If you are particular about flowers, choosing one of the most fragrant types of carnation flowers can be quite a challenge. Sure, the available color options can be overwhelming, but the varietal selection is on another level. To date, there are about 600 known cultivated varieties of carnation flowers.
These varieties may all fall under the carnation family in terms of botanical classification, but each of these blooms holds distinct features that stand out. Some have bigger flower sizes, while the other hybrids have more significant petal numbers or even longer vase life than usual. Some carnation hybrids are characterized by rapid flowering, and others have specific fragrances or none.
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the most fragrant types of the second most popular flower worldwide, the “flower of the gods” – carnation flowers.
The Basics: What are Carnation Flowers?
Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) are one of the most popular flowering plants and the oldest ones in cultivation. It belongs to the Dianthus genus of the Caryophyllaceae or Pinks botanical family.
Carnations, commonly known as clove pinks, are herbaceous perennials that grow about 18 inches in height. The flowers come in a variety of colors, but the most common include shades of pink, red, yellow, purple, and white. Some carnation types feature bicolor or tricolor flowers.
A popular choice among florists as they are considered flowers for all occasions, carnations make excellent cut flowers because of their fascinating features and colors, symbolic value, long vase life, and clove-like fragrance. These blooms are often used in floral arrangements, bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres, among others.
What do Carnation Flowers Smell Like?
Carnations are prevalent not just because of their beauty but also for their fragrance. Most of these blooms exude a clove-like scent that can be described as a mix between sweet and spicy. Others, however, are fragrance-free.
The oil extracted from carnations is used in perfumes, soap, body washes, and other beauty products. Carnation oil is also popular in aromatherapy.
The 10 Most Fragrant Types of Carnations
In the floral world, carnation generally pertains to clove pink varieties, including clove pink hybrids with other Dianthus species. Many of these are prized not just for their allure but also for their remarkable scent. Here’s a quick list of the most fragrant type of carnations that will work well for home gardens, bouquets, decorative pieces, or any kind of floral arrangement.
1) Dianthus ‘Cheshire Cat’
One popular carnation cultivar is the Dianthus ‘Cheshire Cat’. It originates from a group of carnations known as perpetual carnations, which are crosses between carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) and China pinks (Dianthus chinensis).
The Dianthus ‘Cheshire Cat’ features large pink blooms with hints of crimson-red streaks along the petals. It’s a tall carnation variety that flowers all year-round.
2) Dianthus ‘White Rabbit’
Those looking for a romantic fragrance and elegant look in flowers should look into the ‘White Rabbit’ perpetual carnation cultivar. It flaunts delicate-looking flowers in white that bloom all year round in mild climates.
3) Dianthus ‘Royal Salmon’
The ‘Royal Salmon’ carnation is a recipient of the Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) Award of Garden Merit. It is an early carnation cultivar featuring showy salmon-hued double flowers.
4) Dianthus ‘Romance’
Dianthus ‘Romance’ is an award-winning type of carnation known for its spicy fragrance and long flowering period. This prized variety is very compact and displays an array of salmon-pink double flowers.
5) Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Chomely Farran’
A classic plant breeder’s favorite during the 1700s and 1800s is the Chomely Farran carnation. During that time, a group of carnations known as “Bizarres” were highly sought for their bi-color or tri-color flowers with irregular stripes or spots.
Interestingly, the Chomely Farran is the sole Bizarre carnation type that is in cultivation up to this day. Although not as strongly scented as the other carnations, it remains a top choice because of its bi-color flowers in shades of purple and rose pink.
6) Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Vienna Mischung’
D. caryophyllus ‘Vienna Mischung’ is a dwarf type of border carnation that works best if you want to add a bit of fragrance to your home garden. It grows about 12 to 24 inches in height and features scented bi-color flowers in a mix of white and red. The name “mischung” means “mixed.”
7) Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Grenadin Pink’
D. caryophyllus ‘Grenadin Pink’ is a hardy carnation that gives off a spicy-sweet scent. This double-flowered carnation showcases stunning large deep pink blooms that bloom from spring to summer.
8) Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Cinnamon Red Hots’
‘Cinnamon Red Hots’ carnations are one of the best red carnations that you can easily find. Its vibrant red color makes it attractive, but the intense cinnamon-like fragrance is what makes these blooms extra noteworthy. It blooms from mid-spring to early autumn.
9) Dianthus caryophyllus ‘King of the Blacks’
Black carnations are non-existent. But if you are looking for one, the ‘King of the Blacks’ carnations are the closest you could get. Absolutely eye-catching, this type of carnation provides a one-of-a-kind addition to gardens or cut flower arrangements. The ruffled flowers come in a dark shade of burgundy red and bloom from late spring to mid-summer.
10) Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Chabaud Orange’
Orange carnations aren’t as ubiquitous as other carnation colors, but that is what makes the ‘Chabaud Orange’ even more appealing. These clove-like scented carnations boast a beautiful display of large orange flowers that can surely cheer up anyone instantly.
Fragrant Carnation Flowers FAQs:
How can I ensure the fragrance of my carnations is at its best?
To enhance the fragrance of your carnations, you can follow these tips:
- Choose fragrant varieties: Select carnation varieties known for their scent, such as Dianthus ‘White Rabbit’, Dianthus ‘Royal Salmon’, and Dianthus ‘Cheshire Cat’.
- Optimal growing conditions: Carnations thrive in well-drained soil with full sun exposure. Ensure they receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Adequate air circulation also helps in intensifying the fragrance.
- Proper watering: Carnations prefer slightly moist soil, so water them regularly but avoid overwatering. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again.
- Fertilization: Use a balanced fertilizer low in nitrogen to avoid excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.
- Pruning and deadheading: Regularly remove spent blooms and trim back the plant to promote new growth. This encourages more flowers and helps maintain the plant’s overall health, contributing to fragrance production.
- Harvesting and indoor display: When cutting carnations for indoor display, choose fully open flowers with a strong scent. Placing them in a vase with fresh water and changing it every couple of days can help preserve their fragrance.
Can I grow fragrant carnations indoors?
Yes, you can grow fragrant carnations indoors, although they generally thrive better outdoors with ample sunlight and air circulation. When growing carnations indoors, choose a bright location near a window where they can receive at least six hours of sunlight per day. Use well-draining potting soil and ensure the container has drainage holes to prevent waterlogging. Maintain proper watering and fertilization practices, and provide adequate humidity by placing a tray filled with water near the plants or using a humidifier. Remember to trim back the plants after blooming to promote new growth and maintain their overall health.
Can I propagate fragrant carnations from cuttings?
Yes, propagating fragrant carnations from cuttings is a common and effective method. Here’s how you can do it:
- Select a healthy carnation plant with desirable fragrance and growth characteristics.
- Take a cutting from the plant, preferably from a non-flowering shoot. The cutting should be about 4-6 inches long and include several leaf nodes.
- Remove the lower leaves from the cutting, leaving a few leaves at the top.
- Dip the cut end of the stem into a rooting hormone powder to encourage root development (optional).
- Plant the cutting in a pot filled with moist, well-draining potting mix. You can also use a mixture of peat moss and perlite.
The Most Fragrant Carnation Flowers: Wrapping Up
Carnation flowers are, without a doubt, amongst the most beautiful blossoms with widespread recognition. However, their charming flowers and stunning colors are not the sole reasons for their marketability and attractiveness. The fragrance is another component that many consider as it adds to any bloom’s charm. With the huge number of carnation flower varieties available, the best-smelling carnation types stand out from the others.
For more, see our in-depth guide to carnation growing zones and native ranges, the best locations to plant carnations, and how to propagate and transplant carnation flowers in your garden.
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.
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