions.
Brief Overview of Different Soil Types
All plants depend on soil for nutrients and minerals. However, different plants need different types of soil. Different types of soils provide different levels of drainage, nutrition, and aeration, as well as varying pH levels.
The six types of soils are:
- Chalky soils
- Clay soils
- Loamy soils
- Peat soils
- Sandy soils
- Silty soils
Sandy soils are loose and gritty, providing lots of drainage and aeration at the cost of quickly losing nutrients. Silty soils also have good drainage and aeration but hold more water and nutrients than sandy soils. Chalky soils also drain well but vary in terms of density and lose nutrients quickly.
Loamy soil is seen as the best type of soil because it has the best balance of aeration, drainage, and nutrients. Clay soils are extremely dense and hold lots of water and nutrients. However, clay soils have poor drainage and aeration due to their density.
Most types of soils have neutral pH levels. However, peat soils are the most acidic, making them more suited to plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. Chalky soils are usually the most alkaline.
Carnation Soil Requirements FAQs:
What Compost Do Carnations Like?
Homemade garden compost is ideal for carnations because it provides plenty of nutrients. Compost can also slightly improve drainage. Alternatively, use organic compost from brands like Miracle-Gro.
Do Carnations Do Well in Pots?
Due to their compact size, carnations grow well in pots. Use fertile, well-draining soil that won’t get waterlogged. Carnations are best suited to small or medium pots.
Where is the Best Place to Plant Carnations?
Carnations grow best (from seed or as young nursery plants) in sheltered spots that get between 4 and 6 hours of full sun each day. East or south-facing aspects are ideal. Plant carnations in rich, well-draining soils amended with some organic matter for maximum blooms during the carnation flowering season.
Is Miracle-Gro Good for Carnations?
Many Miracle-Gro products work well for carnations. These include compost products and fertilizers. Don’t use ericaceous compost mixes for carnations, as they prefer alkaline soil.
Carnations grow best in rich, loose, well-draining soils that provide good aeration. This helps prevent problems such as root rot. Carnations also need neutral to alkaline soils with pH levels ranging from 6.5 to 8.5. Chalky, loamy, or sandy soils are perfect for these symbolic flowers. However, chalky or sandy soils should be amended with some organic matter to provide more nutrients.
Further reading: Discover the most fragrant types of carnation flowers.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.