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Carnation Flower Facts and Meaning

Updated on July 28, 2010

History and Etymology

Being one of the most popular flower in the world, carnation is the favorite to be used as boutonnieres, bouquets, in corsages and in a wide range of floral arrangements. The flower is thought to be originally from the Mediterranean area of the world. The name of the flower is believed by some to be originated from the word “corone” which mean floral garland.

It is sometimes also referred to as “dianthus” (dios= god Zeus and anthos= flower), a scientific name given by the Greek botanist Theopharastus. Carnations are thus “The Flowers of God”. The ancient Greeks and Romans cultivated these flowers specifically for decorative purposes like for use in garlands, wreaths and other décor projects. In ancient Rome this flower were known as “Jove’s Flower” as a tribute to one of their beloved gods. According to Christian legend, these flowers appeared on earth from Mary’s tear at Jesus’s carrying of the cross.

Carnation Flowers

Different Colors of Carnations
Different Colors of Carnations

Beliefs, Symbolism and Uses

This Spain’s national flower is traditionally worn by students sitting a first exam at England’s Oxford University (white carnation to the first exam, red to the last and pink to every exam in between). It is also the symbol of the Portuguese Carnation Revolution and the provincial flower of the autonomuos community of the Balearic Islands. It is the national symbol of Slovenia, scarlet carnation is the state flower of Ohio, this choice was made to honour the governor of Ohio, William Mckinley and the US President who was assassinated in 1901.

Pink and red carnations are used in Korea for showing love and gratitude toward their parents on Parents Day (Koreans celebrate Mother’s day and Father’s day in the same day, on May 8). White carnations are often worn by students or children honoring mothers who are far away or dead. Green carnations are for St. Patrick’s Day. Purple carnations are the traditional funeral flower in France, given in condolence for the death of a loved one.

Other Interesting Information

However, in some cultures, especially France and Francophone culture – the carnation symbolises bad luck and misfortune. To tell the fortune of a young girl in Korea, they put three carnations in the girl’s hair, if the bottom bloom dies first she will have a hard time her whole life. If the middle flower dies first the girl will have trouble in her youth but then life will improve. If the top then her life will be hard only at the end of her life.

Since carnation has the meaning of admiration, gratitude and love, people especially students often express their gratitude and admiration to their teachers with carnations on Teacher's Day. The flowers are also used in beds, borders and pots. Some species of carnation are highly fragrant. Carnations are exotic to Australia, but have been commercially grown as a flower crop since 1954.

Carnation is a perennial plant that comes in many colors including yellow, purple, mauve, maroon, red, peach, pink and white, each depicting different emotion. It can be used alone or in combination with many colors (depending on personal taste) to form beautiful and attractive bouquets and floral arrangements for special occasion especially Mother’s day and weddings.

Carnations require well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil with full sunlight. Annual carnations, border carnations and perpetual-flowering carnations are the three most common kind of carnations.

Carnation Color Meanings

Carnations are known as flowers that express feeling, each color of carnation has a different meaning and it is always a good idea to check the meaning of the paticular color of the flower before you give them to someone. Red carnation is symbolic of deep love or admiration, depending on the depth of the red. Pink symbolizes mother’s love, purple color indicates capriciousness, white color means pure love, striped carnation means regret or refusal and yellow represents dejection.


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    • profile image

      jada 5 years ago

      the flower colors are pretty

    • JoanneDoubtfire profile image

      JoanneDoubtfire 7 years ago from Manchester

      Very nice, carnations are my favourite flower and it's nice to now have a little background information on them!