Carnations literally means the “Flowers of Gods.” Its three main types are differentiated by size but it also comes in hundreds of varieties.
You can find carnations in various colors with each color bearing a special meaning fit for different occasions or symbolisms.
A. Three Main Types
First, below are the three main types of carnations.
1. Large flowers, with one big flower per stem.
2. Dwarf flowers, which is the smallest type of carnation.
3. Spray flowers, with several smaller flowers per stem.
B. Types of Carnations
1. Dianthus Caryophyllus – Carnation
These are what people generally think of when they hear the term “carnation.” They are always in colors such as pink, red, white, or salmon, and they come with foliage that is greyish-green in color. Carnations love humid conditions and therefore, they do very well in the South and other parts of the country where the humidity level is high.
Since this type of carnation has been cultivated extensively for the past 2,000 years, it is difficult to know where it came from, but most professionals think it came from the Mediterranean region. They perform better in full sun and soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline, and their varieties include:
- Red Rocket.
- Laced Romeo. Red fringed with white and grows up to 18 inches in height. They bloom from May to July and have colorful leaves. They do best in zones 5-8.
- Gina Porto.
- Salmon in color, this carnation grows to approximately 12 inches in height and blooms in May. It is deer-resistant and does great in zones 5-8.
- Grenadin King of the Blacks. These carnations are deep purple-red and look like black velvet.
- Vienna Mix. As the name suggests, these flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, and yellow.
2. Dianthus Barbatus – Sweet William
This type of carnation will germinate and grow the first year you plant them. In the second year, they start to bloom, and you get new crops every year thanks to the fact that they easily reseed. One of the biggest advantages of the Sweet William carnation is that it grows in all conditions and therefore, people living in any part of the country can grow it.
Sweet Williams are usually salmon, pink, white, or red, and they have an exceptional fragrance and aroma. Sweet William is native to certain parts of Asia and Southern Europe and is edible. It grows up to two feet in height and contains half-inch blossoms in clusters.
It may have some medicinal purposes as well, and it attracts bees, butterflies, and birds. It usually consists of five petals that each has serrated edges. Its types include:
- Dianthus Barbatus var. Barbatus. Originated in southern Europe and has very wide leaves.
- Dianthus Barbatus var. Asiaticus. Originating in northeastern Asia, its leaves are very slender and narrow.
- Dwarf plants. These are double-flowered plants that only grow so high. The Pinocchio variety grows only to 9 inches in height, and the Wee Willie grows to only 5 inches. These flowers can be bi-colored as well as red, pink, or white.
- Tall types. These include the Giant Imperial, the Hollandia series, the Cinderella Mix, and the Amazon series. These can grow up to 3 feet in height and do best in zone 5.
- Medium tall types. Included in this category are the Heart Attack, which has reddish-black flowers and grows up to one foot tall in zones 3-8; and the Sooty, which does best in zones 3-9 and has blooms that are dark chocolate and maroon, red stems, and green leaves that turn to mahogany at the beginning of the summer.
- Interspecific crosses. Since the Dianthus species cross-pollinates easily, many new hybrids exist. The Dianthus Chinensis x Barbatus is a cross between the Chinese Pinks and the Sweet William. This flower, therefore, tolerates both heat and cold better than other varieties, and also produce more flowers. Moreover, the Ideal series has flowers reaching up to 10 inches and comes in 18 different colors.
- Scarlett Beauty. They contain clusters of bright red flowers and have an extraordinary aroma.
3. Dianthus Grataniapolitensis – Cheddar Pinks
Cheddar Pinks are perennial flowers and bloom in the summer time, showing off blooms that are a beautiful shade of pink and which are very fragrant. The Cheddar Pinks are often used as a groundcover, in part because they grow in a dense mat. They work best in zones 4-8, and they bloom from May to June.
The flowers also grow best in full sunlight and get up to one foot in height. They are extremely fragrant and grow best when they are not over or under watered.
Moreover, they do not tolerate very wet soil or cold soil, and they are a beautiful rose-pink in color. The Cheddar Pinks are also a protected species in the U.K. since 1975.
4. Dianthus Deltoides – Maiden Pinks
These carnations are either red or pink, and they also bloom during the summer months. They can be used as a groundcover and are considered short-term perennials. Native to western Asia and most of Europe, they are an introduced species in the United States.
The Maiden Pinks have blooms that are loosely tufted and leaves that are narrow and very green. Its varieties include:
- These contain beautiful green foliage and blooms that are white, pink, and rosy-red, with crimson rings around the center; they also have a wonderful fragrance.
- Confetti White. Delicate and containing deep-green foliage, these flowers sparkle like diamonds after it rains.
- Flashing Light. These flowers bloom their very first year and are ruby-red in color with dark-green leaves. Striking!
- Arctic Fire. These have white blooms with pink-and-white centers surrounded by a bright ruby-red line. Heat tolerant and beautiful.
5. Dianthus Chinensis – Hardy Annual Dianthus
This is one type of carnation that actually performs poorly in hot and humid weather. They grow best in alkaline soil and if exposed to hot and humid weather, they will not last and will simply wither away and die.
