Carnations belong in every garden. There are countless varieties and a lot of hybrid breeds. Many are suitable for our Central European gardens, but not all are sufficiently hardy. With an ideal location and good substrate, the carnations are robust, healthy and easy to care for. However, some things should be noted. Not all prefer the same substrate. There are also differences in watering and fertilizing. We have compiled everything you need to consider for you. Continue reading!


  • Carnation family
  • Up to 600 species
  • 27,000 varieties plus lots of hybrids
  • Occurrence – in temperate areas of the northern hemisphere
  • Mostly perennial species, rarely annual or biennial
  • Often poster-forming
  • Mostly strong taproots, rarely rhizomes
  • Flowers solitary or in groups
  • Some species have fragrant flowers
  • Flowers from white to pink and red to purple, also multicolored and patterned
  • Sometimes bizarre flower shapes

Carnation Species

  • Country or Carnation Dianthus caryophyllus
  • Heather Pink or Delta Pink – Dianthus deltoides
  • Chinese carnation, also called imperial carnation – Dianthus chinensis

Other known species

  • Bartnelke – Dianthus barbatus 
  • Busch-Nelke – Follow Dianthus
  • Feder-Nelke – Dianthus plumarius
  • Karthäuser-Nelke – Dianthus carthusianorum
  • Prachtnelke – Dianthus superbus

Dianthus caryophyllus – Carnation or carnation

The country carnation or carnation comes from Italy, Greece, Sicily and Malta, i.e. from the Mediterranean region. It is characterized by a bushy growth and its evergreen leaves. These are dark green and lanceolate. The flowers appear from June to October, are wheel-shaped and emit a pleasant fragrance. According to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, the carnation is one of the protected plants. It is mainly used for cottage gardens, rockeries, beds and borders, but also makes a good container plant and cut flower in bouquets. There are also hanging varieties for hanging baskets. The maintenance is quite easy.

Beautiful Varieties:

  • ‘Etincelant’ – red flowers
  • ‘Jeanne Dionis’ – white flowers
  • ‘Magenta’ – magenta flowers
  • ‘Mondrian’ – red flowers with a white border
  • ‘Moondust’ – purple flowers
  • ‘Margarita’ – flower dark red inside, light red outside with a white edge
  • ‘Picotee Fantasy’ – Mixture, in addition to the usual red, pink and purple tones also soft yellow and salmon colored flowers

The care of the country or carnation

  • Location – sunny, the sunnier the better, somewhat sheltered
  • Plant substrate – dry to fresh, a gravelly-loamy substrate is best, pH value between 6.5 and 7, rich in humus and nutrients
  • Planting – plant at the end of August, planting distance 20 cm
  • Pour – keep evenly moist, no waterlogging, do not let dry out
  • Fertilize – during the growth period provide nutrients with flowering plant fertilizer monthly, use calcareous fertilizer
  • Pruning – trimming off faded flowers, this promotes the formation of new flowers. For carnations intended as cut flowers, remove the side buds so that the power goes into one flower
  • Overwintering – conditionally hardy to about -18°C, cover at lower temperatures, this also protects against too much moisture, which is unfavorable, not hardy in containers
  • Propagation – sowing – preculture from mid-February, 15 to 20°C, prick out after 3 to 4 weeks, young plants outdoors after the ice saints, with hanging plants – propagation by cuttings from September to November
  • Diseases – clove rust – cut off affected parts, dispose of the plant if it is severely infested, do not put it in the compost
  • Pests – aphids, recognizable by the honeydew and the pests themselves, rinse off with a strong jet of water, use parasitic wasps
Note: Timely pruning prevents flowering breaks.

Dianthus deltoides – heath carnation or delta carnation

The heath carnation is a cushion carnation and thrives on lime-poor, acidic soils, also on sand and, as its name suggests, in the heath. The delta carnation also grows in North Rhine-Westphalia and is protected there because there are fewer and fewer plants. They are considered endangered and are on the Red List. The plants bloom in pink to pink, the calyx is often suffused with red. The crimson to purple petals are interspersed with a darker horizontal stripe and light spots. There are also different colored varieties. The flowers are a butterfly magnet. The plants grow to a height of 10 to 40 cm and only branch at the base. The leaves are about 3 cm long and narrow linear. The flowering period extends from June to September.

Heather pinks do particularly well in rock gardens, where they can spread vigorously as ground cover. However, they can also be used for normal bed planting. Since the plants are extremely drought tolerant, they can also be used for green roofs.

