Carnation meaning


Appreciated for centuries for the brightness of its colors and its long duration, the carnation of classic beauty is a flower that is immediately recognizable by its rippled and serrated petals. Scented and popular everywhere like the rose, it is among the best known and most present flowers in the world for ceremonies and celebrations. Native to the eastern hemisphere, spontaneously growing in the Mediterranean basin, taken up in Greek and Roman decorative art, the carnation is perhaps the longest cultivated plant for ornamental use. In ancient times, it was considered sacred to Zeus by the Greeks and was known as the 'flower of Jupiter' among the ancient Romans. In fact, the Greek scientific term 'Dianthus' designated the 'carnation' as 'flower of the gods' or, as a 'coronation', the 'crowns', that is, the garlands of carnations offered in ancient Greek sacred ceremonies. Other interpretations suggest the derivation from the Latin 'carnis' (genitive of 'dear', 'flesh') referring to the pink color of the original carnation or from 'incarnatio' ('incarnation'), personification of God made flesh. Introduced in Europe during the Middle Ages, it was intended as the 'flower of God', His omnipresent eye from which nothing can escape. According to a Christian legend, he first appeared on Earth from the tears shed by the Virgin Mary for the suffering of her son Jesus who carried the Cross to Calvary before dying.

Carnation in the language of flowers

In the Victorian language of flowers, the meaning of carnation is comparable to the 'flower of love' and affection, of strong feelings and emotions, of energy and health. Symbol of births in January, of marriage in China, it is folkloric in Korea that i red carnations or pink are worn on 'Parents' Day '(8 May) and on' Teachers 'Day' (15 May). Traditionally, students of the English University of Oxford carry a white carnation on the occasion of the first exam, pink in the intermediate exams and red at the final one.

In the past there were only carnations in pale pink and peach tones, but today it is possible to send a bouquet of mixed carnations in different colors alluding to the charm of a refined woman. Each color represents a different message, but the solid color is a positive answer to a question, while the streak indicates a rejection, a regret or a regret.

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Red carnation

Traditionally, the red carnation celebrates the first wedding anniversary. Depending on the intensity of red, the meaning of carnations varies from a symbol of admiration, respect and affection to that of desire, a feeling of deeper and more devoted or suffered love. A scarlet carnation was often tucked into the buttonhole of the lapel of United States President William McKinley, Governor of Ohio, in office from 1897 until the deadly assassination by an anarchist in 1901. In memory of McKinley, the 'Ohio designated the red carnation as the national representative flower in 1904. The red carnation is pinned on by Austrians, Italians, etc. on the occasion of 'May Day' as an emblem of the workers' movement; it is also the symbol of the 'Carnation Revolution' since, on April 25, 1974, an unarmed, left-wing military coup, marching through Lisbon carrying red carnations, brought democracy to Portugal and independence to the Portuguese African colonies.

White carnation

In Renaissance painting the spouses were portrayed intent on exchanging white carnations during marriage as a vow of fidelity. THE white carnations they have remained traditional in bridal bouquets and wedding decorations as a testimony of true and devoted love, as a lucky charm wishing happiness while, in associations and brotherhoods, they are a sign of courage. But, in many religions, white carnation pads or wreaths have an ornamental use in funerals as a message of peace and tranquility especially for the innocent soul of a very young deceased. In 1907, the white carnation it was chosen by Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) - the promoter of 'Mother's Day' - to celebrate the memory and preference of her mother, who passed away two years earlier. In 1914, President Thomas Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as a national holiday dedicated to mothers. On this day, the white carnation is often pinned on by children and adults in honor of the deceased mother, or red if still alive. This flower - especially pink in color - has remained traditional for 'Mother's Day' as a symbol of her eternal love. The pink carnation it is, in fact, a message of maternal love, happiness, gratitude, omnipresent remembrance, friendship.

The yellow carnation and the other shades

The yellow carnation indicates the feeling of rejection, disdain, contempt, despair and disappointment. Although of great aesthetic impact, purple carnations underline the antipathy, capriciousness, inconstancy and unreliability of those who receive them; in France, they are traditional at the funeral of a loved one.

Carnation flowers in shades that do not exist in their natural state were perhaps already obtained by the ancient Egyptians by immersing the freshly cut stem of the white variety in water containing food dyes. The green carnations thus obtained took on a social value, during the 1800s and 1900s, as a good luck charm - green being the color of good luck by tradition - or as a symbol of homosexual preferences. It was often pinned to the lapel by Irish writer, poet and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) just to feed the gossip. A satire on Wilde in relation to the English poet Alfred Bruce Douglas, son of the Marquis of Queensberry, appeared in the novel 'The Green Carnation' (published anonymously in 1894) written by the English journalist and novelist Robert Smythe Hichens (1864-1950). Withdrawn from business the following year in order not to influence Wilde's trial for 'indecency', it was republished in 1949. Of the question of the accusation of homosexuality for the relationship with Douglas and the two-year sentence of forced labor that fell to Wilde, dealt with the English film 'The Green Carnation' (1960) directed by Ken Hughes.

