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Carnation: planting, cultivation and maintenance

The carnation deserves much more than its reputation as a bouquet flower. Did you know that its learned name, Dianthus, literally means &quo...

The carnation deserves much more than its reputation as a bouquet flower. Did you know that its learned name, Dianthus, literally means "flower of the gods" among the Greeks? 

Carnation: planting, cultivation and maintenance

Over the centuries, the carnation figured in the foreground of medieval tapestries, in floral compositions dedicated to the Virgin, and even became the emblem of the Portuguese revolution. With its heady fragrance, its resistance to any test and the range of its colors, the carnation undoubtedly deserves its place in the gardener's pantheon!

Presentation of the carnations

Native to Asia and Europe, carnations (Dianthus) form a heterogeneous family of flowering perennials, annuals and biennials comprising 300 different species and thousands of cultivars. The foliage can be evergreen or deciduous, but always lanceolate and of a grayish hue (grey-green or grey-blue). The summer flowers, sometimes fragrant, bloom in clumps or borders, but also in rock gardens. 

Presentation of the carnations

If they are the basic flower of any florist, carnations are also worth admiring in the garden. They marry nicely with roses in the spirit of a priest's garden, or with aromatic plants. 

GardeniaPat Tip: Don't confuse the carnation (Dianthus) with the marigold (Tagetes patula). If their colors don't put you on the right track (yellow and reddish-brown for the marigold, more often pink or red for the carnation), look at the gray foliage for Dianthus and clear green for the other.

Species and varieties of carnation

In perennials, the carnations (Dianthus allwoodii or D. plumarius) will be as much a part of a beautiful bed as they will be in flowers cut from your vases. With their seductive fragrance, wide range of colors, nicely fringed flowers on evergreen foliage, they have it all! Opt for the unicolored varieties 'Doris' or 'Diana', or the bicolor 'Moulin Rouge'. Dwarf carnations such as 'Evening Star' are perfect in pots. 

The generous flowers of the florists' carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) also stand out for their fragrance and colorful variety. These carnations can be grown as biennials or annuals, depending on the variety. If you choose a remonstrant variety, you will enjoy their flowering until autumn. The offer is very vast, take the time to choose your colors and compose your flowerbeds as a painter would do for his paintings. 

You wish a simpler flower? Try the Chinese carnation (Dianthus chinensis), a beautiful annual with up to 15 flowers per plant, ideal to embellish your summer window boxes.

As for the biennials, the poet carnations (Dianthus barbatus) present us in May-June with their bouquets of flat flowers in pink, red and white tones. In association with wallflowers, your flowerbeds will arouse the admiration of the neighbors!

Sowing and planting of the carnation

Whatever the species, the carnation will always appreciate light, well-drained soil and sunny exposure. To obtain beautiful flowers, you can proceed either by sowing, by planting in a bucket, or by cutting. 

The sowing of Chinese carnations or florists will be done in February-March under cover for transplanting in the open ground in April, or even directly in the open ground as soon as the weather is fine. Be careful, their very light seeds require not to have too heavy a hand, at the risk of having to thin out the young shoots a lot. 

Sowing and planting of the carnation

After a summer sowing, the carnations mignardise or poet carnations will appreciate a transplanting in autumn. At this time, you can also replant the pots, taking care to water the young plants well. Planting carnations in the spring is also possible, as long as you stay away from frost. For potted carnations, first add a draining layer of clay beads and place your container in the sun.

Cutting of the carnations will be carried out from May to March. To do this, take unflowered carnation branches of 10 to 15 cm, remove the lower leaves and bury them in small pots filled with peat and sand. The cuttings will take root in two to three weeks, then be transplanted into a larger pot about two months later. Your new perennial or biennial carnations will be installed in May in your garden, so you can enjoy their summer bloom. Once well acquired, this technique allows you to obtain new varieties at a lower cost, but also to give back vigor to your own perennials.

Carnation cultivation and care

Regularly remove faded flowers and disbud the side buds. Also tutor the poet carnations with high stems to protect them from gusts of wind. For the stems of the carnations of the florists, favorite a metal arch that you will install from May. Finally, regularly feed the soil with a layer of manure to support the flowering of the annual carnations, which are a little more greedy than the perennial carnations. 

You can also take advantage of the rest of your carnations to proceed to a division of the tufts. It is recommended that you do this every three years to avoid your perennials running out of breath.

Carnation size

At the end of flowering, the stems of the perennials will be pruned, those of the biennials shortened for a second flowering and the annual plants discarded. 

GardeniaPath Tip: For beautiful carnation bouquets, pick flowers that are barely half open. Use a clean blade to cut the stems and remove submerged leaves to prevent them from rotting.

Carnation diseases and parasites

Two specific parasites threaten the carnation: the carnation fly, whose maggots destroy the leaves and stems, and the caterpillar of the carnation leafroller, which revels in the buds of its flower. 

The foliage of the Dianthus can also suffer from powdery mildew, botrytis (grey rot). If your carnation is attacked, take a photograph of the damage and visit a garden center to obtain the most appropriate remedy. 

Finally, aphid attacks can be contained by spraying with black soap.

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