How to Grow Carnations in Pots

Written by colleen de koning
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How to Grow Carnations in Pots
Carnations are well-suited to growing in containers and pots. (flowers image by Zbigniew Nowak from

Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) are among the most popular flowers grown in gardens today. Native to Europe, carnations have been in cultivation for over 2,000 years, and have been developed into a wide variety of sizes from a bushy dwarf border plant to a tall long-stemmed cultivar. Available in many colours, the carnation is prized for its longevity as a cut flower and its spicy clove scent. Carnations are commonly used in weddings and proms as corsages, bouquets and boutonnières. Carnations grow well in containers and pots, provided they are given well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil, and a sunny location.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Carnation seeds
  • Pot with drainage hole and dripping pan
  • Spade
  • Commercial seed-starting potting soil mix
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Pencils (4)
  • Clear plastic bag
  • Twist tie
  • Commercial plant fertiliser

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  1. 1

    Fill the pot with the commercial seed-starting soil to within 2 inches of the pot rim. Moisten the soil well and allow to drain.

  2. 2

    Poke holes in the soil surface with a pencil. Space the holes at least 4 inches apart. Space the holes farther apart in larger pots.

  3. 3

    Place up to three seeds in each hole. Cover the seeds with a 1/4-inch layer of potting soil and press the soil down lightly. Spritz the surface with the spray bottle until moist.

  4. 4

    Push the pencils halfway into the container near the rim at opposite sides. Place the pot into the plastic bag and use the twist tie to close it. The pencils will keep the plastic bag off the surface of the soil.

  5. 5

    Place the pot in a location that is in filtered light and has a temperature of about 21.1 degrees C. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, by adding a small amount of water to the dripping pan if needed.

  6. 6

    Remove the plastic bag and relocate to a sunny area when seedlings appear. Water when soil appears dry on the surface.

  7. 7

    Fertilise plants about 10 days after the seedlings appear. Mix the fertiliser according to the directions on the label and apply as directed.

Tips and warnings

  • Stake long-stem varieties when the plants are small.
  • Popular varieties include Gina Porto, Laced Romeo, Helen and Red Rocket.
  • Place pots near a sunny south-facing window if growing carnations indoors.
  • Over-watering carnations will cause drooping yellow leaves.

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