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Dianthus chinensis Telstar (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)
Dianthus chinensis Telstar (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)

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Zones A2, A3, 1-24, 28-45, H1
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Full, Partial
Regular Water

Dianthus caryophyllus

Carnation, Clove Pink


More than 300 species and an extremely large number of hybrids. Most kinds form attractive evergreen mats or tufts of grasslike green, gray-green, blue-green, or gray-blue leaves. Single, semidouble, or double flowers in white and shades of pink, rose, red, yellow, and orange; many have a rich, spicy fragrance. Main bloom period for most is spring into early summer; some kinds rebloom later in season or keep going into fall if faded flowers are removed. All kinds of dianthus thrive in light, fast-draining soil.

Dianthus caryophyllus (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
Dianthus caryophyllus (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)

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Dianthus caryophyllus

Dianthus caryophyllus is a highly bred Mediterranean species. Two distinct categories exist: florists’ and border types. Both have double flowers, bluish green leaves, and branching, leafy stems that often become woody at base.

Border carnations are bushier and more compact (12–14 in. high and wide) than florists’ type. Fragrant, 2–2 1/2-in.-wide flowers are borne in profusion. Effective as shrub border edgings, in borders of mixed flowers, and also in containers. Hybrid carnations grown from seed are usually treated as annuals but often live over. ‘Juliet’ makes compact, foot-tall clumps and bears 2 1/2-in. scarlet flowers over a long season; ‘Luminette’, 2 ft. tall, is similar. Pixie Delight strain is also similar but includes full range of carnation colors. Knight series has strong stems, blooms in 5 months from seed. Bambino strain is a little slower to bloom. There is also a strain called simply Hanging Mixed, with pink- or red-flowered plants that sprawl or hang from pot or window box. Newer varieties include bright red ‘Cinnamon Red Hots’, to 1 ft. tall; rose pink ‘Pinkie’, reaching 6 in. high; and foot-tall ‘Velvet ’n Lace’, with frilly dark red flowers edged in white.

Florists’ carnations are grown commercially in greenhouses, outdoors in gardens in mild-winter areas, including higher-elevation gardens in Hawaii. Greenhouse-grown plants reach 4 ft., have fragrant flowers 3 in. wide in many colors—white, shades of pink and red, orange, purple, yellow; some are variegated. For large flowers, leave only terminal bloom on each stem, pinching out all other buds down to fifth joint, below which new flowering stems will develop. Stake to prevent sprawling. Start with strong cuttings taken from the most vigorous plants of selected named varieties. Sturdy plants conceal supports, look quite tidy.

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