A few years ago, carnations in the garden had almost been forgotten. Completely wrongly, because the green or gray-blue leafy upholstery plants are very easy to care for and also bring color to garden areas that hardly any other flowering plant would like to inhabit. But now the mostly wonderfully fragrant flowers in the rock garden, on dry stone walls and on balconies and roof gardens are experiencing a renaissance.


The carnation genus includes around 300 annual, biennial or perennial species as well as a number of hybrids and ornamental forms. Two common, original species are heather carnations and feather carnations. The heather carnation takes its name from its preferred area of ​​distribution. The appearance of the feather carnation gives it its name. Their petals are notched at the outer ends, making them look feathery. These notches can be so strong that they reach down to the calyx and hang down like thin threads. The original form of both species is adorned with rather small, unfilled flowers. But dozens, sometimes hundreds, of these delicate flowers form, which attract a wide variety of insects and butterflies in the warm season. A large number of breeds are now known,
Heather carnations reach heights of 15-20 centimeters and often have a ring-shaped eye on the calyx. Popular types are:

  • Albus: white with a crimson ring
  • Brilliant: karminrot
  • Vampire: blot

Field carnations grow a little higher. Most genera are 20-30 centimeters high, some up to forty. The following species, which are available at garden centers, nurseries or by mail order, have double flowers:

  • Altrosa: pink
  • Diamond: white
  • Heidi: blood red
  • Morning light: pink
  • Munoth: bright red
  • Ine: white / red

There are also a few varieties that do well in the garden and show significantly more pronounced height gains. They also include a native species: the Carthusian carnation. It is up to 70 centimeters high. While the flowers of most types of carnations grow individually or in pairs at most on a flower stem, the carmine-red flowers of the Carthusian carnation form dense clusters.

The cloves are particularly popular. They should not be missing in any cottage garden. Mustard carnations form flowers in numerous colors, often several different tints on one stem.


While heather carnations are at home on boggy soils and like acidic soil, feathered carnations and most other carnation species prefer a calcareous soil. They are still able to flower even if there are very high amounts of lime in the soil. Since the carnations form low, compact cushions, they are ideal for planting in the front rows of the bed as a ground cover. Spring carnations are native to the Alps, where they sometimes grow on rather barren scree or rocks. Therefore, they are ideal for:

  • Stone gardens
  • Wall planting
  • Green roof

Carnations are very sun-hungry plants, so they should be given an exposed spot in the garden. The motto here is: the sunnier, the better. Otherwise, they have no special requirements for their location:

  • sheltered from the wind
  • Soil: dry to slightly moist, permeable to water and airy
  • no waterlogging


  • Mustard: well-cared for, moist garden soil
  • Heather carnation: acidic soil, no lime
  • Spring carnations: calcareous soils (or lime fertilization)
  • Carthusian carnation: sandy soil
  • Carnation: damp spots, near the pond

Watering and fertilizing

Carnations have adapted very well to sunny and dry locations. Due to the grass-like leaves, very little moisture evaporates, especially since they are also covered with a layer of wax. This is why the plants only need a little water. Water is only ever poured in the root area, as leaves turn yellow quickly and the flowers tend to rot if they get too wet.

At the same time, cloves prefer poor or even barren soils, so fertilization is not absolutely necessary. If fertilization is used at all, then the fertilizer should be used very sparingly.


For a rich and powerful bloom, carnations need a well-drained soil. The soil should be prepared a little before planting by digging it up well and adding plenty of compost. In addition, adding sand can make the soil more permeable to water. In the case of carnation species that prefer calcareous soils, lime may be added to the soil.

  • Time: May
  • Plant spacing: at least 15 centimeters

Since carnations form bushy cushions, they should not be planted too densely in the bed. It looks particularly nice when different species are planted as compact ground cover in the immediate vicinity. But they also fit well in the company of foxgloves, lavender or daisies.

Carnations are very easy to care for and do not require any special treatment. Only withered flowers have to be removed regularly. This creates space for new flowers.

Life cycle

Carnations are mostly biennial plants. This means that their life cycle from germination to formation of seeds is two years. This does not mean that the carnations need two 365 days for this, but two growing seasons. They begin their growth in a time before a climatically unfavorable vegetation period such as frost in winter or a dry period. During this time they only develop roots and leaves and store nutrients. Only after the frost or the dry season, i.e. in the second vegetation period, do flowers and thus seeds form. After the seeds mature, they then die.