The carnation in Christian iconography

Numerous portraits of 'Madonna and Child' belong to medieval Christian iconography, in which the carnation is also depicted as a symbol of visceral maternal love. In the two oils on panel 'Madonna with the Child' (or 'Madonna del Garofano', ca. 1478-1480), painted by Leonardo da Vinci and in the 'Madonna dei Carnofani' (ca. 1506-1507) attributed to Raphael, the The Virgin Mary is seated indoors and hands a carnation to the Child Jesus who, undressed, is held on his knees; in the oil on panel 'Madonna and Child with the little John the Baptist' (1509-1510), the Child takes the carnation from the hand of John the Baptist in the center of a careful geometric composition of the space. The Virgin and Son return depicted in the same position as the previous works in the 'Madonna del Garofano' (ca. 1515) painted in shaded colors by Bernardino Luini: the Child is turned to take a white carnation from a nearby green vase in his hand, gesture interpreted as embracing the future sacrifice on the cross under the eyes of the Mother. Another 'Madonna of the Carnation' (1516) was painted in oil on parchment mounted on a panel by the German painter and engraver Albrecht Dürer.

The carnation in art

A red carnation is in the hand of the 'Young Woman with Carnation' (ca. 1485-1490) painted in oil on wood by the German painter of Flemish training Hans Memling. This red flower also returned in works by the Dutch painter and engraver Rembrandt, both in the oil on canvas 'Woman with a rose' (1660), and in the oil on panel 'Portrait of Saskia with Carnation' (1641), in which she is depicted his wife. In the color lithograph 'Garofano' (1906), from the 'Fiori' series (1898), Alfons Maria Mucha - an important painter, sculptor, illustrator of Art Noveau - clearly outlined one of his typical purely female figures of refined neoclassical style, surrounding it with Floreal patterns.

Carnations in male portraits appear, for example, in the case of the white and red carnation in the hand of the Man with Carnation '(ca. 1435), oil on panel attributed to the Flemish painter Jan van Eyck and, instead, yellow in the portrait from title of the same name painted around 1495. by the painter Andrea Solari (or Solario). Vases containing only carnations (white, red, etc.), mixed with other flowers (roses, gladioli, zinnias, etc.), sometimes next to a bottle, were painted by the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh during his stay in Paris (1886 ).

Carnation meaning: Uses

The fresh petals of carnations not treated with pesticides represent a refined decoration, but they are above all edible flowers with different flavors, from spicy to sweet, excellent on pastas, main courses, fresh cheeses, salads, desserts and ice cream. The carnation petals can be mixed with sliced ​​carrots or chunks of pineapple in cold lemon jelly to be presented in inverted molds on lettuce leaves; frozen in ice cubes, even with the addition of food coloring, they are pleasant and effective with cold refreshing drinks (water, tea or lemonade); sugared, depending on the color they flavor a dessert and accompanying wine differently. The white carnation flowers, used in America as flavoring for jellies, preserves, jams, are also included in the preparation of liqueurs, syrups, oils, cocktails, candies.

Dried carnation petals are used for decorative and aromatic use in potpourri, sachets and scented candles, incense sticks and cosmetic products.

Carnation: varieties, cultivation and things to know

All about the carnation: This easy-to-grow multi-colored flower is ideal for landscaping gardens, terraces and balconies. Read our practical guide to get to know it and find out how to best take care of it.

The carnation belongs to the family of Carophyllaceae, kind Dianthus. Over 300 species are included, without considering all hybrids.

It's about a herbaceous plant of the perennial, biennial or annual type. We find it in Africa, Asia, but also in Europe. In some areas it grows spontaneously.

Chinese carnation for flower beds, borders and rock gardens

Chinese carnation is the common name of the Dianthus chinensis (or Dianthus sinensis) a herbaceous plant of modest size, with bushy habit, usually grown as an annual. Like all plants known by the common name of carnation, it belongs to the Caryophyllaceae family and its genus (Dianthus) has about 300 species. The Chinese carnation is distinguished by spiky light green leaves and red, pink or white flowers with dotted stamens.

It is commonly grown as an outdoor plant for rock gardens, borders and flowerbeds but it also lends itself without problems to cultivation in pots. It can be sown in spring or late summer. The flowers will appear from June to October (if sowing takes place at the end of summer, flowering will be brought forward to spring).

It is an easy to grow plant, perfect for temporarily brightening balconies, gardens and terraces. It adapts to poor soils and resists both high and low temperatures. It loves very sunny exposures and bears short periods of drought.

