There are numerous meanings attributed to this flower over the centuries. The mythology links the carnation to the goddess of the hunt, Diana; in fact it is handed down that a young shepherd madly in love with the Goddess, was first seduced by him and then cruelly abandoned; from the shed tears of the young man who died of passion, it is said that beautiful flowers were born: carnations. In the same verse also the Christian tradition reports that from the tears of Mary of Sorrows at the foot of the cross of Christ, carnations were born. There are also numerous powers attributed to infusions obtained with the essence of the flower: a panacea against ailments and fever, relief for the sufferings of love. In the language of flowers the meaning of carnation varies according to its color: red = passionate and impetuous love, white = fidelity, yellow = indignation.

Origin and description

Family and gender
Fam. Carophyllaceae, gen dianthus with more than 300 species
Type of plant Perennial, biennial or annual herbaceous. Evergreens
Exposure Sun
RusticitŠ° Rustic or semi-rustic
Ground Calcareous and rich
colors White, pink, red, yellow
Culture simple
Flowering Spring Summer
Height 25-60 cm
Propagation Seed, cutting, division

It is a very vast and absolutely varied genus. It counts at least 300 species and there are so many varieties. Moreover it has a great capacity to hybridize and therefore there are innumerable cultivars. They can be found in almost all temperate areas of the globe. Many are spontaneous in Europe, others come from Asia and Africa. The height can go from 10 cm up to 50 and more (especially in the cutting cultivars). The flowers are in various colors: from red to pink, to white, to yellow. The petals can also be variegated or edged in a different color. The corollas can be single, double or straddle. The leaves are opposite, linear or lanceolate and can be medium green or, in some species, glaucous. On knotty stems, often with a woody base, they carry mostly single flowers (in some, even small bouquets or umbels) with five petals (in simple shapes) frayed and sometimes with an intense aroma. At the end of summer they form in the glass of capsules containing many seeds. However, we will proceed with a more specific description for each individual variety.

Planting carnation

Speaking of perennial species we can say that they are commonly found in the market in spring in jars usually of 8 cm per side or larger. To insert them in the garden it is sufficient to dig holes slightly larger than the pot, put a little granular fertilizer on the bottom and insert the seedling, pressing well to compact the soil. The distance to be kept between one plant and another depends on many factors. Mainly it has to evaluate how long we want to get a final result, that is the complete coverage of the area. If we want an immediate effect it will be necessary to put the plants very close to each other. If we have more time we can instead quietly leave more space and allow the plants to occupy it slowly. Caryophyllus tends to be cultivated in pots, while the others find their ideal environment in full ground (but this does not prevent us from keeping them in a container).

Carnation land

The carnations tend to be less demanding, but to vegetate at best they require a chalky chalky soil. Even a stony soil is very suitable for them.

Carnation display

They are plants that like full sun, but they also tolerate the partial shade quite well. The important thing is that the area is dry, absolutely not humid.


There are differences between one variety and another. We can however say that in general they are not particularly demanding plants and need infrequent irrigations. We must absolutely avoid any type of water stagnation. If grown in pots then a thick draining layer must be prepared on the bottom.

Carnation fertilization

They can be fertilized at the beginning of the vegetative period with a slow release granular product. It is necessary, however, to always be rather careful because they do not respond well to excessive nourishment.


They can be multiplied rather easily in different ways. First of all they can be sown in early spring (or even in autumn, if we have a cold greenhouse where they can winter) in a mixture of peat and covering the seeds with agricultural vermiculite. They will have to be kept constantly humid with vaporisations and covering the lettorino with a plastic film. They should germinate within two weeks. When they have reached the fifth leaf they can be transplanted into larger jars and regularly trimmed to stimulate their preparation. However the most common method is the cutting. It is usually taken from non-flowery shoots in the summer. The ideal is to detach it at the height of a leaf armpit. They should then be placed in a mixture of sand, peat and perlite and kept moderately moist. Usually the first signs of vegetation are seen within a month.

Pests and diseases

Perennial varieties are usually very resistant and are rarely attacked by insects and pathogens. It may happen that some varieties (above all the annuals) are hit by powdery mildew, especially in the years in which the rains alternate with the humid heat. A poorly ventilated position can also be a cause. In this case it is good to prevent with the help of wettable sulfur or to intervene (in the case of strong affection) with a specific curative product. If they were hit by insects (aphids, whitefly, tendredini) the problem can be controlled with a contact insecticide and ingestion to be distributed in the less hot hours.

Dianthus carophyllus

It is a plant native to Europe and naturally grows in rocky and arid places. It has woody stems and almost needle-like leaves, usually glaucous or gray. It is grown as a cut flower in greenhouses. In gardens it is scarcely used, except as a potted flower. It is quite sensitive to cold and therefore needs to be picked up during the winter season. It has the advantage, however, of being re-flowering and of being able to boast a very wide range of colors and flower shapes. Being rather tall, it most often requires guardians.

Dianthus x allwoodii

It is a hybrid between the carophyllus and the plumarius. It is a perennial species, at most 25 cm high. It is usually obtained by sowing since it is very easy to find sachets on the market. It is very useful both in the borders and in the rock garden due to its compact growth habit. There are also various re-flowering cultivars.

Dianthus barbatus

Also known as poetic carnation, it has been in cultivation since the mid-1500s. It is a perennial species that unfortunately, after the second year, no longer gives good results. It is therefore generally treated for two years, often proceeding with sowing and cutting. Unlike the others, it has large, glossy leaves and inflorescences in bunches. They bloom from May to July and the height is very variable. The tallest (about 60 cm) can be used in borders. The lower ones (15 cm) are useful as a ground cover or in a rock garden. Also excellent in pots.

Dianthus plumarius

It is native to northern Europe. The leaves, needle-like and glaucous-silver, form a beautiful evergreen cushion. They are therefore very useful as a ground cover and in a rock garden. At the beginning of summer they bring single flowers with a diameter of 3-4 cm with frayed petals, from white to pink to red, very fragrant. The flowering is unique and lasts about a month. They are rather resistant plants that expand quickly. It is therefore very easy to obtain new plants by dividing the head. They also produce very abundant seeds.

Dianthus deltoides

It is a perfect carnation as a ground cover or in a rock garden. It is also found in the spontaneous state, usually in the pink color. It has a creeping habit and dark green leaves. It multiplies by division and, if it is found in a suitable soil (therefore poor, rocky or sandy), it spreads with ease.

Dianthus neglectus

Small in size, with thin and very elegant stems. The vegetation is greyish and is excellent as a ground cover.

Dianthus alpinus

Even this spontaneous in our country, especially in the alpine areas, appears to be by far the smallest in size. Usually it does not reach 10 cm in height. It has dark green leaves while the flower is simple, flat and fuchsia pink.

Dianthus knappii

A very special species characterized by the yellow color of the corollas. The plant reaches 25 cm and has rigid stems and flowers in groups.

Dianthus chinensis

Originally from Asia, it is mostly grown as an annual. It is about 20 cm tall with single flowers. It has the advantage of having a long flowering, especially if it is cleaned regularly. It is easily multiplied by self-seeding.

Carnation: Dianthus superbus

It can reach 50 cm in height and is spontaneous in Europe. It can normally be found in the composition of alpine meadows. The petals are particularly airy and frayed and spread a very pleasant and intense aroma. It is very beautiful if inserted in the borders or in the informal garden. However, it needs to be kept tidy by periodic cleaning and elimination of dry or too irregular growing stocks.
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