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December 27th 2018

Old Fashioned Carnations for Cutting

Written by
Floret

Carnations are the most fragrant flowers we grow here at Floret and bloom all summer long from an early sowing. Their long stems and extremely long vase life make them an ideal cut flower. The tufted blooms smell like sugar and cloves and they remind me of my childhood. Even a single stem of blooms will fill the entire room with a nostalgic fragrance.

Carnation trial at Floretlong stemmed heirloom carnationsI have been searching for long stemmed, old fashioned, scented carnations for years and only recently stumbled upon a collection of incredible varieties that can be grown from seed.

The reason this discovery is so exciting is because carnations are typically grown from cuttings which are rooted off of a mother plant. But getting plant material for propagation is impossible because all of the domestic carnation growers have gone out of business and importing plant material is very difficult and costly.

Carnation trial at Floret Carnation bunches in ombre shades at FloretOver the last two seasons, we have trialed nearly 20 different varieties in search of the very best ones for cutting. I was seeking out varieties that had long stems, healthy growth, strong fragrance and unique coloring.

armload of carnationsOf all the varieties we trialed, all were beautiful in their own right, but many possessed colors that were too vivid and garish for flower arranging.

From the list of 20, we whittled down the favorites to the 5 best which I’ll share more about below.

Floret field trials Farm trial of carnations at FloretFarm trial of carnations at FloretSeed grown carnations couldn’t be easier to grow, but take a long time to mature and flower, so seed should be started in late winter or very early spring and then transplanted as soon as the danger of frost has passed.

We grow our plants in landscape fabric, 9 inches apart with 5 rows per bed. We’ve grown plants both in a hoophouse and outside in the field and both methods worked great. Flowers grown undercover had longer stems, bloomed earlier and were protected from the rain. But either growing method yields fantastic results.

Farm trial of carnations at Floret Farm trial of carnations at Floret Carnation stems are long and wispy and have a tendency to topple over under the weight of the flowers, so it’s important to provide some type of support. We use a layer of Hortonova netting stretched horizontally about 12 inches above the ground. Netting is held by in place by metal hoops that we made with our Johnny’s Quick Hoops Bender. Any type of stake, wooden or metal, will work just fine. As the plants grow, they push up through the grid of netting and get the support they need.

White and pink heirloom carnationsFor wedding work, my two favorite varieties are Chabaud Jeanne Dionis (pictured left) which boasts ruffled white petticoat like blooms on strong grey green stems and Chabaud La France (pictured right) which has flowers in varying hues of creamy blush and the softest baby pink that reminds me of Cafe au Lait dahlias.

Carnation seed from Floret Flower FarmIf you’re looking for warmer, more brilliant colors Chabaud Aurora (pictured left) has the most beautiful range of coral, salmon, blush, pink and cherry flowers. Chabaud Orange Sherbet (pictured right) features flowers that are both single and double blooms in a range of peach, coral and raspberry with delicate striping which gives them a more textural quality.

Armload of Carnation grown from seed from Floret Flower FarmLast but not least, the most unique variety we grow, Chabaud Benigna, has clean white petals that look as if they were outlined with a boysenberry colored ink pen. No flower is exactly the same and some are more saturated in color than others. It mixes beautifully with white, pink and maroon. This eye-catching variety has a very unique, old world appearance and is a must grow.

Carnation trial garden at Floret Buckets of Carnations grown from seed at Floret Flower FarmOnce carnations start flowering, it can be a full time job to keep them picked. These guys are very productive and produce buckets of blooms out of even the smallest bed of plants. 

Harvest when 1-2 flowers on a spray are open. With flower food, a vase life of up to 2 weeks can be expected.

Armload of carnations harvested at FloretI hope you will consider tucking some of these scented treasures into your garden this coming season!

Do you like carnations? Do you grow them? Please take a minute and leave a comment. Even a few words would be great!

Note: if you submit a comment and it doesn’t show up right away, sit tight, we have a spam filter that requires we approve most comments before they are published.

Lastly, don’t miss these other new posts:

Pansies and Violas for Cut Flowers

The Amazing World of China Asters

Trial Results and New Variety Preview

36 Comments

  1. Elaine Garry on

    Curious if you grow any of these as perennials?

