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A Guide to Carnation Colors, Symbolism, & Meanings

Did you know that Carnations or Dianthus caryophyllus, have been around for over 2,000 years and were first cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans?

Nowadays, people from different cultures love these beautiful flowers for their timeless charm and what they symbolize. But what do they really symbolize and how to care for them? Let’s find out.


Red Carnations

red carnations

Red carnations are unequivocal symbols of deep love and admiration. They represent affection, passion, and romantic longing. These fiery blooms are often exchanged on Valentine’s Day and anniversaries to express profound love and devotion. They’re a timeless way to convey your affection to someone special in your life.


Pink Carnations

pink carnation

Pink carnations symbolize gratitude, admiration, and motherly love. They’re often associated with sentiments of appreciation and affection. Pink carnations are perfect for Mother’s Day, as they convey gratitude and affection towards mothers. They can also be given to friends or loved ones to express admiration and appreciation.


White Carnations

white carnation flowers

White carnations stand for purity, innocence, and remembrance. They are often chosen to symbolize sincere remembrance and enduring love. White carnations are commonly used in funerals and memorial services as a respectful way to pay tribute to departed loved ones. They convey sympathy, respect, and the purity of emotions.


Yellow Carnations

Yellow Carnation

Yellow carnations radiate joy, friendship, and happiness. They represent cheerful sentiments and bring positivity. Yellow carnations are ideal for celebrating birthdays, offering get-well wishes, or cheering up friends. They convey sunny optimism and warmth.


Purple Carnations

Purple carnations

Purple carnations signify capriciousness and unpredictability. They are often associated with whimsical and unpredictable emotions. Purple carnations can be a unique choice when you want to convey complex feelings or celebrate the mysterious and unexpected aspects of a relationship.


Cultural Significance of Carnations

Carnation bouquet


Carnations in Religious Ceremonies

In some Christian traditions, white carnations symbolize the purity of the Virgin Mary and are used during religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. They are also used as offerings in religious ceremonies in many cultures.


Carnations in Celebrations

In Spain, carnations hold significance during the Feria de Abril festival, where women wear them in their hair. In Korea, red and pink carnations are popular choices for weddings, symbolizing love and fidelity. Understanding these cultural connections adds depth to the appreciation of carnations.


Occasions for Gifting Carnations

carnation as a gift

Carnations make fantastic gifts for a wide range of occasions. Their colours and symbolism allow you to convey specific emotions and sentiments. 

  • Birthdays: Celebrate a friend’s or loved one’s birthday with a vibrant bouquet of carnations in their favourite colour.
  • Anniversaries: Red carnations can express your enduring love and commitment to your partner.
  • Mother’s Day: Show your appreciation for your mother’s love and care with a bouquet of pink or white carnations.
  • Get Well Soon: Send a bouquet of bright and cheerful yellow carnations to lift the spirits of someone who is unwell.
  • Condolences: White carnations are a respectful choice to express sympathy and support during times of grief.


How to Care for Carnations


1. Watering Carnations

Carnations require consistent moisture to thrive, but they don’t tolerate overly wet conditions. Follow these watering tips:

  • Regular Watering: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water your carnations whenever the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
  • Water at the Base: Water at the base of the plant to avoid wetting the foliage, as moisture on the leaves can lead to diseases.
  • Avoid Overhead Watering: If you’re growing carnations outdoors, avoid overhead watering, especially in the evening, to prevent fungal diseases.

2. Sunlight Requirements

Carnations thrive in full sunlight. Here’s how to provide the right amount of sunlight:

  • Sun Exposure: Ensure your carnations receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. In hotter climates, some afternoon shade can protect them from scorching sun.
  • Rotate Pots: If you’re growing potted carnations, rotate the pots regularly to ensure even exposure to sunlight and prevent them from leaning towards the light.

3. Soil and Fertilization

Carnations grow best in well-draining soil. Here are some soil and fertilization tips:

  • Well-Drained Soil: Plant carnations in well-drained soil with good aeration. If your soil is heavy or clayey, consider adding organic matter like compost to improve drainage.
  • Fertilization: Fertilize your carnations during the growing season (spring to early summer) with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Follow the package instructions for the correct dosage and application frequency.
  • Avoid Over-Fertilization: Be cautious not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive growth with weak stems.

4. Pruning and Deadheading

pruning carnation plant

Pruning and deadheading help promote new growth and prolong the flowering period:

  • Deadheading: Regularly remove spent blooms by pinching or cutting them off just above a leaf node. Deadheading encourages the plant to produce more flowers.
  • Pruning: Prune back leggy or overgrown stems to maintain a compact and bushy shape. You can do this in early spring before new growth begins.

5. Pest and Disease Control

Keep an eye out for common pests like aphids, spider mites, and thrips, which can infest carnations. If you notice any infestation, take prompt action using organic or chemical remedies as needed.

6. Support for Tall Varieties

Tall carnation varieties may require support to prevent them from bending or breaking. Use stakes or small trellises to provide support as they grow.

7. Winter Care (For Outdoor Plants)

In colder climates, mulch around the base of outdoor carnations in late fall insulates the roots and protects them from freezing temperatures. Remove the mulch in the spring as temperatures rise.

By following these care instructions, you can enjoy the beauty of carnations in your garden or as cut flowers for a longer duration. Proper care ensures that these charming blooms continue to brighten your surroundings with their vibrant colours and sweet fragrance.


Choose Bourkes Florist for Your Floral Needs

If you’re inspired to bring the beauty and sentiment of carnations into your life, why not order a bouquet from Bourkes Florist today? With our exquisite arrangements, you can share the enchantment of carnations with your loved ones, no matter the occasion. Shop now!



Q: What is the origin of the name “carnation”?

The name “carnation” is believed to be derived from the Latin word “carnis,” which means “flesh,” referring to the flower’s pinkish hue. This name reflects the flower’s historical association with its natural colour.

Q: Are carnations associated with any specific religious traditions?

Yes, carnations hold significance in various religious traditions. For example, in some Christian traditions, white carnations symbolize the purity of the Virgin Mary and are used during religious holidays like Christmas and Easter. They are also used as offerings in religious ceremonies in many cultures.

Q: Can I grow carnations in my garden?

Absolutely! Carnations can be grown in gardens, provided they receive adequate sunlight and well-drained soil. They are a wonderful addition to garden beds and borders, adding colour and fragrance to your outdoor space.

A Guide to Carnation Colors, Symbolism, & Meanings

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