Dianthus Caryophyllus Carnation, Clove pink Photo courtesy of HilverdaKooij B.V.
Dianthus Caryophyllus
Carnation, Clove pink
Photo courtesy of HilverdaKooij B.V.

These long-time industry standards are again gaining favor among consumers.

all in the family.  Carnations, which are also, but less commonly, known as “clove pinks,” are botanically classified asDianthus Caryophyllus (dy-AN-thus care-ee-oh-FILL-us) and are members of theCaryophyllaceae (pink) family. In addition to sweet William (D. barbatus), carnations’ close relatives include baby’s breath (Gypsophila) and soapwort (Saponaria).

here’s lookin’ at you.  Carnations’ round, ruffly petaled blooms, which are often doubles, grow to 3 inches in diameter. Stems are long (up to 3 feet); straight and stiffly firm; and bulbous at the nodes, or joints, at which the leaves grow. Leaves are slender, and the stems and leaves range in hue from gray-green to blue-green.

head of the class.  Carnations have single large blooms, which are created by “disbudding”—removing side blooms so that all the energy of a plant goes to a single bloom at the top of the stem.

color the world.  There are hundreds of varieties of carnations, resulting in these flowers being obtainable in virtually every hue except blue. Both solid colors and bicolors are available.

latin lovelies.  Although carnations are available year-round from both domestic and foreign growers, approximately 90 percent of the carnations sold in the U.S. today are grown in Colombia.

wise buys. Carnations are typically packaged in bunches of 25 stems. Blooms in tight bud form are desirable because they last longer, and they will open into high-quality flowers. Check bunches for broken stems, which can occur at the nodes (some varieties’ stems are more brittle than others), as well as split calyxes.

making the grade.  Carnations are usually available in various “grades” (e.g., select, fancy, standard, short), which are determined by stem length, strength and straightness; bloom size; and freedom from defects or damage.

battling asphyxiation.  These flowers are highly sensitive to ethylene gas, which accelerates petal wilting (referred to as “sleepiness”). While bud-stage flowers are less sensitive to ethylene than mature flowers, it’s important to ensure all your purchases are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during shipping. In addition, keep them away from sources of ethylene in your shop such as decaying flowers and foliage, automobile exhaust, tobacco smoke and fruit.

care giving.  Unpack carnations immediately upon their arrival in your store, and check flower quality. Remove all stem bindings, and strip foliage from the lower portions of the stems—the portions that will be under water in storage containers.

Next, recut stems with a clean, sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stems into a hydration solution to help the flowers take up water more quickly, then place them into a sterilized storage container partially filled with properly prepared flower-food solution.

cool down.  Immediately after processing, place carnations into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F, with a humidity level of 85 percent to 95 percent, for at least two hours before arranging or selling them. Except for design time, keep these flowers refrigerated until they’re sold or delivered. Research shows that a one-day interruption, at 68 F, in an average 47 F cold chain from grower to consumer, can result in a three-day loss in vase life.

facts of life.  Depending on variety, care and stage of maturity at the time of harvest, carnations can last from six to 21 days at the consumer level.

how irritating.  Carnations can cause minor illness if ingested, and frequent handling of these flowers can cause contact dermatitis in some people.

name calling.  The genus name “Dianthus” comes from the Greek Di (of Zeus or Jove) or dios(divine) and anthos (flower), so it means flower of Jove or divine flower. The common name “carnation” comes from the Latin carnis, meaning flesh, alluding to the original pale pink color of the flowers.