    Reply
  2. Donica on

    I had no idea that carnations have a scent! Now I’ve got to try this myself

    Reply
  3. Mari Hjalte Flåterud on

    Lovely post!
    Interesting to read the post and the comments below. I’ve had the same problem as mentioned in earlier comments, with great growth and many flowerbuds but hardly any in bloom. Startet early last year but will start even earlier this years with seeds. Im from norway and the last frost date can sometimes be in may, but last year may came with summer temperatures! Lovely for flower growets (unfortunately the reason is probably global warming) Thanks for all the inspiration! Love your book :)

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Carnations are cold hardy and the earlier you start them, the better your harvest will be. I have grown them in a hoop house/poly tunnel and they weren’t negatively impacted by the extra heat (that I noticed). It seems like they do best when started early in the spring, planted out as soon as the threat of frost has passed and they will flower abundantly for the longest period of time.

      Hope this helps!

  4. Rachel on

    Carnations have always been my favorite flower, so of course I had to buy some! So excited to add them to my garden this year

    Reply
  5. Celeste on

    I am so glad to see carnations! I LOVE them! These flowers are absolutely gorgeous! Thank you so much for all the work you do, and the generosity with which you share your information. You inspire me to work hard. Thank you so, so very much!

    Reply
  6. Shannon on

    I actually had no idea how carnations were grown (seed? bulb? tuber?)! I learned a lot from this post! And now I want to try my hand at growing carnations!

    Reply
  7. Paula on

    Scent is such an important flower quality. Thank you for including that in your trial qualifications!

    Reply
  8. Leona Good on

    I really should raise some carnations, not only because they’re lovely, but because we live on Carnation Rd. in CO! Are they annuals or perennials? And can they take hot weather and intense sun? (We do irrigate). Thanks.

    Reply
  9. Angela Firman on

    They all look so lovely! All of what you’ve tried to be true, I’m going to take note and plan a cutting garden here in Ottawa. Thank you for being so inspirational!

    Reply
  10. Katy on

    I grew these first time last year. Started indoors in December, planted out in February, and they went nuts until frost. (I’m in zone 8 in South Carolina). But the most crucial need is definitely the staking/netting – I hoped they would be ok without it since I don’t have a dedicated bed for them- but it’s a must.

    Reply
  11. Kristen on

    You are feeding my gardening soul with these trial blog posts during the cold Minnesota winter! Thank you!

    Reply
  12. Valerie S on

    I’ve always loved the spicy, sweet scent of carnations. Beautiful!!

    Reply
  13. Rhonda on

    I;m zone 2-3 and grew carnations from seed a couple of years ago. I think I started them in April or Late March and they JUST began to blossom when we got frost. I realised they were not going to make it so I started to use the buds as filler – they were a great green grey colour and the buds provided great texture – am anxious to try them again this year (seeded earlier) and the scent was great.

    Reply
  14. Sarah Brunner on

    We grew several of the Chabaud varieties this year and, while the plant vigor was great with tall healthy vegetation, we had a hard time with the blooms. We didn’t get a lot of open flowers and what did open instantly turned brown from the slightest bit of condensation overnight. Even covering them did not help. I’m wondering if there is something we could do differently or are they just too sensitive to humidity? The plants grew so well that I don’t want to give up on them, but with how long they took to mature, it was heartbreaking to lose the blooms.
    P.s I experienced the same problem as another person who just posted. When you click on the “I’m not a robot” button, the whole post disappears and you have to retype.

    Reply
  15. Susan on

    I thank God for you and all the work you and your staff do to tend the garden and share with others. I am so grateful for your encouragement to get out there and try new things. I had no idea I could ever grow carnations but will definitely order some seeds Jan 2. I can almost smell them now! Again, THANKS! May God bless your new year.

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Thank you so much Susan!

  16. Alison S. on

    Thank you for sharing this information with such detail ! I arrange flowers weekly for a 100 yr old bowling alley with huge windows that let a ton of sunlight in. Over the years I’ve learned that carnations are one of the only flowers that are resilient enough to withstand these conditions for a week (sometimes even two !) I look forward to getting some seeds from you and trying out growing them myself this year. <3

    Reply
  17. Molly Robertson on

    Great post!!! Thank you for all the information. We’ve grown several colors from the Chabaud series over the last few years and they always perform beautifully for us (zone 8b). They are also a top seller for us at our local farmer’s market. Our customers can’t get enough of them!

