Peony vs. Carnation: A Comparison of Appearance and Meaning

Peonies are often associated with romance and love, and they are also a symbol of honor, wealth, and prosperity in some cultures. Carnations, however, have a more varied symbolism depending on their color. Pink carnations are often associated with motherly love and gratitude, while red carnations symbolize love and admiration.

When it comes to cost, carnations are generally less expensive than peonies, making them a popular choice for budget-conscious consumers. However, peonies are more luxurious and elegant and are often used in high-end floral arrangements. Ultimately, the choice between peonies and carnations comes from personal preference and the specific occasion or event.

A Comparison of Peonies and Carnations

Physical Characteristics

Peonies and carnations are very different flowers in terms of their physical characteristics. Peonies are known for their large, showy blooms in various colors, from white to pink to red to yellow. They have a soft, delicate texture and a sweet fragrance. 

Carnations, however, are much smaller and have a more subtle fragrance. They also come in various colors but are known for their ruffled petals and long, thin stems. Carnations are herbaceous perennials but have a more upright, slender form. They typically grow one to two feet tall and have narrow, gray-green leaves.

Peonies are also herbaceous perennials, meaning they die back to the ground each year and regrow in the spring. They are bushy, rounded, and can grow up to three feet tall and wide. The leaves are dark green and glossy, with a slightly waxy texture. 

One unique physical characteristic of peonies is their ability to produce side buds. If one bloom is cut off, several more may appear on the same stem. Carnations, however, have a long vase life and can last up to 10 days after being cut.

Large, showy bloomsSmall, ruffled blooms
Soft, delicate textureFirmer texture
Sweet fragranceSubtle fragrance
Herbaceous perennialHerbaceous perennial
Bushy, rounded shapeUpright, slender form

Cultural Significance

Peonies and carnations have been cultivated and appreciated for centuries, and both have significant cultural meanings in various parts of the world. In Chinese culture, peonies are regarded as a symbol of wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. They are often used in traditional Chinese medicine and are believed to have healing properties. 

Peonies are also associated with love, honor, and compassion and are often given as gifts to express these sentiments. In some superstitions, peonies are believed to bring bad luck if cut and brought into the house. 

Carnations, on the other hand, have a more varied cultural significance depending on their color. In general, carnations are associated with love, fascination, and distinction. In Christianity, carnations are associated with the Virgin Mary and are often used in religious ceremonies. 

Red carnations symbolize love and admiration, pink carnations represent gratitude, and white carnations symbolize purity and luck. In some cultures, yellow carnations are associated with disappointment or rejection. 

Art and literature have used peonies and carnations to represent emotions and themes. In Japanese culture, peonies are often depicted in paintings and poetry as a symbol of bravery and honor. 

Carnations have been used in literature to represent love, beauty, and longing. Overall, peonies and carnations have deep cultural significance and are appreciated worldwide for their beauty and symbolism.

Symbolism and Meanings

Peonies and carnations are both popular flowers with rich symbolism and meanings. Peonies are generally associated with positive meanings such as romance, compassion, good luck, prosperity, happy marriage, and even bashfulness. 

Many cultures also consider peonies a symbol of wealth, honor, and nobility. The color of peonies can also affect their symbolism; for example, pink peonies symbolize love and affection, while white peonies represent purity and innocence.

As mentioned, carnations also have a range of meanings depending on their color. Generally, carnations symbolize fascination and motherly love and represent good luck, purity, and gratitude. 

Pink carnations are often associated with a mother’s love, while red carnations symbolize admiration and deep love. White carnations, on the other hand, are often used in weddings and represent purity and luck.

Uses in Floral Arrangements

Peonies and carnations are popular flowers in floral arrangements but are often used for different purposes. Peonies are typically used in more formal arrangements, such as weddings and special events, while carnations are often used in more casual arrangements. 

Peonies are known for their large, showy blooms and are often used as the focal point of an arrangement. They come in various colors, including pink, white, red, and yellow, and can be mixed with other flowers or used independently. Peonies are also popular for their sweet fragrance, which can add an extra dimension to a floral arrangement. 

Carnations, on the other hand, are often used as filler flowers in arrangements and come in a wide range of colors, including pink, red, white, and yellow, and can be used to add texture and depth to an arrangement. 

Carnations are also long-lasting flowers, making them popular for several-day arrangements. When choosing between peonies and carnations for a floral arrangement, it often depends on the occasion and the overall style of the arrangement. 

Peonies are a great choice for formal events or arrangements that require a showy centerpiece, while carnations are a more versatile flower that can be used in various settings. In summary, peonies and carnations both have their place in floral arrangements. 

Peonies are typically used as the focal point of an arrangement, while carnations are often used as filler flowers. The choice between the two often depends on the occasion and the overall style of the arrangement.

Availability and Cost

Peonies are considered luxury flowers and are often more expensive than carnations. The cost of peonies varies depending on the variety and the time of year. Prices may be lower during peak season, typically late spring to early summer. However, during the off-season, prices can be significantly higher.

Carnations, however, are widely available and are a more affordable option. They are often used as filler flowers in arrangements and can be purchased in bulk for a lower cost. Here is a breakdown of the average cost of peonies and carnations:

FlowerAverage Cost per Stem

It’s important to note that the cost of flowers can vary depending on the location, the florist, and the time of year. So it’s always a good idea to shop around and compare prices before purchasing.

How to Choose Between Peonies and Carnations

When deciding between peonies and carnations, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and the intended use of the flowers. Due to their luxurious appearance, peonies may be the more popular choice for weddings and special events. However, carnations are a more practical and cost-effective option for everyday use or as a gift.

After considering the differences between peonies and carnations, it is clear that both flowers have their unique qualities and benefits. As mentioned, peonies are known for their large, showy blooms and sweet fragrance, while carnations offer a longer vase life and a wider range of colors.

It is also worth considering the environmental impact of each flower. For example, peonies are often imported from overseas and have a higher carbon footprint, while carnations can be grown locally and have a lower environmental impact.

Regardless of which flower is chosen, peonies and carnations have a long history of symbolism and meaning. Whether choosing peonies or carnations, both flowers offer beauty and joy to those who receive them.