This clearly distinguishes them from annual plants, which can only survive one summer and die towards the end of the growing season. Perennial plants grow, bloom, and bear fruit over several years.

Propagation by cuttings

Propagation of the carnation by cuttings is recommended. This method is more promising and easier to use than growing from seeds. In addition, some cultivars do not produce germinable seeds.

  • Time: late summer or autumn
  • Only pull cuttings from strong and healthy plants.
  • Use only flowerless shoots.
  • Cut off the head of the shoot with 3-4 leaf knots.
  • Carefully remove the lower leaves.
  • Place the cutting in sandy potting soil.
  • Water well until the roots form.

Propagation from seeds

Carnations bloom throughout the summer from late May or June. Another way to propagate them is to collect the seeds and sow them. When the flowers have wilted, they can be cut off. You have to work very carefully when removing the seeds, as the seed pods are very small. When stored in a dry and dark place, they will germinate the next spring.

  • Time: March
  • Substrate: cactus soil, potting soil or sandy, humus loam
  • Germination temperature: around 15 degrees
  • Cover the seeds only lightly with soil.
  • Pour lightly.
  • Cover with foil to prevent moisture loss.
  • After germination: Ventilate daily (remove film briefly).

When the small plants have grown about three centimeters, they can be pricked out (isolated). From May (after the ice saints) they are then placed outdoors or in the balcony box. In the first summer, however, only the annual or perennial species bloom. You need to be patient with two-year carnation varieties, as they only form buds in the second year.

The right soil: Seeds should never be planted in normal potting soil. This contains fertilizer that harms the young plants. Therefore, care should always be taken to ensure that the soil is as nutrient-poor as possible when sowing. Well suited are: potting soil, cactus soil or coconut. Kokohum is made from the fibers of the coconut and is available in briquette form as a pellet in all garden centers and nurseries. Before planting or sowing, the pellet must be soaked in water.

Multiplication by sharing

Large and healthy plants can also be divided. For this purpose, a larger piece of the plant including the root is dug up and separated from the rest of the plant. The separated piece can then simply be planted in another place. For better growth, the root ball should be kept slightly moist at first.

Although the location and soil conditions are ideal, the perennial species tend to bald over time and only sprout a few flowers. These plants can be rejuvenated by dividing them. To do this, after flowering they are pierced with a sharp spade in the middle of the root ball and divided into two pieces. Both plants are cut back by about a third. This procedure is intended to encourage fresh budding. Two independent plants are created. If the carnation is not big enough, it is cut by a third without dividing it.

Popular balcony plant
Its bushy growth, abundant flowering and, above all, its high resistance to drought make the carnation a popular plant for balcony boxes and planters. There are some varieties that form pendulous flowers so that they protrude up to half a meter from the planter.


Most varieties of carnations are annual or biennial. Often they re-sow themselves. Of course, this can only happen if the last flowers remain on the plant without being cut.

Some carnations show full winter hardiness even under extreme conditions (up to minus 25 degrees). These varieties include, for example, Neon Star and Carthusian Carnation. But there are also many other species that are frost hardy and do not need winter protection. Some other plants are not that resistant, but can still survive the winter unscathed with a few measures against the cold. If the plants are in a frost-prone area in the garden, these perennial species can be carefully covered with brushwood to protect them from frost damage. However, the plants still have to get a little bit of air so that they do not become waterlogged and rot.

Plants in tubs that are hardy are simply placed on a styrofoam plate in a weather-protected corner and can remain outdoors all winter. Only watering on sunny, frost-free days should not be forgotten.

To cut

Carnations, as a rule, do not need pruning. The gardener should only remove dried-up flowers and dead shoots. Perennial plants are checked for frost damage after winter, damaged plant parts are cut out and disposed of on the compost. In the case of severely bald plants, about a third of the cut is necessary to stimulate new growth and growth.

Diseases and pests

Carnations are very hardy plants. There are no known diseases or pests that could attack them.

However, carnations in the home garden sometimes suffer from location problems. If the place in the garden is too humid or too shady, they are susceptible to fungal diseases. The only remedy here is to move it to a suitable location. Preparations made from algae can strengthen the plants.

Carnations form true carpets of flowers in white, pink or red tones in flower beds, heather gardens, roof terraces or on dry stone walls. The often wonderfully fragrant flowers are very sun-hungry, but otherwise undemanding. Most species prefer calcareous soils and also grow on poor subsoil. They are only sensitive to waterlogging. If the location is optimal, they will bloom continuously between June and September without further intervention by the gardener.

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