Everything You Need To Know About Carnations – Its Meaning, Interesting Facts, & Gift Ideas
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, we’re diving deep into all things Carnation—the go-to flower for celebrating a mother’s love! Did you know that the naming origin of Carnations actually has a dark twist to it? What about the different meanings of pink, red, and white carnations? Read on to learn more about carnation flower meanings, interesting facts, and carnation gift ideas for Mother’s Day!
Origin of the Name ‘Carnations’
Carnations, otherwise known as clove pinks, are scientifically known as dianthus caryophyllus.
The name dianthus is said to be coined by Greek botanist Theophrastus who combined the Ancient Greek words of “divine (dios)” and “flower (anthos)”. However, the name dianthus is also believed to have originated from the myth of Diana, the Roman goddess of wild animals and hunting. According to the legend, Diana was heading home from an unsuccessful hunting trip. Upon heading back, she heard a young shepherd playing the flute and grew angry, as she believed it was his music that ruined her hunting. Annoyed, she ripped out his eyes and threw them on the ground. When she finally calmed down from her anger, she deeply regretted her actions, and that was when the place where his eyes landed started blooming red carnations, or dianthus flowers. The red carnations are thus said to signify the innocent blood that was lost during the incident, and the name dianthus is said to have originated from Diana’s legend.
But where did the name “carnation” originate from?
It is believed that the name came from the Latin word corono-ae, which is a “wreath, garland, chaplet, or crown”. This is because carnations were one of the few flowers used in Greek and Roman ceremonial crowns. Talk about a flower fit for royalty!
Carnations as a Symbol of Motherly Love
Have you ever wondered why carnations are so strongly linked to Mother’s Day? We’ve done our research and it boiled down to two explanations!
Anna Jarvis is known to be the founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. Her mother often mentioned that it would be good to have an occasion to celebrate all mothers and their positive contributions. Thus, shortly after her death, Jarvis decided to honour her mother by granting her wish and establishing such a holiday. During a memorial at her mother’s church, she gave out 500 white carnations, her mother’s favourite flower, to all the mothers who attended the service. This then sparked the unofficial inauguration of the holiday, where Jarvis started writing letters to local, state, and national politicians for their support of this event. She explained,
The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so
, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.
Years later, she has succeeded and the holiday is observed by many around the world. Her touching story is also what sparked the wide use of carnations to celebrate Mother’s Day!
Another reason why carnations are linked to Mother’s Day is based on a Christian legend. According to the legend, carnations bloomed from Virgin Mary’s tears after she was overcome with sadness when she saw Jesus carrying the cross. This symbolises the motherly love that she had for him, and is a reason why carnations are associated with motherly love and Mother’s Day!
Types of Carnations
Believe it or not, there are about 300 different species of carnations, and they are mainly classified into three main categories:
- Large-Flowered Carnations
- Spray Carnations
- Dwarf-Flowered Carnations
Large-flowered carnations refer to stems that have one large flower each. Typically, they can grow to be about 45cm – 60cm in height, and can grow up to 8.5cm in diameter.
Spray carnations, also called mini carnations, refer to flowers that possess numerous flower buds per stem. These flowers are slightly smaller in size than the large-flowered ones, and they only grow up to about 5cm in diameter. Their stems are also much shorter where they only grow up to about 22cm – 30cm in height. We often use them as filler flowers or accents in our flower bunches and arrangements, as they come in a variety of vibrant colours and bloom beautifully.
Dwarf-flowered carnations are the smallest of them all. Similarly to spray carnations, each stem has a few flowers each, and they can grow up to 30cm in height. However, they only grow up to about 2cm in diameter. So tiny, but still just as lovely and pretty!
Meaning of Carnation Colours
Now, it is probably common knowledge that different flowers have different meanings. However, did you know that different colours of the same flower, have different meanings as well?
In general, carnations are meant to signify love, fascination, distinction, protection, healing, and strength. However, different coloured carnations also have different symbolism as well.
Meaning of White Carnations
One of the more common carnation colours you can find is white. White carnations are meant to signify innocence, good luck, and purity. Why purity? Remember the myth of Diana we mentioned earlier in this story? Another legend involved a young shepherd who was madly in love with Diana. Unfortunately, instead of being upfront with him, she led him on with false hopes before abandoning him. Overwhelmed with sadness, the man passed away, and the tears he shed eventually led to the blooming of white carnations—signifying pure love.
Since it is a symbol of pure love, you would often see white carnations being used as bridal flowers. They are also commonly used in graduation bouquets to wish a graduate good luck in their future, or as a lucky moving away gift.
Meaning of Pink Carnations
Besides white, carnations are commonly known for their pink variety. Pink carnations are meant to represent a mother’s pure and never-ending love. In some cultures, they also symbolise gratitude. As such, you’ll see that it’s a very common flower used during Mother’s Day for others to express their appreciation and thanks to their mothers.
