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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

67 Comments

  1. Annie on

    Hello! I am growing your La France variety. The plants stayed super short and I just got my first blooms this week. They are really tiny, not like in the pictures. What did I do wrong, or did I not provide some particular nutrient? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Angela on

      Hi Annie,

      Sometimes this happens when it gets warm suddenly outside. I’d advise keeping them well watered and make sure you give them a deep pinch, if you haven’t already done so.

  2. Joan Ellen on

    Will you be selling the seeds for your favourite varieties? Also I live in Northern Ontario – Zone 3. Would they grow here? Thanks for all of your great and inspiring articles!!

    Reply
  3. Natasha on

    Do you pinch carnations? It so, how many leaf sets do you let grow before pinching?

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Hi Natasha,

      We recommend you pinch your carnations when they’re about 8 inches tall. Have a great season!

  4. Albert on

    Magical flowers! Do you head flowers to produce 1bloom per stem, or leave them?

    Reply
  5. Rebekah on

    I too would like to know where to purchase seeds for the dark dark burgundy shown in your photos. I’ve grown the Chabaud series for a couple of years, and they are nice, but I have a thing for super dark colors. Also, there is a gnarly greenish and old rose streaky variety that has been showing up in grocery stores near me. It’s gorgeously ugly and I’m wondering whether you had any like it in your trials and if so where I could find them. By the way, I was interested to note that Johnny’s recommends a 6″ spacing and you recommend a 9″ spacing. Have you tried both?

    Reply
  6. Lucy Nairn on

    I adore carnations – they remind me of my late mum, who also loved them. I was worried that they wouldn’t hope with our hot summers (I’m in Australia) but was delighted when other flower farmer friends told me theirs were flourishing! Can’t wait to grow some this year.

    Reply
  7. Jaime Morgan on

    I LOVE carnations… In this first year of ups and downs in my trial cutting mini-farm (with no previous first-hand growing experience), the carnations were my happy flower. I didn’t buy or sow many, and not all my seedlings made it into the ground… I was too busy getting excited over other varieties I’d never seen or touched before, and flowers I was sure would be my ‘easy for beginners’ crops (like the Cosmos, which failed abysmally), to focus much attention on the Carnations.
    My plants are quite small, probably owing the the fact they get little sunlight, being hemmed in by towering Sweet Pea and a corn patches…and yet they have produced the most fragrant, long-lasting, beautiful blooms on strong stems, that have been such a welcome addition to my market bouquets. The smell transports me back to childhood memories I didn’t realise I had! God bless the flowers for those golden memories. I hope my children are enjoying them as much as I am, and storing up magical memories for their futures.

    Reply
  8. Aleya on

    This is good to know!

    Reply
  9. Aleya on

    Thank you for providing us with so many tips and tricks! It is wonderful to know the actual gear and equipment that you have tested and works. This will save me time and money.

    Reply
  10. Jessica Bunn on

    Thank you for all the great info! I just happened to buy some of the seed varieties you covered from Johnny’s this Fall just because I was curious- but after reading your post I’m super excited to see them in the field this year!!!

    Reply
  11. Matti Harper on

    I experimented with your carnation varieties way up in northern Canada, zone 3, last year and was soo happy with the results! I’ll be doing them all in the greenhouse this year to maximize season length and protect them from the inevitable June snowfall that happens each year. They’ve gone from a ‘maybe?’to a ‘must’ in my cut flower garden!

    Reply
  12. Kim on

    I remember my grandma’s carnations – they were a lovely lavender/ periwinkle color and had that most delicious scent. I always wondered why you couldn’t find carnations like that in a nursery or seed catalog. And the inexpensive price for cut carnations (and lack of that classic smell) at the grocery store made them seem like cheap junky flowers (can there truly be such a thing?)! So thank you for your post – my daughter also loves carnations!

    Ps, on an old iPad, the recaptcha box to mark is directly behind the post comment box…

    Reply
  13. michelle on

    I just love your blogs. They are so informative and inspiring. I would like to know what can be shipped to Canada . I have purchased your books and look forward to your email updates . Your passion for flowers and gardening is how I feel about the beauty of it all.

    Reply
  14. Marianne Poteet on

    Hi. I love carnations. So far, I have only grown a shorter version of dianthus that is perennial in our zone 4 garden. Are the carnations you sell considered to be perennial?