Beautiful varieties

  • ‘Albus’ – white flowers with a crimson ring
  • ’Brillant’ . karminrot
  • ‘Vampire’ – blot
  • ‘Lichtfunk’- carmine
  • ‘Splendens erecta’ – red, forms dense, overhanging cushions

The care of the heather carnation

  • Location – sunny, the more sun the better
  • Plant substrate – lean, sandy, very well drained soil, prefers acidic soil, does not like calcareous substrates
  • Plants – add compost to the soil, plants in May, planting distance 20 cm, no neighbors with strong growth
  • Watering – requires little water, copes well with drought, water in the event of prolonged drought, preferably in the morning, lack of water is indicated by limp leaves
  • Fertilizer – not necessary, at most in spring a light re-fertilization with long-acting perennial fertilizers
  • Pruning – no pruning for annual varieties, for perennials cut off the faded stalks, if you want to prevent self-seeding, cut before the seeds ripen
  • Hibernation – usually sufficiently hardy, even without protection, just protect from too much moisture
  • Propagation – sowing, preculture from February, use potting or cactus soil, cover seeds only lightly with soil, divide in spring, self-sowing is also welcome, cuttings in summer
  • Diseases – fungal diseases – if the location is too damp
  • Pests – aphids, recognizable by the honeydew and the pests themselves, rinse off with a strong jet of water, use parasitic wasps
Note: Permanent removal of faded flowers and inflorescences will help prolong flowering.

Dianthus chinensis – Chinese carnation

The Chinese carnation, also known as the imperial carnation, comes from China, as the name suggests, from the northern area. It also occurs in Korea, Mongolia and southeastern Russia.
The plants are perennial and reach a height of 15 to 45 cm. Several branched stems form a clump. The leaves are green to grey, about 3 to 5 cm long and also very slender. The deeply incised petals are characteristic. Their color ranges from white to pink to dark red, often with a darker center. Flowering begins quite early in the year, often as early as May, and lasts until August or September. The scent of the flowers is also very pleasant. Chinese carnations are great for containers and sunny borders. They are also popular balcony plants. Hybrids are often offered commercially. The plants are mostly annuals.

Beautiful varieties

  • ’Red Empress’ – scharlachrot
  • ‘Rapid’ – white and red
  • ‘Homeland’ – dark red
  • ‘Balcony Fire’ – scarlet
  • ‘Greetings from Chiemgau’ – bright red
  • ‘Dancing Geisha’ – delicate fringed flowers of various colors, very showy, good for containers
  • ‘Clarion Purple’ – purple flowers with green-silver foliage
  • Magic Charms-Hybriden

The care of the carnation

  • Location – sunny to a maximum of half-shade, with sunny being much better, also good for balcony boxes, but protect from rain
  • Plant substrate – fresh soil, standard soil, mixed with sand, permeable, potting soil for balcony plants, pH value – neutral to slightly alkaline
  • Plants – plant just as deep as they were in the pot, planting distance 20 to 25 cm, mulch the soil, protects against drying out and overheating
  • Watering – do not need so much water, always let the substrate dry before watering, slightly damp is good, not too wet, but also not too dry
  • Fertilize – K-stressed and only a little, but every 14 days
  • Pruning – regularly remove faded flower heads so that new flowers are formed. The flowering period is extended
  • Overwinter – not hardy
  • Propagation – sow in February or March, temperatures at least 18°C, cuttings from non-flowering side shoots at the beginning of summer, can also be sown directly in the garden bed, from May, before that in the cold frame
  • Diseases – carnation rust – it is best to destroy affected plants immediately, do not throw them on the compost, rotting if the soil is too moist
  • Pests – Leaf miners, Mediterranean carnation moths, snails love these carnations. rabbits and squirrels
Tip: Pinch off plants to make them more compact and produce lots of flowering shoots.

Frequently Asked Questions

Although the carnations are described as sufficiently hardy, they usually do not survive the winter. Why is that?
This is mostly due to the combination of cold and wet. Cold doesn’t really bother the carnation plants, at least the specimens that have been planted out. It’s the combination that hurts them. All the moisture weakens the plants and then it doesn’t take much to prevent them from making it through the winter. With cloves in a container, it is the case that they are damaged if the substrate freezes completely. But only a few plants tolerate that anyway.

Can you eat carnation flowers?
I didn’t find anything about whether you can eat them all. In any case, you can eat the flowers of the carnation and the whitsun. It is of course important that you have not fertilized, or only organically, because you do not want to eat any chemicals. The flowers should probably not be harvested too young, as they taste bitter in the early stages.

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