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The Best Soil to Grow Carnations

Updated April 17, 2017

Clove-scented carnations make lovely corsages and long-lasting bouquets. They will grow in most areas of the United States, and are a relatively easy-to-grow perennial or half-hardy perennial, depending on the USDA zone. Plant them in a sunny area in soil that meets their needs, and they'll reward you with profuse, colourful blooms.

Soil Do's and Don'ts

Clove-scented carnations make lovely corsages and long-lasting bouquets. They will grow in most areas of the United States, and are a relatively easy-to-grow perennial or half-hardy perennial, depending on the USDA zone. Plant them in a sunny area in soil that meets their needs, and they'll reward you with profuse, colourful blooms.

Carnations (plants of the genus dianthus) require a slightly alkaline soil. This means you want a soil pH level of between 7 and 7.5. Test your soil, and amend it with lime if it is acid (pH level below 7).

All dianthus are susceptible to root rot or even crown rot in wet conditions. Therefore, high-clay soils that don't drain well, or even sandy soils in low-lying areas that collect water during wet seasons will not work well for carnations.

However, carnations do need a soil that retains moisture. Too-sandy soils lose water quickly, so incorporate lots of lightweight, humus-rich amendments; manure, compost, or aged grass clippings, for example. Incorporating peat moss, perlite or vermiculite into heavier soils will make them more conducive for carnation culture, making them lighter and more water-absorbent. Rich, fluffy soil is ideal.

Fertile soil will produce the biggest, best blooms, so test your soil and amend mineral and nutrient deficiencies as recommended. Carnations respond to a first spring feeding that is slightly higher in phosphorus, but for the rest of their growth season, apply a balanced 10-10-10 fertiliser for best results.

Carnations can grow happily in soil that has the occasional rock or pebble, but if your flower garden soil is very rocky and sandy, it would be better to plant the carnations in a raised bed filled with a peat moss, compost and manure soil mix.

Mulching carnations is a great idea. A 2-inch layer of mulch keeps soil moisture from evaporating and provides winter protection for the plant, and it also adds nutrients and water-absorbing humus to the soil, also improving the soil's tilth.

Water the soil twice a week to a depth of 6 inches if rainfall is insufficient to do so.

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About the Author

Gretchen Maron has written content for journals, websites, newspapers, radio news and newsletters, ranging from the International Horn Society journal "Horn Call" and the Air America Radio website, to non-profit organization websites. A librarian for over 30 years and a professional writer since 1996, she's an experienced, knowledgeable researcher.