Did You Know the Carnation Is the Official Mother’s Day Flower?

9 Min Read

Flowers are popular Mother’s Day gifts, but did you know there is an official Mother’s Day flower? It turns out that carnations are historically and traditionally known as the flower for honoring mothers. While you may prefer roses, hydrangeas, or tulips for Mother’s Day, carnations have a long history. Learn why carnations are the official flower for mothers, what they represent, and how to care for them.

The Special History Behind Mother’s Day and Carnations


Special Characteristics of Carnations

Carnations naturally come in a variety of pink, white, coral, and red tones, and are commonly known as dianthus. It looks like every language in the world has its own nickname for this radiant flower: So, it’s carnation in English, Nelke in German, anjer in Dutch, clavel in Spanish, garofano in Italian, œillet in French, craveiro in Portuguese, and so on.

They are a perennial flower that has fringed petals in a variety of colors such as pink, red, white, purple, green, and yellow. Fun fact: The blue and purple colors did not exist until bioengineering took the genes from petunias and snapdragons to create the new color.


Spray Carnation. Photo: Unsplash


Carnations have three main body types. The ‘spray’ type of flowers has clusters on different stems. The large ‘standard’ flower single heads grow one flower per stem and are the ones most used in bouquets. Finally, the ‘midi’ dwarf carnation has multiple small flowers on one short stem. A close relative to these three types is the dianthus barbatus, a.k.a. ‘sweet William’.


Green carnations for St Patricks day on Thursd
Standard Carnation. Photo: Fifty Flowers


For special occasions (like green for St. Patrick’s Day or pastel colors for Easter), white carnations are sometimes colored in other shades. True carnations have a characteristic, spicy, vaguely clove-like aroma that many people adore, as well as a ruffly look that holds its own in floral arrangements.

Carnations History

The last 2,000 years have seen the development of carnations. Greek, Italian, Spanish, and other Mediterranean nations are the native home of the wild carnation. Greek literature was the first to make any reference to carnations 2,000 years ago. Diana, the goddess, developed feelings for a shepherd. Diana was upset since he didn’t show her love and affection in return. He was dropped to the ground after she removed his eyes. According to myth, his remains produced carnations. It developed to be the preferred flower for Greek ceremony crowns and garlands.


Soft pink pastel carnations Thursd
Photo: Country Living

Another piece of history dates back to Christian tradition when Virgin Mary sobbed as she saw Jesus carrying the cross. Carnations grew where her tears fell, and for this, pink carnations are now thought to stand for a mother’s unwavering devotion.

Modern Meaning and Symbolism of Carnations By Color

There is a whole bouquet of meanings and symbols associated with carnations. Predominantly, carnations are associated with love, fascination, and distinction. They not only represent feelings and emotions but mark special occasions as well. Besides, they are next to snowdrops one of the two of the January Birth Month Flower.

White Carnations

White carnations once stood for unadulterated affection, almost like the love of a mother. The official flower for Mother’s Day, according to Anna Jarvis, the holiday’s creator, is a white carnation.


White carnations symbolism on Thursd
Photo: Unsplash

White carnations also stand for innocence, purity, sincerity, and simplicity. Someone with a tender heart or who seems to have a child at heart (thus why they seem so pure) will love receiving it as a gift! Additionally, it has traditionally been given to women as a lucky charm! White carnations make a lucky and prosperous present that you can give to someone who has graduated or embarked on a new chapter in life.

Red Carnation

While a pale red carnation denotes appreciation and the phrase ‘my heart bleeds for you’, a rich red carnation stands for intense love and affection. The bright red petals of the red carnation are said to symbolize a pounding heart that is also overflowing with love.


Red carnations national day on Thursd
Photo: National Today

Red carnations also represent passion and uniqueness aside from that! The difference between distinction and passion is that distinction refers to someone who stands out from the crowd and grabs everyone’s attention!

Purple Carnation

A vivid purple carnation can symbolize a number of different things. It frequently denotes caprice or unpredictable behavior, which we believe is ideal for loved ones who are daring and have a wild and free spirit. Some people even relate success and wealth to purple flowers.


Purple carnations symbolism on Thursd
Photo: Unsplash


Pink Carnation

The pink carnation is frequently offered as a token of sincere thanks to express ‘thank you’ and ‘I won’t forget you’. Carnations in a soft pink color stand for the affection and appreciation of a mother. On a first date, though, dark pink carnations are customarily given as a token of affection and to communicate feelings of blossoming love.


Pink carnations meaning and symbolism on Thursd
Photo: Unsplash


Yellow Carnation

Unlike the other colors of the carnation flower, a yellow carnation expresses a more sad sentiment and portrays the idea of rejection or disappointment towards someone. Back in the day, it was said that offering someone yellow carnations meant that you are breaking up with them or rejecting their love.


Thea beauty of yellow carnations on Thursd
Photo: Cascade Floral Wholesale


The More Technical Side of Carnations – How to Care for Them

Carnation plants need full sun for at least four to five hours each day and well-drained soil. The soil should be moist and deep. Yellow leaves are a sign that the plant has been overwatered, so keep an eye out for them. Quick removal of dead blossoms encourages continued bloom. Make sure to fertilize plants before harvesting carnations. Cut the plant level with the ground at the end of the growing season.


How to care for carnations Thursd
Photo: HGTV

First, while holding the stems under flowing water, cut them at a 45-degree angle for indoor arrangements. This deliberate cut keeps the stem open and makes it easier for water to absorb. Clean the vase or container well with warm water and a little detergent before arranging. After that, add new water and a floral preservative to keep your carnations in full bloom.


Carnations care handles Thursd
Photo: FTD


Finally, take out any leaves that are below the waterline when you put the carnations in the vase. Every few days, give the stems a fresh cut slightly above the node. The stems can now more easily draw water because of this. The need for a water change is indicated by cloudy water. Arrangements can last for two to three weeks with minimal upkeep.

The best part is that arrangements made with carnations last for a long time and remain fresh looking and vibrant with minimal care. Need any more reasons to make carnations your new favorites?

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