Carnations, otherwise known as clove pinks (Dianthus caryophyllus) are a perennial flower in garden zones 8-10, and an annual elsewhere. They can be grown from seed either indoors or outdoors. Seeds planted indoors should be started six to eight weeks before the last frost date in your area.
Choose containers with drainage holes (seed flats work very well), fill each with potting soil, set the seeds on top, and cover lightly. Water until the soil is thoroughly moist – a mister or a spray bottle will do the trick without disturbing the newly planted seeds. Place a clear lid over the top, or use plastic wrap; the idea is to make a mini greenhouse that keeps the moisture inside.
Remove the lid or plastic when the seeds sprout Once the plants are four to five inches tall, they are ready to be hardened off and planted outdoors, 10 to twelve inches apart – provided that will be no more frost. The advantage to starting carnations indoors is that there’s a good chance that they’ll bloom the first year.
To start carnations outdoors, simply plant the seeds where you’d like them to go. Barely cover the seeds, and make sure to keep the bed moist. Once the seedlings are up and doing well, thin them so that they’re ten to twelve inches apart. Like all dianthus species, carnations prefer slightly alkaline soil (pH of about 8.0), and need excellent drainage.
They do best in cool climates. It is important not to mulch the crowns. To encourage them to bloom again, remove any spent flowers, and cut them back if they get scraggly and dry in hot weather.
Carnations form clumps, so you’ll need to divide them every few years in order to keep them vigorous and looking their best. Carnations come in both florist and border varieties. Florist types are what you see in flower shops; they are grown commercially in greenhouses or in climates with mild winters. Border types are hardier, more compact, and both seeds and plants are readily available to the home gardener. Border varieties include Chabaud and Luminette.
The daisies you see in meadows and roadsides are oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare); the daisies found in gardens are Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum), a hybrid that was originally produced in 1890. Although they are always white with a yellow center, their petals can either be single or double, and the plants themselves can either be tall or short, depending on the variety.
Shasta daisies can be grown from seed in the same manner as carnations, except that Shasta daisies should be spaced one to two feet apart. In general, they bloom for a long time in the summer, especially if they are picked and/or deadheaded. Shasta daisies are perennials that like full sun in cool climates, and part shade in hot climates. They need fertile, moist soil that is well drained, particularly in the winter. They need to be watered in very dry weather.
The tall varieties will get bushier, and less in need of staking, when their stems are pinched in the early summer. They tend to form clumps that need to be divided every few years, which means you get to have even more Shasta daisies elsewhere in your garden, or you can give the gift of perennial blooms to a friend or neighbor!
There are many varieties of Shasta daisy. Among those varieties is ”Cobham’s Gold” which has a slightly off-white shade, “Canarybird”, which is a dwarf variety with dark green foliage, and “Snow Lady”, an All-America winning dwarf that will bloom five months from seed, then blooms almost continuously.
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