The standard carnation is a colorful flower of multiple petals native to Mediterranean climates and cultivated around the world. Carnations are extremely popular flowers and are often used in corsages, boutonnieres and bouquets due to their resilience, long life span and versatility.
Carnations are grown in dozens of colors and are particularly well known for their ability to last in and out of water for long periods of time without wilting or drying out. Some varieties can last in water for up to three weeks without showing signs of wear. They are widely available and relatively inexpensive.
There are many types of carnation, but they can all be identified by certain underlying characteristics. Carnation stems are tall, firm and bulbous where the leaves extend; leaves are long and slender, and the stem and leaves are a greyish-green. Carnations are naturally bright purple, but have been cultivated and grown in dozens of colors, from white to yellow to black. Standard carnations generally grow one flower per stem. They have a very slight, sweet smell.
Carnations are very easy flowers to care for, which is one reason why they are so widely available and popular in arrangements that don't hold much water (such as floral wreaths and corsages). In water, they don't require special food, and they can live out of water for as long as two days.
If you have a bouquet of carnations, there are a few simple things you can do to make the flowers last as long as possible. Strip the bottom leaves from each stem, and make a diagonal cut at the bottom of each stem under running water. The diagonal cut gives the bottom of the stem greater surface area with which to absorb water. Place in fresh, cold water. Replace the water and re-cut stems twice a week. Keep them in sunlight.
Standard carnations are typically hardy flowers, but need to be grown with some care. They'll usually do best if they're started in pot indoors and transferred to an outdoor garden when the weather is warm and sunny.
Carnations like to be in moist soil in sunny areas. They'll bloom once a summer. Perennial carnations will come back year after year if they're cared for properly; they should be covered with mulch during the winter to protect them from cold temperatures.
Different color carnations are associated with different messages, though these vary, of course, depending on the source. For example, deep red carnations (and in fact, most other red flowers) symbolize passion and romantic love, whereas pink carnations stand for affection, maternal or platonic love. White carnations symbolize purity and luck.
Carnations are commonly dyed green with food dye for St. Patrick's Day. Green carnations are not grown that color, but grown white and dyed. Carnations are unique in that they very readily and quickly change color when they are placed in dyed water. This is because their thick, sturdy stems absorb water quickly, and their petals are translucent enough to reveal the color of the water. While many types of flower can be dyed in this manner, carnations are particularly popular for dyeing because their colors can change so dramatically and the change is generally visible within a day.