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Flower Profile: The Carnation

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

The simple carnation has been making a comeback lately, and we couldn’t be happier. They are long lasting, come in a variety of colours, and even dry well. These beautiful blooms are considered one of the official flowers of January, so we’re a little late celebrating, but any time is a good time for the carnation.

They are very popular

You could probably guess that roses are the most popular flower choice (and you can read more about some interesting rose facts here). But what you might not have known is that carnations are the second favourite cut flower in the world. There are over 300 variations of carnations, which is part of why they are so popular – there’s a carnation for every occasion!

They have strong cultural meaning

As you can imagine from a flower that means “The Flower of the Gods” in Greek, the carnation has been a significant flower for a long time. Greeks and Romans were cultivating these flowers over 2,000 years ago and using them in ceremonies and coronations (most likely where the name comes from).

They are tremendously colourful

Though the original colour is purple-pink, these blooms now come in just about every colour (and combination of colours) that you can imagine. You can also change the colour of a white carnation on your own by adding food colouring to the water. Many of the colours have symbolic meaning – white, for instance, signifies purity, while red denotes love and affection, and pink gratitude. The white flowers are traditionally worn in the Netherlands to support veterans and to celebrate the countries history of resistance during WWII. Here, white carnations have become very popular in wedding bouquets and boutonnieres, or for corsages at other events.

Carnations are edible

With a somewhat spicy flavour reminiscent of cloves, carnation petals are completely edible. You can use carnations to garnish cakes and dishes that you want to make a bit more visually appealing and then eat them as well! However, they are more often used to flavour your drinks than your food – breweries, wineries and distilleries have often used them to flavour their products. You can try this yourself by steeping some petals in wine for a bit of added spiciness. Carnations are also seen to have many medicinal qualities, for everything from stress to rashes.

It is important to note that if carnations are for edible use, do not purchase them from us or retail florists. Because carnations are usually grown with pesticides and florists use flower food in their buckets, this makes them inedible. Make sure you purchase from a trusted source for this purpose!

Carnations are a wonderfully simple flower, which is why they can often be overlooked. But whether it be in a simple boutonniere or a gorgeous bouquet full of flowers, carnations are a great choice of flower.

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