    Reply
  15. Claire Burdick on

    I saw the email come through this morning as I walked into pharmacology class, and I was so excited that the professor asked me why! Haha. I love carnations, they’ve always been my very favorite flower and I am so excited to grow them from seed this year. I’m only growing the white variety you mention above, as I didn’t plan enough extra space in the garden to try multiple colors this year but it makes my heart sing just to think about home grown carnations! Thank you!!

    Reply
  16. Morgan Potts on

    Hello! Which varieties did you find too be too garish for flower arrangements? I love bright colors, but if they don’t fit, they don’t fit!

    Reply
  17. Kim Burton on

    Thanks for the post! We trialed some last year in the field. Patience must definitely be employed to harvest the wirey stems through the netting, but several of our customers loved the scent and petite form. What is the dark red / burgundy variety you show in the pics?

    thank you!

    Reply
  18. Jade Sines on

    I’m so excited to get this email this morning! I bought the Orange Sherbert & the Beniga’s earlier this month and have been planning and plotting my strategy for how I’m going to grow them! The book didn’t cover the carnations, but I assumed I could find a resource here, and to my very happy surprise – there was an email that covered it all!! One question I do have, what planting medium do you use to start your seeds?? I can’t seem to find any information on what I should be using to start my seeds, the guy at the store mentioned I could use coconut shavings….but that seems odd to me!

    Reply
    • Team Floret on

      Hi Jade,
      I think you’ll love the Orange Sherbert and Chabaud Benigna Carnations! Use a good quality potting mix or seed starting mix for starting seeds. We have a seed starting 101 resource here: https://www.floretflowers.com/resources/seed-starting-101/ Plus, if you search the blog, you can find some past posts with other seed starting tips. Happy planting!

  19. Tammy Smith on

    As a child, the deacons in our church wore carnations on their lapel and at the end of the service, the one who dismissed our side would take his off and give it to me. What wonderful memories of that heavenly smell! Thank you for the information and inspiration to grow them in my own garden.

    Reply
  20. Stine Jeanet Kristensen on

    Hi there
    I live in denmark (somewhere north in europe) and i am really fascinated by flowers. Both my girls are called flower names, my big girl is called Carnation (Nellike in Danish),which only 2 in Denmark are called and my youngest is called Chamomile (Kamille in Danish). Therefore have Carnations especially a great place in my heart and they are truly beautiful flowers.

    Reply
  21. Patricia on

    Carnations have been a staple in most any bouquet I purchase. My 80 year old neighbor absolutely adores them and so I’ve purchased just one packet to see how well they will do. I am so excited to be able to gift her my home grown carnations this year and hopefully years to come. Thanks for the information, I will be sure to use this in the field.

    Reply
  22. Margaret Thorson on

    For year I grew the Floristan variety of carnations as biennials. Sadly, they seem to have disappeared. I have high hopes for the ones you are offering.

    Reply
  23. Grace Teshima on

    Reposting. I, too, got caught in the captcha trap!

    Thank you so much for this – beautiful writing, gorgeous pictures, and the dream of growing carnations! I live in Charleston, South Carolina, zone 8, where the last frost date is February 19(!) I planted mixed carnation plants in the fall as well as Sweet William, and I’ve started seeds (Etincellant and Jeanne Dionis) that should be blooming by June. Now I know that I must support them!

    Thank you again.

    Reply
  24. Emily on

    Adding these to my garden this year!!

    Reply
  25. Elaine Garry on

    Curious if you grow any of these as perennials?

    Reply
  26. Donica on

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

    Reply
  27. 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!

  28. 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
  29. 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
  30. 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
  31. Paula on

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

    Reply
  32. 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
  33. 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
  34. 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
  35. Kristen on

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

    Reply
  36. Valerie S on

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

    Reply
  37. 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
  38. 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
  39. 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!

  40. 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
  41. 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
  42. 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
  43. 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
  44. Terri on

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

    Reply
  45. KP on

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

    Reply
  46. Anna on

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

    Reply
  47. 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
  48. Sofia on

    Thanks for The Great inspiration!

    Reply
  49. 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
  50. 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
  51. Alexandra Ward on

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

    Reply
  52. 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
  53. 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
  54. 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
  55. 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
  56. 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
  57. 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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