The Great North Carnation Society

Affiliated to the BNCS

Growing Pinks, Border Carnations and Perpetual Flowering Carnations

Welcome to The North East of England's website

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The intention of this page is to try and assist any novices or those of you who may be considering growing this wonderful group of plants.

This is due to the many questions we are often asked regarding not just the growing but also at times the terminology that is used which to a new grower can often be confusing; like most who first start growing Carnation and Pinks including myself the books that are aimed at the growing of often use words such as calyx bands or collars which to someone who has never encountered such, can often seem like another language so I will try and explain how we grow these beautiful flowers, there are no mystery’s, no secret formulas just basically doing the right thing at the right time. Far better as I was once informed to be told about fatal mistakes that could happen than to make one yourself and lose a whole season of growing.


If you are still with me and would want to grow Carnations and Pinks (Please note that I have not mentioned Dianthus as this can also lead to confusion in what is the difference between a Carnation and a Pink and is best left for now) then now is a great time to plan for next year, there are several good shows that will still have plenty P/F Carnation and Pink Classes (Unfortunately the Border Carnation season is now over regarding shows) and there is nothing better than going along to one of these shows with a pen and notepad and taking note of the names of the plants that you would like to grow and it’s also an excellent opportunity to speak to some of the exhibitors or Show Secretary; they should if not busy be only to pleased to assist.


The Harrogate Autumn Show will feature both Carnations and Pinks at their best with plenty of good exhibits on show, and I would recommend for the first tip that is to start off with exhibitors stock and more important exhibition quality plants, no good for instance purchasing some Garden Pink from the local Garden Centre and then hoping it will make a good exhibition plant, garden plant maybe but very doubtful it will grace the show bench; so first tip is to go to a good show and see and take note of the exhibits and choose the ones that you like and then speak to someone who is in charge of the Society such as the Show Secretary.


If you cannot make the shows but still would like to grow these plants, then look through our pages at the many photos, then join our Society and we will in the Autumn send out the Newsletter with the latest "Plant list" and then choose which ones you would like to grow.


I will try and update this page regularly, in what to do once you have your plants; just to help choosing, remember P/F Carnations will need some form of cover whether it’s a greenhouse or poly-tunnel, Border Carnations and Pinks can be grown outside but for exhibition they will need some form of cover to protect the flowers from the elements. 

Even though they may need cover, no heating will be required, so no electricty bills!!

Nov cutting
potting on March

Those of you have ordered plants and received them from the society should look at potting them on, we would recommend that they are potted up in pot not larger than 10cm for P/FS and not larger than 7cm for Pinks, this is so that they can establish a good root system prior to being potted into their final pot some time next year. The timing of such final potting is determined by the root ball, what you want is a pot that has nearly filled with root but not at a stage where it’s become pot bound. Compost for use should be a mix of its original compost which is of a seedling base and that of a more feed adjusted compost such as a JI No 2.


If there is anything that you would like to ask or anything that you wanted to be explained regarding any aspect of growing Carnations and Pinks then please contact us and we will try and answer any question.

Above:-On receiving your plants, if they have a good root system then it’s time to pot into an intermediate pot before they are potted into their final pot. Once they have made good root in the intermediate pot then it will be time to pot on into the final pot sometime next year.


When I start to take cuttings around August I do choose to take some in 10cm pots as I find they root much better and act as a back-up for any losses that I may incur and that they can be left in situ until the following year or when they need potting on into finals.

The pot is filled with my normal cutting compost and the compost is made fairly compact with a few taps on the bench this is to reduce any form of air pockets that may be inside and the cuttings which are four in total are inserted one in each corner of the square pot and then watered in; the pot is then placed below the staging out of direct sunlight and left until they have rooted.

They are then placed on the staging and are treat as normal with watering and spraying regime. I normally find after a further watering which I generally include Maxicrop they either grow on or one or two may look as though they have not rooted, this being the case and if I have sufficient  of that particular cultivar then the cutting is removed and I normally find that the root is not as it should be either poor or that the cut has become damaged, this will leave me with either three or two strong cuttings, they are then potted when ready into the final pot so for instance if all four cuttings have grown on and are looking strong then they will be potted on into a four litre pot, three cuttings with one having been removed will go into a three litre and so forth but the smallest pot that I would use is a two litre pot.

With this recent mild weather the Border Carnations have continued making good growth to such the extent that some of the ones that were taken as square pot cuttings will need moving into finals, its hoped that they will all go into four litre pots, I have lost the odd one which can happen and so these will go into the three litre pots but I want to utilise four litre pots as much as possible for all of my Borders for next year, this I hope will help with my watering regime but if you are just starting off with Borders I would suggest using a two litre pot for each plant; it will make the learning of watering so much easier for what each plant requires and of course if any plant does succumb to any problems then it’s easier to remove and only one plant may be lost. First sign that they have rooted well and may need potting on is the sign of white roots poking through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.


All borders should now be in their final pots and growing apace. Canes should be in place and it will be a daily job to make sure the stems are tied to the canes just above the nodes, leave the top part of the stem where the buds are so that the stem can strengthen otherwise the plant may feel it’s not necessary to do so, the idea is to keep the stems straight but also allowing the plant to strengthen and try to allow space between cane and stem. I now use twist ties which are quite reasonable in cost but sweet pea rings are advantageous and please remember not to reach over the top of plants to get to that one at the back as the stems can easily break, far better periodically to move the plants for inspection, pests being one of the problems at this time of the year especially Aphids as seen on the far right photo.

Perpetuals will also need some form of rings to help with the stems as these can easily snap at the base when they become elongated. Plastic hoops are a great assistance in helping keep the plants within the pots limits and also assist in the stems growing straight, once they start to grow apace then rings will be needed to help the stems.

To the right is a short video on propagation of Perpetuals we are hoping to add more in the future but at the moment the coronavirus is halting any production