Tips for Healthy Carnations

Cut carnations make beautiful vase arrangements.

Cut carnations make beautiful vase arrangements.

Carnations come in hundreds of varieties, and most types are easy to grow. White, pink and red are the most common colors, but there are many beautiful shades of hybrids. Carnations growing in a garden will bloom from spring until autumn if you protect them against cold weather. Cut carnations can last up to two or three weeks if you choose healthy blooms, making them ideal for fresh arrangements.

Growing Conditions

Carnations need at least four to five hours of sunlight every day. The flowers do best in full sunlight, but can also do well in areas that receive some shade. The best temperatures for growing carnations range between 50 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime hours and between 41 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Perennial carnations are hardy and can survive light frosts before going dormant for the winter. Soil should be well drained and slightly alkaline.

Watering

Carnations do not need much water except during the hottest months. Even then, you have to be careful not to water the plants too much. Overwatering can turn the leaves of a carnation yellow. Mist the flowers with water instead of watering the soil; stagnant water can cause root disease. During dry periods, water carnations once or twice a week.

Fertilizing

Peat is a practical choice for adding organic matter to the soil in your garden when growing carnations. Decomposed pine bark is another good choice. A soil fed with too much nitrogen is not healthy for carnations since it can cause heavy leaf growth, which results in fewer flowers blooming. Adding a general-purpose fertilizer to the soil once or twice a month is usually enough. General-purpose fertilizers typically contain equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium -- the three major nutrients plants need to grow. Mulch helps protect perennial varieties of carnations from extreme cold temperatures during the winter.

Deadheading

If you intend to cut fresh carnations from your garden to use in flower arrangements, regularly deadhead spent blossoms to encourage the plants to continue producing new blooms. Deadheading also helps prevent mildew from forming on the plant’s stem and leaves. To deadhead a carnation, use your fingers to pinch the dead blossom just below where the stem and flower join. You can also use shears to deadhead a carnation, cutting just above or below a leaf node.

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