Carnations (Dianthus spp.) produce ruffled pink, white or lavender flowers during summer. Although most carnation varieties are perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, a few varieties, like China pinks (Dianthus chinensis) thrive only in warmer zones 9 through 11. Growing the carnations in pots adds a touch of long-lasting color to your landscape or porch if you water them correctly and provide ample sun.
Slake Their Thirst
Although carnations need moist soil and wilt quickly in dry conditions, overly wet soil is also damaging. Water only if the top 1 inch of soil is beginning to feel dry. Outdoor pots can dry out quickly, sometimes requiring irrigation once or twice daily in dry weather. Indoor plants usually dry out more slowly, so they may go several days between watering. Apply just enough water to moisten the soil throughout the pot's depth or until the excess water begins to drip from the bottom of the pot.
Let There Be Light
Potted carnations require six or more hours of direct daily sun to grow full and bloom well. A south-facing window that receives direct sunlight all day provides an optimum location for indoor pots, while outdoor pots can thrive in any full-sun location. Potted plants, especially those kept inside, may lean and stretch toward the light. Rotating the container daily ensures the carnation receives ample sun on all sides, which helps it grow straight and strong.
A Soggy Problem
Potted carnations require proper drainage or water will collect in the soil and cause root rot. Use pots with at least one bottom drainage hole to ensure proper drainage. Remove ornamental wrapping from the exterior of pots from a florist so the water can freely drain from the bottom holes. A lightweight, peat-based soil mix drains better than regular garden soil, but it may dry out more quickly and require more frequent watering. Water-absorbing polymer crystals, mixed into the soil, can help retain moisture so you don't have to water as often.
Raise Them Right
Carnation seedlings started in pots have their own water and light concerns, although they still need good drainage. Seedlings require water when the soil surface dries out. Avoid wetting the foliage when watering, as wet foliage increases the danger of fungal diseases. Carnation seedlings require six to eight hours of direct sunlight to produce healthy foliage. Placing them under a fluorescent light provides even lighting so they grow straight, or you can rotate the pots daily so the stems don't stretch toward a window or light source.
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