The genus Dianthus includes more than 300 species and hybrids, including standard and miniature florist's carnations. Carnations are grown commercially in a rainbow selection of natural colors, from the softest pastels to the brightest reds and pinks, including striped and variegated. While carnations are very easily dyed, you can choose from so many natural colors that it is usually possible to find the perfect shade.
Standard Florist Carnations
Standard florist carnations are the long-stemmed, large-headed carnations that are widely available in florist shops around the world. The wide range of natural colors is the result of careful breeding. Pinks range from deep rose and hot pinks to pastels. Red colors are cardinal red and burgundy, with several red variations in-between. Golden yellow, bright yellow, butter yellow and vanilla custard cream occur naturally. Peachy, apricot colorations go from deep orange to pastel. Pure bright silvery white and dull white are natural carnation colors that may be readily purchased. Petal form in standard carnations may be ruffled, fringed or scalloped.
Miniature Florist Carnations
Miniature carnation flowers are scaled-down versions of the fully double standards, but stems are branched with blossoms and buds on each stem. Minis are commercially grown in similar colors to their standard cousins. Hot pinks, pastel pinks, golden to butter yellows and peach colors are available. White and cream, peachy oranges from deep to pastel, and purples ranging from deep to lavender are all commercially grown and sold. Reds are grown that vary from Cabernet wine to fire-engine red. Miniature carnations are even grown in light chartreuse green.
Variegated Carnation Colors
Naturally colored striped or variegated flower colors in standard or miniature carnations go beyond the peppermint-striped variety that is commonly seen. In addition to white with red stripes, carnation flowers may be yellow with purple edges, peach with red edges, cream with pink edges, yellow edged in burgundy, white with red edges and purple with pink edges. Color combinations may also occur as a base colored flower with flecks, such as yellow with red flecks, and as stripes. Interesting new hybrids are being introduced all the time.
Dianthus caryophyllus, or clove pink, the florists' carnation, may be grown in the home garden. Cottage pinks, or D. plumarius, are very cold hardy. These low-growing fragrant flowers come in single or double form in natural pinks, corals, reds and white as well as variegated. Maiden pinks, or D. deltoids, are evergreen and cold hardy. Zing Rose and Zing Salmon are named cultivars in rose red and salmon pink. Cheddar pinks, or D. grandiflourus, grow naturally in hot pink, bright pink and red. These are fragrant flowers born on blue-green foliage. Named cultivars include Tiny Rubies, Bath's Pink, and Firewitch. Firewitch was named the 2006 Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year. Bright magenta pink single flowers are profusely borne on blue-green mats of evergreen foliage.