Carnations (Dianthus) and daffodils (Narcissus) are both popular, spring-blooming flowers. Desirable for their hardy nature and long-lasting life even when cut, these cheerful blooms will liven up any home garden. Daffodils are also often grown in containers and forced to bloom early, while carnations are a favorite with florists because of their inexpensive cost and ability to be dyed to match event or dress colors. Both flowers are perennials in most climates and have similar care needs.
Appearance and Size
Daffodils are bulb flowers. These plants have one stem per bulb. The stem could be topped by one flower or by a cluster of two or three flowers, according to the University of Missouri. The stems can range in height from 6 to 20 inches. The flowers have a distinctive "cup" (corona) in the center, surrounded by flat petals. The cup and petals range in color from bright yellow and orange to pale, creamy white. The leaves of the daffodil are long, slender and green.
Carnations are perennial flowers that grow in a mound. The mound can range between 12 and 18 inches tall and wide, according to North Carolina State University. The leaves are short and thin, like blades of grass. The stems are long, slender and topped with one flower. They often bend over and touch the ground. The flowers are heavily ruffled, with fringed petals. They are usually fragrant and come in shades of pink, purple or white.
Daffodils are considered the hardiest of the Narcissus family, according to North Carolina State University. In general, daffodils will grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 through 11, depending on the particular cultivar. This broad range means that there is a daffodil for almost any home gardener.
Carnations grow best in Zones 3 through 9. If they get too hot, the center of the plant might wilt and fail to bloom. For that reason, carnations are not recommended for planting in tropical and subtropical zones.
Plant daffodils in the fall for spring blooming. Space them between 6 and 12 inches apart, with the base of the bulb around 6 inches below the surface of the soil. Mix some bulb food into the soil before planting the bulbs. Once planted, add a 1- or 2-inch layer of mulch over the planting site. Carnations should be planted in rich, loamy soil. Dig a hole as deep and wide as the root ball, place the plant in the hole, and back fill the hole with the removed dirt. Tamp the dirt down gently around the carnation and water thoroughly.
Daffodils need well-draining soil to grow well. If there is too much water in the soil, the bulbs will rot. These flowers also need plenty of sunshine to bloom year after year. Daffodils should be exposed to at least a half-day’s worth of sunlight, according to the University of Missouri. The soil should be kept moist, but not soggy, during the spring before and while the flowers are in bloom. Once the blooms and foliage begin to die back, the soil can be left dry. Remove foliage only after it has died back, so that nutrients can return to the bulb.
Carnations also thrive in well-draining soil. They can grow equally well in full sunlight or light shade, according to North Dakota State University, and like daffodils, prefer consistently moist soil. Cut the flowers to encourage re-blooming. Once flowering ceases, you can let the soil dry out so the plant can rest during its dormant period.
Daffodils do not have serious insect pests or diseases, according to the University of Missouri. The most common problems plaguing these flowers arise from problems with the bulbs, whether they contracted a disease before planting, are burned by too much bulb fertilizer or rot from over watering. Plant only firm, healthy bulbs, mix bulb food well with the soil and make sure that the planting site does not collect standing water.
Carnations are hardy plants and rarely suffer from serious insect pests or diseases. If the soil does not drain well, however, this plant will quickly succumb to root rot and might not live for very long, according to the University of Illinois. Over time, carnations can also become leggy. The center of the mound might be thin and not produce many flowers. Hot summers can contribute to this. Prune the plant back by a third each fall to prevent this and to control growth.