Variegated Dwarf Carnations
image by Tillwe: Flickr.com
Pretty and very easy to grow, dwarf carnations are often called border carnations, or pinks. Common and hardy in all but the most brutal climates, these 10-to-12-inch-tall plants can be grown as perennials for numerous seasons in most areas and will typically reseed themselves. The compact, branching growth habit of border carnations means less maintenance for you because they don't have to be pinched back or otherwise fussed over. Unlike their taller cousins, most dwarf carnations grown from seed are likely to bloom their first year. They will perform best when provided with full sun all day.
Sow dwarf carnation seeds in a sunny, very well-drained spot in your garden when all danger of frost has passed. Or start them indoors six to eight weeks before the last predicted frost. Cover them with about 1/8 inch of soil and moisten, but don't water enough to make the medium soggy or wet. Your seeds will germinate in about two to three weeks.
Thin the seedlings to about 12 inches apart when they're 1 to 3 inches tall, or when they begin to crowd each other. They'll appreciate the extra room, which will allow adequate air circulation and help to prevent leaf spots.
Water established seedlings about once weekly, just enough to moisten the surface of the soil. Let it dry out in between waterings.
Feed the young dwarf carnations a good liquid 10-10-10 fertilizer for blooming plants per the manufacturer's instructions, usually every six to eight weeks. Continue watering when the surface soil dries out. Remove any brown or spotted leaves with clean, sharp scissors.
Apply inorganic mulch such as rock or coarse gravel, if desired, although it isn't necessary. Leave about 2 inches of clear area between the plant and the mulch. Avoid organic materials like bark or cypress, which limit air circulation to the roots and retain excess moisture.
Remove spent blooms or cut the flowers for arrangements. This will promote further blooming. There's no special care needed for wintering your dwarf carnations, which will return for you when the next growing season arrives. They'll also most likely reseed themselves, adding even more color to your spring garden.