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Carnation Symbolism

Just like any other flower, carnation too adds more beauty to the nature as it blooms. It also plays a special role in people’s lives. When people run out of words, they grab these flowers to express their emotions and feelings.

Since they are found in different colors, they convey different messages. That’s the reason why their symbolism is extracted predominantly from their color. If you want to know what do carnations represent, do go through the write below.

Symbolism Based on Color:

Purity and Luck:

White symbolizes good luck and purity. It also represents transparency. The white color of carnation can make you feel good and fresh. If you present white carnations to someone, it will convey the message of a prosperous life and pure love.


Light red is the color of admiration. The color does not represent strong passionate emotion of love because of its muted color. However, it does symbolizes a subtle and softer expression.

Love and Affection:

Dark red symbolizes love and passion in its most innocent and purest form. Hence, the flower will represent the same. So, if you like someone, you can think of presenting dark red carnation instead of red rose. In some cases, it also represents expressing sentiments of blooming love on a first date.

Motherly Love:

The pink carnation represents motherly love and fondness. The adorable colored flower first bloomed when Mother Mary cried during crucifixion of Jesus. The places where Mary’s tears dropped were stated to spring up with pink carnations later. Since then, this flower demonstrates protective motherly love.


Light Pink is the symbol of gratitude. If you present it to your mother, it will show that you are thankful to your mother because of her unconditional love and support.


Yellow has a negative representation, hence it sends a negative message to the receiver. If you give someone yellow carnation, it will convey a message of disappointment. It can be presented to someone you dislike or someone you want to break up with.


Purple is the color of capriciousness. Hence, it conveys condolences for unfortunate events. It can also be given to people to seek apology.


The history of carnation dates back to ancient Roman and Greek times, when people used it in decorations and art. Christians believe that when Mary cried for Jesus during his crucifixion, the first carnation blossomed on earth.

Such flowers in the early times were found mostly in shades of peach and pale pink. However, over the years, it shifted to the availability of other colors including red, purple, white, yellow, green apart from pink.Carnation belongs to the Dianthus group, particularly Dianthus Caryophyllus. It has been cultivated since 2000 years.

It is stated that the Athenians named the flower Dianthos, that originated from the Greek terms dios and anthos which means divine and flower. The plant is known as Gillyflower as well which came from French who named dianthus, gelofre.

In earlier times, the plants were subjected to substantial breeding programs. There were single, semi-double and double carnations found in different colors including tawny, white, scarlet, red, purple, blush and crimson by the early 1700 period.

Also, there were veined, spotted, stippled and striped carnations available with picoteed or smooth petal edges.

Majority of the crossbreeds were divided into very specific classes that include Picotee, Flame, Flake, and Bizarre. The Picotees were white and splotched or spotted with red, purple, scarlet, and other colors. Flame carnations were red striped with black. The Flake once were striped with 2 colors. And the Bizarre Carnations were striped or double or variegated with 4 different colors.

In the 1851 book, The Flower Garden, the author Joseph Breck states that there isn’t any flower more desirable in the garden than that of Carnations. He adds that such superior and well-grown variety can never be surpassed in beauty, elegance and aroma by any other flowers.

The author also went on to provide evidence that these flowers were not very stable in general when grown from seed. He comprehensively described the preferred method of producing new plant, called layering. In 1870, a French firm introduced the Chabaud variety that is still considered to be one of the best carnations ever.

A famous garden writer of the mid-20th century, Vita Sackville-West, states the Chabaud strain superior above all other annual carnations.

Things to know

  • The delicious-looking carnations are edible. As per the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, carnations were listed as an edible species in a report called Edible Flowers. Albeit, it warns readers that the carnations are poisonous so, it can result in serious illness as well as in death. Alternatively, carnation has a very bitter or bland taste, so this isn’t something you would like to even eat.
  • Carnations are available in different colors. But their color can be changed due to food coloring. In such cases, white ones become yellow, purple or orange in color.
  • Professor Leonard Perry of The University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science has penned an article named Consider Carnations that says, pour a couple of drops in a glass of water, then add the bloom, and wait for it to take up the new color.
  • As per Perry, Bogota, Colombia is stated to produce majority of the carnations in the world, Spain, Kenya, Israel, and the American states of Colorado and California also cultivate a lot of these flowers.
  • The carnation is the national flower of Slovenia, Monaco and Spain. The red carnation is one of the five national flowers of Portugal.
  • The romantic French may not consider the carnation an emblem of romance, but they certainly have figured out different ways to utilize the flower. They basically use the oil from the flower for the treatment of hair loss and relaxing muscles. It also is used one of the ingredients in skin cream to help clean and protect human’s skin.


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