The Chinese carnation it's a edible plant used for the preparation of syrups, salads, creams and sauces.

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Carnation cultivation

Carnation can grow in the garden or in pots, although normally the Caryophyllus species, one of the best known, is grown only in pots.

The ground it must be calcareous, gravelly or chalky. The important thing is that it ensures a good drainage.


Choose an area sunny or in any case in partial shade. Carnation loves the temperate weather, while it does not tolerate humidity and wind. In winter it may need to be repaired if the temperature drops too low. The ideal would be to plant it in an area where the temperature fluctuates from 10 to 20 degrees.


You buy the jars in spring and holes are dug at least twice the size of the pot. The fund is enriched with a little fertilizer and then we proceed to plant the carnation.

During the growth, since some species reach substantial heights for a flower, it would be advisable to insert some guardians.


This is a plant that requires very little care, as the same irrigations are reduced. They will be needed more than usual only during the summer season, while they must be suspended in winter, during vegetative rest.

You have to stay a lot be careful with water stagnation which could cause the roots to rot. Every 20 days, also put some liquid fertilizer together with the water from the watering.


There multiplication carnation occurs by seed or by cutting. This operation is necessary at least every four years, in order to reinvigorate the plant. In fact, after a while the flowering becomes less abundant.

  • For seed: we proceed in early spring and leave them in one litter box covered with a cloth, constantly vaporizing. After about 2 weeks, the first shoots appear. For the planting in the pots it is necessary to wait for the appearance of the fifth leaf.
  • For cutting we proceed in the summer. It is cut at the height of a leaf axilla. Then it hangs together with peat and sand, taking care to leave the soil moist. It will take a month before germination.

Meaning of flowers: the carnation

Today our journey into the world of the meanings of flowers is dedicated to a very interesting and decidedly colorful stage: that of carnations. There are many meanings attributed to this flower all linked in some way to love and affection, both in a positive and negative sense. A particular coloration is connected to historical-religious facts. In most countries, it symbolizes commitment, and feeling.

As with many other flowers, even for the carnation a legend built to art could not be missing. This time we immerse ourselves directly in Greek mythology. The latter in fact links this particular flower to the goddess of the hunt Diana, who in an unspecified time made a young shepherd fall in love. After seducing him, she abandoned him without second thoughts. The boy, pierced in the heart by this love, died of passion, and from his tears, cautious in the ground, magnificent flowers were born. Carnations precisely. It is said that numerous powers were attributed to these flowers and their essence: a cure for fever and diseases in general, and yet another panacea for the sufferings of love.

The carnation also branches off its legends in the Christian tradition, where it is reported that even the tears of Mary, on the Golgotha, led to the birth of these magnificent flowers. In nature there are at least 300 different species of carnation, with a petal of different color and shape. The common one is the most widespread and known, characterized by flowers with an intense scent and particular size. But there is also the carnation of poets worthy of attention. Returning to its meaning, it, like the rose, changes depending on the color. Obviously, depending on the country, the meaning changes, although in principle, in every part of the world it still represents a symbol of virtue and dignity.

These are the different meanings depending on the color:

White carnation: eternal fidelity.

Yellow carnation: in the case of a demanding choice, it represents the uncertainty of one's feelings. If you are a man and you want to ask your woman to marry you, you better stay away from this color if your other half knows the meaning of flowers.

Pink carnation: tender thoughts, affection.

Red carnation: has the meaning of ardent and passionate love. It symbolizes passion but also hell. In Japan it is used to indicate mourning.

Mottled carnations or of a different color: message of general affection, especially if in an assorted bouquet

  • GROUND. It wants a draining, sandy but fertile soil rich in organic matter with a neutral pH
  • SOLAR EXPOSURE. It prefers a placement in partial shade.
  • SOWING. It can be sown from April to July outdoors (on the ground or in pots) or in March in a protected environment (warm bed or seedbed). Deposit a group of 7-10 seeds on the surface at a distance of about 30 cm from each other, on humified soil, taking care not to cover them but compact them by pressing them to the ground. Keep moist until germination. For a denser effect decrease the distance between the groups of seeds to 20 cm.
  • FERTILIZATION. When sowing on the ground, in pots or in seedbeds and in repotting operations, mix a granular fertilizer for flowering plants to the soil, preferably enriched with mycorrhizae. For an adult plant, use a liquid fertilizer for flowering plants, possibly enriched with brown algae, combined with irrigation water.
  • IRRIGATION. During the spring water abundantly and regularly, avoiding excesses and water stagnation. In warmer periods, increase the number of irrigations.

The package (envelope) of Garofano dei Poeti contains 0.4 gr. of seeds, equal to about 360 seeds, with which it is possible to create 36 to 51 flowering points placing 7/10 seeds in each point.


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