The carnations are typically in season from the beginning of April through early May. Their growing season can extend well into the summer, depending on the location and the variety. Similar to roses and hydrangeas, routinely cutting and deadheading the blossoms will stimulate new buds and extend the plant’s bloom time.
Harvesting Carnation Flowers
When growing carnations, pick the flowers when they are half open or when only one or two are open if they are spray types with several flowers on each stem. The best time to pick is in the morning or early evening after the dew has dried. After picking, cut the stems under water and put them in a bowl of cool water for the night. We call this “conditioning the flowers.” During this time, the stems will get all the water they need.
The next morning, put the carnations in the vase however you want. If you want to cut stems again, do it under water. Use a commercial flower preservative in the vase to make the flowers last up to two weeks longer.
Carnation Flower Pressing
If you have a lot of carnations, it is possible to press them. To do this:
- Put the flowers in a large container or bucket with a lid.
- Fill the container about two-thirds full with cold water and add one cup of white vinegar for every three pounds of flowers.
- Screw the top of the container and shake it until all the excess water and vinegar are gone.
- Place it over an open flame. The heat will cause gases to escape between the petals, pressing them together.
- The finished flowers will be a little larger, and their color may have changed from white to a light pink or red.
The flower pressing community favors both conventional and perennial carnations. When these lovely blooms are dried in a flower press, they make impressive specimens. The best results will be obtained by pressing the flower’s stem side down. Before putting on the cover sheet and tightening the flower press, evenly distribute the petals as much as possible.
Carnations love the sun, but they’ll do just fine in partial shade too. They may not grow as quickly, but their flowers will be larger and more colorful.
Carnation plants need water regularly, especially during dry spells. Make sure to mulch around them to help retain moisture and keep your lawn from becoming brown and crispy from all the watering.
Carnations typically yield 2- to 3-inch flowers in a home garden. Since the flowers weigh too much for the stems to support, the plants tend to be a little floppy. Using Hortonova trellis netting or grow-through stakes stretched about 12 inches above the soil is an efficient way to simplify growing carnations. Alternately, make a grid out of bamboo and string and weave support through the carnation stems. Of course, perennial dianthus varieties that are shorter don’t require staking.
About a month after planting, prune your plants. Set up your pruning cut so that five pairs of leaves are still present on the stem. Using the same method, you can pinch new shoots as they emerge and grow. More blooms result from this technique’s ability to produce bushy plants with numerous shoots. If you want bigger flowers, cut off all but the two strongest shoots that grow from the main stem of each plant.
Remove spent blooms following flowering. By doing this, the disease is kept from spreading from dying petals to healthy plant tissues. Shearing perennial dianthus plants lightly after the flowers have faded can aid in promoting the second round of blooms.
Feeding carnation plants with a high nitrogen fertilizer during the growing season will encourage larger flowers and stronger stems. If you want to grow carnations that unfold into the typical florist-type flower, amend the soil to include a lot of organic matter and a slow-release plant fertilizer. Early in the spring, fertilize perennial carnations with a poultry-based fertilizer from your neighborhood farm supply store or a balanced, slow-release plant food like Espoma organic Plant-tone.
Since carnations are susceptible to several diseases, it is important to practice good garden hygiene. Avoid using unsterilized tools on the plants and water them thoroughly before and after working in the garden. Keep away from flowers that have wilted or turned brown. These indicate that there is a problem with infection.
Carnations are susceptible to diseases such as mildew, leaf spots, and rust. Remove affected leaves immediately by hand or with a fungicide spray.