    Reply
  18. Danielle on

    You are so inspiring. I love reading your blogs and social media post. As a newcomer to cut flower gardening, I am trying not to overdo it with flower varieties this next year. Which is very hard when there are so many I want to grow. I really appreciate all of the time and effort you put into your work, whether it’s webinars, social media posts, or your book(s). They are all very helpful in developing my cut flower business.

    Reply
  19. Laura on

    Great post! Thanks for sharing what you found in your trials. I was excited to hear you were trialing carnations when you mentioned it previously. Did you happen to come across any good books or resources on carnations? I’d love to read up on them… Earlier this year I went to a lecture about the carnation industry here in Colorado from a retired carnation grower. Something interesting that they related — I guess carnations were a popular flower for funerals, so after a while people associated the scent with death! This resulted in carnation breeders creating varieties that became scentless. Ugh! Well I am glad they went out of vogue at funerals because I love the scent and happily associate it with candy. I grew Chabaud Orange Sherbet this past year and every time I smelled it, I wanted to take a bite out — it reminds me of spice gumdrops!

    P.S. Sorry if this posts twice — Google made me click a link that said “I agree to these terms” and then brought me back to the comment (which had been erased) and finally I had a box to check that said “I’m not a robot” (which wasn’t there before). But then there was no actual “Post Comment” box. I think it is a Google Chrome issue… so I had to reload page in Safari. :/

    Reply
  20. Terri on

    Reminds me of growing up and can’t wait to try them in my patch!

    Reply
  21. KP on

    Wonderful post! I grew up with carnations in the garden my dad tended…loved the varieties you featured!

    Reply
  22. Anna on

    I’d love to try some of these! I’m a sucker for anything fragrant.
    Thanks for all the info!

    Reply
  23. Jana Burgoyne on

    Thank you for this post! This thorough information gives me the confidence to give these a try for sure this year. You are such a huge resource to me and so many! Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Sofia on

    Thanks for The Great inspiration!

    Reply
  25. Rebecca on

    I am excited to see these beautiful varieties that have been chosen from your trials! At Christmas my grandma asked if I was going to grow carnations in my attempts at starting a flower farm. I hadn’t thought of it, but who can say no to a grandma who is a master of her own garden.

    Reply
  26. Ramona Froehle-Schacht on

    As always, informative and inspiring. I used to love carnations as a child but gave up on them in later years as they were too “fake”. I can hardly wait to order my seeds! I hope the shipping to Canada has been worked out, the additional charges at the post office were a real deterrent last year. Grateful for sharing all your hard won information.

    Reply
  27. Alexandra Ward on

    Thank you for your beautiful photos and growing advice! I will be giving carnations a try in 2019! XO

    Reply
  28. Lisa U. on

    This is a really valuable post. Thank you so much! I’ve tried multiple times to grow carnations, but they never got near to tall enough for cutting. I’m thrilled to know there are tall varieties available!

    Reply
  29. Stephanie on

    So glad you created this post, would love even more about carnations! They are one of my all time favorites, thank you!

    Reply
  30. Alexis on

    Thank you so much for all the information! I read the latest posts this morning and have been talking about them with different people all day long. I feel as though I were standing next to you reviewing the notes from last season :) Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and helping so many of us walk in your footsteps.

    Reply
  31. Gina Schley on

    I’m so excited to try these. I live in Colorado, near a town known as the “Carnation Capital.” They even have a Carnation Festival every year but the sad thing is all the carnation farmers have went out of business and carnations are no where to be found. I’d love to bring them back to the area. I look forward to trying them.

    Reply
  32. Lydia on

    I always love reading your posts and being able to take what you have learned already and use it in my garden. Thank you for sharing your knowledge! It is greatly appreciated :-)

    Reply
  33. Eowyn on

    Oh, I love seeing this trial! When I did my horticulture training in England back in the early 2000s (in an old English walled garden, no less), I was stunned that carnations were the most gorgeously scented flowers. I fell in love, but when seeking them out in cut flower arrangements, always disappointed by their wooden quality and lack of scent. Can’t wait till I have a spot of earth to try some of these varieties out in! xo

    Reply

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