Herb: Carnation

Latin name: Dianthus caryophyllus

Family: Caryophyllaceae (Pink Family, Starwort Family)

Medicinal use of Carnation:

Carnation flowers are an aromatic, stimulant herb that has been used in tonic cordials in the past to treat fevers, though this use is now obsolete. It is traditionally prescribed in European herbal medicine to treat coronary and nervous disorders. The flowers are considered to be alexiteric, antispasmodic, cardiotonic, diaphoretic and nervine. The plant has been used as a vermifuge in China.

Description of the plant:


100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

July to


Habitat of the herb:

A plant of limestone soils, it is often found on old walls in Britain.

Edible parts of Carnation:

The flower petals have a strong smell of cloves and are candied, used as a garnish in salads, for flavouring fruit, fruit salads etc. They can also be used as a substitute for rose petals in making a syrup. The petals should be removed from the calyx and their bitter white base should be removed.

Other uses of the herb:

An essential oil is obtained from the flowers. It is used in perfumery. 500kg of flowers produce 100g of oil. The flowers are harvested when they are fully open in the morning, preferably after 3 hours exposure to sunlight. The flower heads are dried and used in pot-pourri, scented sachets and cosmetic products. The plant is quite rich in saponins. The leaves can be simmered in water and this water can then be used as a soap for cleaning the skin, clothes etc.

Propagation of Carnation:

Seed - sow spring in slight heat in a greenhouse. The seed usually germinates in 2 - 3 weeks at 15C. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Layering in July. Cuttings of non-flowering basal shoots, June/July in a frame. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

A plant of limestone soils, it is often found on old walls in Britain.

Known hazards of Dianthus caryophyllus:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.