Dianthus caryophyllus 

(dii-an' thuss care-ee-ah' fill-us)

Common name: Carnation

Family: Caryophyllaceae, Dianthus

Flowers: generally terminal to 2-3" across, double, most colors or where colors don't exist (green, blue, black) white flowers are dyed often to create bicolors (tinted) with different colored petal edges; most popular are red, pink, white; strongly fragrant

Harvest: when still tight or barely open, life is related to sugar (carbohydrate) content which is highest in midafternoon--best time to harvest; sensitive to ethylene which causes "sleepiness"--failure to open-- so STS helps; can be stored dry for several weeks at 31ºF in bud stage

Foliage: linear 4-6", narrow, green to glaucous blue with waxy covering

Growth habit, uses: cut

Other interest: probably the most popular cut flower; native to Eurasia, first being mentioned in use in garlands by classical Greeks and Romans; named for the Greek dios refering to the god Zeus, and anthos meaning flower, refering to the "flower of the gods"; originally beginning on Long Island in this country in 1852 with imported French carnations, the industry was centered in the Northeast until the middle of this century; most world production is now near Bogota, Columbia with some residual production in Colorado and California and additional world production from Israel, Kenya and Spain. Cool mountainous regions with high light produce the best growing climates, with moderate climates enabling low-cost outdoor, minimally covered production.

Production: cuttings planted in benches or ground beds (indoors or out) in well-drained medium with good aeration; spacing varies with cultivar, region, quality desired but is generally 6x8"; crop requires high light and cool (below 65ºF) for growth and bloom; crop is often pinched early to promote flowering stems; carbon dioxide has been used in greenhouses to aid growth, with temperature desired changing with its use

Propagation: cuttings often virus-free from tissue cultured stock


Many hundreds are available. Popular standard series include the Sims and Sidney Littlefields. Considered by many the finest ever was the original 'William Sim' named after the Maine breeder in 1938.

Miniature or Spray carnations have sprays of 5-6 flowers per stem (panicles) with small flowers 1-2" across. Cultivars include 'Elegance' with rose-pink edged white, 'Exquisite' with violet edged white, 'Rony' with scarlet, and 'Tibet' with white flowers.

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS121, Indoor Plants.

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