Carnations, which belong to the genus Dianthus caryophyllus and are known for their pungent, clove-like fragrance, are a perennial favourite in cottage gardens and may be grown successfully in the USDA plant hardiness zones ranging from 3 to 9. In general, the ideal temperature for growing carnations is anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the day. Carnations may be cultivated as annuals or in flowerpots in locations that are cooler, and then the plants can be brought inside for the winter.
Start From Seeds
Planting your seeds inside six to eight weeks before the average date of the last frost will ensure that your flowers will bloom in the same year. Spread damp seed-starting mix on the bottom of a seed-starting tray or into biodegradable pots. Add two or three seeds to each cell or pot, then cover them with just enough wet potting mix. Cover the pot or tray with a cover made of transparent plastic or a piece of plastic wrap.
It is best not to use a seed-heating mat. When the soil temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the germination process for the seeds will take between two and three weeks to complete.
You also have the option of sowing your seedlings outside between the months of spring and the beginning of October. Depending on the environment, the plants will bloom the next year during either the spring or the summer.
Care for Seedlings
Place the seedlings in an area that receives a lot of light, such as a sunny window or beneath grow lights that are elevated two to four inches above the top leaves of the plant. As the seedlings develop, gradually raise the brightness of the lights.
To remove unwanted seedlings at the soil level, cut them off using sterile shears or scissors. Always be sure to sanitise your cutting and garden tools by soaking the blades in a solution made of rubbing alcohol and water in equal parts. Pine-Sol is a good example of a home cleaner that can be used. This stops the spread of infectious illnesses as well as fungus.
The seedlings should be between six and eight weeks old before they are ready to be hardened off. To do this, move the plants outdoors into a covered area for one hour. Repeat this process each day for the following week, increasing the amount of time the carnations spend outdoors by one hour each day until they spend the whole day outside.
Root Cuttings From Your Plants
Another option for propagating your plants is to take root cuttings. Take cuttings that are between 4 and 6 inches in length and remove the leaves from two to three nodes on each cutting. Then, if you so choose, swirl in some rooting compound before inserting each cutting into some damp sand. Put a plastic bag over them and secure it with stakes, or use a two-liter container with the bottom cut off as a makeshift sandbag.
As often as necessary, mist the sand to keep it damp. Approximately one month from now, the cuttings ought should have developed roots and new leaves.
Divide Plants in the Garden
Carnation clumps that have become too crowded should be dug up and then sectioned off by plucking apart the individual plants. The pieces may easily be divided with the help of two gardening forks if you choose. It is important that each portion have both roots and leaves. Throw away any sections that are diseased, decaying, or dead. They should not be added to your compost pile.
Prepare the Garden Bed
Carnations thrive in broad light and a nutrient-dense garden soil that drains well. It is necessary to clear the area of any grass or weeds, plant debris, and pebbles. To amend or revitalise the soil, dig between 6 and 12 inches deep and include manure and compost that has decomposed to a depth of between 2 and 4 inches. Because carnations thrive in soil that is slightly acidic rather than alkaline, it is important to use potting mix that is designed for growing tomatoes and other vegetables if you plan to cultivate them in large flowerpots. You might also make your own potting mix by combining equal parts compost, peat moss or coconut coir, gritty sand, and perlite in a mixing container.
Cloudy days in the late afternoon are the best times to plant seedlings or divisions of existing plants. Dig planting holes that are anywhere from 6 to 12 inches apart, depending on the mature size of the plants, and then carefully position each plant in the planting hole that it belongs to. It may be necessary to add or remove soil in order to maintain the same depth for the rootball or section as it had been in the past. Tamp it down carefully, and then water it completely.
Transplant the Seedlings
They need consistent watering in order to maintain an equal moisture level in the soil without causing it to become soggy. To distribute water to the rootball of the plant without also soaking the leaves, you may use a drip watering system, a hose-end bubbler, or a soaker hose.
Water and Fertilize Your Carnations
In the spring, add to the carnations either one cup of compost tea every two weeks or a fertiliser that is well-balanced and has a gradual release rate. Avoid adding too much nitrogen since it increases foliage but not blooms. After fertilising, provide a thorough watering.
Keep an eye out for critters that should be avoided, such as aphids, caterpillars, scale, and spider mites. If you need to drench the plants with water to get rid of the pests, you should do it first thing in the morning so the plant material has time to dry off. Wear protective clothing like as gloves, goggles, and a mask, and spray the foliage top and bottom when temperatures are below 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Neem oil or an insecticidal soap may be used to treat severe pest infestations, and Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) can be used to treat caterpillars.
Monitor the Carnations for Pests
If you see any signs of blight, wilt, or fungal diseases, you should remove the diseased leaves and blooms and throw them away. It is possible that a fungicide may rescue the plant; but, if the infection is serious, the plant should be dug up and thrown away. Get rid of any weeds or dead plants, and then turn the dirt over so it can get some light.
Take off the wasted flowers to ensure that new ones will continue to bloom. When you see that the plants are becoming lanky, prune each stem and branch so that it is one-third shorter than it was immediately above a leaf node.
Deadhead and Trim Regularly
Remove the spent flowers to encourage continued blooming. When the plants become leggy, cut each stem and branch back by one-third just above a leaf node.