Pink Carnation – Dianthus caryophyllus

These Carnations and Pinks in window-boxes and tubs, where some can be staked to form an arching centre and other trailing varieties can spill over the edge forming small waterfalls of blooms. Close to a window or doorway their wonderful scent will waft inside.

It is likely that Pinks and Carnations have been popular in Britain for nearly a thousand years; legend has it that William the Conqueror first introduced them. Along with Sweet Williams, they belong to the genus Dianthus.

There are many types of Clove Pinks and Carnations, from tiny rock-garden plants to plants around 90cm (36in). Some are upright, others pendulous.

Dianthus caryophyllus is the genus from which outdoor border carnations have been developed. In the original form, the flowers are a soft purple/ red but border carnations fall into four categories; selfs, fancies, cloves and picotees.

Selfs come in a single colour but there are varieties in almost every colour except blue. Fancies have a single colour background and stripes in a contrasting colour. Cloves are distinguished by their scent and are not confined to any particular colour but Picatees have a greJJH white or yellow and a margin of red or pink.Pink Carnation - Dianthus caryophyllus

‘Bambino is a dwarf variety 20cm (8in) high of double fragrant carnations in crimson, scarlet, orange, red, yellow and white. ‘Enfant de Nice’ is 45—60cm 1-2ft) high with large double flowers in self and striped colours and ‘Salmon Clove’ is salmon pink.



Do this in July or August after flowering.

1 Select a vigorous side shoot that has not flowered and strip off the lower leaves, leaving three or four. Do not remove from main plant.

2 Bruise the stem between joints using a thumbnail.

3 Using a sharp knife, make a tongue-shaped cut between the lowest joint that still has leaves attached and the next one. Open the cut carefully and place into a mixture of equal parts soil, sand and peat.

4 Hold in place with a hair pin so that the cut is held about 2.5cm ( 1 in) below the soil.

5 After 6 weeks check that the plant is rooted. Cut the stem from the main plant when the roots appear to have taken hold in the soil.

Taking cuttings

Choose a shoot similar to that for layering, cut it off close to the main stem and remove lower leaves, leaving three or four. Sever just below the top stripped joint, dip into hormone rooting powder, and plant in compost as above.

Pests And Diseases

The Leaves become yellow and mottled, sometimes shrivelled and covered with a fine webbing. This is caused by red spider mites.

Treatment: Immediately you discover an attack by red spider mites use an insecticide of derris extract or malathion.

Leaves develop small blisters, then the growing tips yellow and die. This is due to carnation fly. Treatment: Spray with an insecticide containing dimethoate or malathion.

Leaves or petals are eaten and spun together with webbing. Small caterpillars hidden in the spun leaves are the pupae of the carnation tortrix moth.

Treatment: Remove catepillars and damaged leaves then spray with an insecticide containing malathion or dimethoate.

Bleached spots appear on petals. This is due to thrips.

Treatment: Spray with an insecticide, and repeat treatment if necessary.


These plants need some attention but will flourish if you follow instructions for looking after them. Newer varieties are more winter hardy so read the seed packet to check. They prefer a well-drained, porous soil and a sunny spot.

  • Potting: Plant in a soil-based compost to which a mixture of equal parts peat and coarse sand is added, 4 parts compost to 1 part peat and sand mixture.
  • Allow compost to dry out between watering and water moderately. Pinks and Carnations will tolerate dry conditions. In very dry weather give a periodic, thorough soaking.
  • Feeding: Feed plants with a standard liquid fertilizer once every 3-4 weeks during the growing period.


  • Light: These plants thrive in full sun.
  • Temperature: They tolerate most normal outdoor temperatures and weather conditions. Plant in an open position.

Buying Tips

  • Buy seeds in early spring.
  • Choose sturdy, bushy plants with healthy leaves, and seeds packaged for the current season.
  • These plants are short lived and are best discarded each year and replaced by seeds and cuttings.

These beautiful frilled flowers nearly always have a wonderful scent, and come in almost every colour. They have been popular in this country since the 16th century.

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