Meaning of Red Carnations
Just like pink carnations, red carnations are also often used to express sincere love, affection and admiration. While some may give red carnations to someone to express romantic love, they can also be given to someone you feel close to, to express either friendship or familial love.
Meaning of Orange Carnations
Orange carnations typically signify joy, warmth, success, and health. Their orangey glow is sure to brighten up anyone’s day. Then again… who wouldn’t smile after receiving such lovely flowers? 😉
While yellow carnations are brightly coloured, they signify something that is less positive. Yellow carnations symbolise disappointment, sorrow and rejection. So if you’re looking for flowers to express how sorry you are, or if you’re looking to express sympathy for someone, choose to send them yellow carnations!
Fun & Interesting Facts about Carnations
Image by Wikipedia
Fact 1: The Origin of Carnation Milk
Before joining Happy Bunch and dabbling into flowers, the word “carnation” would remind me of carnation milk rather than the actual carnation flower. This is especially true if you’re someone who enjoys their cup of teh-c in the morning like me, haha!
So how did Carnation Milk’s name come about? We did some research and found out that Elbridge Amos Stuart, the creator of the famous Carnation evaporated milk, actually came up with the name “Carnation” after he walked past a tobacco shop displaying a row of cigars with the sign “Carnation”. He saw the name and took a liking to it, so much so that he decided to make it the brand name of his creation! He even included the carnation flower as part of his brand packaging. Who would have thought that evaporated milk would be linked to cigars and flowers?
Fact 2: Carnations as Edible Flowers
Carnations are known to have a clove-like and peppery flavour profile, and are one of the more popular edible flowers out there. Some may choose to garnish their food with carnation petals, or boil them in sugar to make syrups for cocktails or desserts, though their stems are often avoided as they are more bitter. However, before you start performing a taste-test on your carnation bouquet, proceed with caution! Not all carnations are safe to consume, as the ones used in flower arrangements are often grown specifically for cut-flower use, and not edible consumption.
Additionally, while carnations are known to be edible by humans, they are actually toxic to dogs and cats. When ingested, our beloved pets can suffer from redness of the mucous membranes, vomiting and diarrhea, as well as irritation of the skin. So it’s best that you place that vase of carnations somewhere their paws can’t reach! If you’re curious about what other flowers are toxic to dogs and cats, read more on Spring flowers that are harmful to our beloved pets here.
Fact 3: Healing Powers of Carnations
Speaking of edible flowers, carnations are believed to have healing properties as well. When you’re feeling ill, the first thing most of us would do is either take a panadol and rest, or see a doctor to get prescription medication. However, did you know that some people reach for carnations as medicine instead?
Carnation petals are used in traditional European herbal medicine to treat nervous and coronary illnesses. This is because its petals contain certain substances that help to calm the nervous system and reduce inflammation. Moreover, brewing a cup of carnation tea is believed to provide comfort and relief from stress and anxiety, counter motion sickness and diarrhea, stimulate blood circulation, and soothe your throat—the list goes on! However, as mentioned before, not all carnations are safe to consume, as the ones used in flower arrangements are often grown specifically for cut-flower use, and not edible consumption. If you’re feeling unwell, please seek the advice of a medical professional.
Taking Care of Carnations
If you or your recipient has just received a bouquet of carnations, you’re probably wondering how best to take care of them. Fret not, because you’ve come to the right place!
The first step you should take is to make sure you have a vase to place the flowers in. If you don’t have a vase, don’t panic just yet! View our guide on a list of vase alternatives you can find at home. Now that you’ve secured a vessel for your flowers, proceed to carefully unwrap the bouquet of flowers, and perform these basic flower care tips.
Over the next few days, remember to give your carnations a fresh vase of water whenever the water turns murky. This helps to prolong the lifespan of your carnations!
Now that you have a vase of pretty carnations, place them anywhere you like! More popular choices include the bedside table, entryway, or at your work desk. The most important thing is to keep the flowers away from direct sunlight and heat. The more cooling their surrounding area is, the better. This way, they do not get dehydrated so quickly.
Gifting Carnations this Mother’s Day
There’s no better time than Mother’s Day to gift a bouquet of carnations! Known as the go-to flower for representing a mother’s love, usher in Mother’s Day celebrations this year with a bunch of fresh carnations.
Our Vibrant Joy bunch features an assortment of carnations, beautifully bunched for all the mom-figures in your life. This bunch consists of red carnations which signify love and admiration, orange carnations which signify joy, and white carnations which signify purity and luck. Send the moms in your life this bunch if you would like to send some joy their way!
Vibrant Joy – Mother’s Day Bunch is available at $49 with free delivery in Singapore.
If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, send them our Sweet Gratitude bunch that features a more delicate colour selection of carnations, with pink carnations that signify gratitude, and white carnations to signify purity and luck. Show your appreciation for the moms in your life by sending them this bunch. It is bound to make their day!
Sweet Gratitude – Mother’s Day Bunch is available at $49 with free delivery in Singapore.
For more Mother’s Day flowers and gift ideas, view our Mother’s Day gift guide here.