Blooming from spring time until the fall, the Hardy Annual Dianthus are usually white, red, or pink in color. Native to northern China, Mongolia, southeastern Russia, and Korea, they are also called China Pinks or Rainbow Pinks. They have green to greyish-green leaves and can be produced singly or in small clusters.
6. Dianthus Plumarius
This carnation is a basic pink color and is actually very common and popular with carnation lovers. They grow up to 2 feet in height and usually include five pink petals that have fringed edges.
They flower from May to August. They originated in Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria, but are now commonly found throughout states in the Midwest and the south, as well as the northeast.
7. Dianthus Armeria
Native to most of Europe, the Dianthus Armeria is a grassy-pink color and consists of five bright red petals in small clusters located at the top of the stems. They bloom from early to late summer and can even grow up to 12 inches in the wild, although they grow much higher when properly taken care of. Because of its basic color, this type of carnation is often used in gardens as an ornamental flower and to highlight other flowers.
8. Dianthus Pavonius
These carnations are peacock (dark) pink and short-stemmed, growing less than 10 inches high. The leaves are pointed and bluish-green in color, and the blooms are purple-pink and have centers that are either brown or blue.
They flower from April to May and have fruit capsules containing several seeds that are brown and flat in nature. They are a very eye-catching and noticeable carnation.
9. Dianthus Seguieri
A beautiful shade of medium pink, its petals are wide and they almost look like they have only one. They can grow to almost 2 feet in height and have green leaflets and pink flowers with purple markings in the center.
They flower from June to September and have capsuled fruit that contains several brown seeds. The flowers grow well in dry areas that are very low-lying.
10. Dianthus Superbus
This is a very popular type of carnation and can come with regular or fringed edges. It is available in red, white, or purple with a green center. If you deadhead the flower, you can extend its blooming period, and it has a very sweet scent, as well.
Since it grows low to the ground, it is easy to enjoy the scent of the Dianthus Superbus, and the flower also contains sweet nectar. This is one flower that is edible if you boil it first, and the resulting tea is good for uses that include contraception, to ward off infections, and for diuretic purposes, to name a few. Anyone interested in learning more about its uses should do some research on the Internet to find additional information.
C. Carnation Meanings
- Light Red – Admiration.
- Dark Red – Love and affection.
- White – Purity, luck, or love.
- Yellow – Dejection or unhappiness.
- Pink – Gratitude.
- Purple – Capriciousness.
- Striped – Refusal or regret.
- Green – St. Patrick’s Day.
D. Things You Never Knew About Carnations
1. The flower comes in numerous colors, including the multi-colored varieties that can have two or more colors. Many thousands of years ago, carnations were used to improve health and beauty, and today they are known for their medicinal and nutritional uses, as well.
2. Carnations have been a symbol of love for many centuries. Even its scientific name, Dianthus, means “love.” At one time, if you sent a carnation it symbolized a certain message that required a response. According to custom, if a solid-colored carnation was sent back, it meant “yes;” if a striped carnation was sent, it meant “I can’t be with you right now;” and a yellow carnation meant “no.”
3. There are many health benefits of using carnations both internally and externally. Although studies still need to be performed to know more about their benefits and everyone is advised to see a doctor before using carnations, the flower has been known to help calm the nervous system, reduce muscle spasms, improve heart health, help in the production of sweat, and help with topical problems such as dry skin, rashes, and eczema. Carnations are even currently used in various skin care products, including creams, lotions, and perfumes.
4. In addition to physical problems, emotional challenges can be eliminated or reduced with the use of carnations. This includes a variety of nervous disorders, such as basic tension and nervousness, which is why the flower is often used in massage oils.
In fact, their nerve-calming capabilities are impressive, although many of them are not yet backed up by science. Again, visiting a physician before trying anything with carnations in it is always highly recommended.
5. To reduce or eliminate physical and emotional symptoms, the carnation can be used in several ways, including:
- In an essential oil, which you can often find online.
- As a tea, most commonly made with a powder made of dried carnations; if you make the tea yourself, grind up the flowers and stems and place one teaspoon of the dried flowers in one cup of boiling water, then let it steep for five minutes before drinking it.
6. Many medical conditions have been shown to be relieved by using carnation, including inflammation, endometriosis, skin irritations, nausea, chest congestion, flu and cold symptoms, anxiety, PMS, diarrhea, sagging skin, and even depression.
7. You can also enjoy some culinary delights when you choose to cook with carnations. Before doing anything else, you need to be sure you remove the base of the petal, as it is extremely bitter when cooked. You can use the petals to liven up your pies, salads, and sandwiches, and if you crystallize the petals you can make cakes and pastries more dressy and more attractive.
8. Of course, as with many herbs and flowers, there are some contraindications that everyone needs to be aware of. The most important one is the fact that carnations can stimulate the uterus, which means lactating and pregnant women should never use it.
Although no known drugs have been shown to interact negatively with carnations, it is still a good idea to check with your doctor if you are currently taking any prescriptions, just to make sure that you will be safe should you decide to consume or topically apply carnations.