Cloning Cut Carnations Flowers (Dianthus caryophyllus)

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

The Internet is replete with advice on how clone a Carnation from an arrangement of cut flowers. There is one little problem with that advice, disregarding the question of how old the cut Carnation is, Carnation stems which produced a flower are stiff and are less than an ideal source of cloning material because they notoriously difficult to root. Carnation cloning material is normally taken from new growth flexible stems at the end of the flowering season which have not set buds.

In the United States, all of the cut Carnations in the stores are imported from abroad and we donít have a resident Carnation industry which can supply cloned cultivars to the hobby as is the case in England and Europe. Unfortunately the English growers donít export to North America. For additional information on this problem see this post with a comment on the English grower Allwoods:
Rand B. Leeís Dianthus Retail Plant & Seed Sources List

There were many discussions on cloning Carnations on the forum which resulted in the creation of the Dianthus Forum, which can be found here:
Proposal: Carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) Forum

All of the advice from other DG members and published books on cloning Carnations spanning the last 100 years clearly indicated that cloning the stems of flowering Carnations was externally difficult but that didnít stop me from trying and failing multiple times.

I looked for newly delivered stock of cut Carnations which still had proliferations. Discount stores were better because of their higher turnover and because they didnít remove the proliferations to make the Carnations stems look pretty. The flowers were discarded and a two-node section was taken, and the stems trimmed near the two nodes and the bottom leaves removed. When a proliferation was found, the supporting node became the bottom node of a cutting. The cuttings were planted in 2 inch pots under a humidity dome and observed for signs of new growth. Once new growth was observed the small starter pots are transferred to taller pots, plants and all. The larger pots are carefully backfilled with potting soil so that the original pot and growing stem are covered with potting soil. If the new carnation stem continues to grow additional potting soil is added encouraging root development at the new nodes. During this process the pots are outside in the shade and misted with water each day. The failure rate was quite high but this year I have been able to produce three clones which appear to be growing as the attached photograph shows. Keep in mind that the original pot is still buried inside the larger port along with the identification tap. That was a big mistake and one that I will not make next year. On the other hand, I will be pleasantly surprised to learn which clones made it, if any.

This technique is akin to a two stage rocket, where the only function of the first stage is to get the second stand off the ground. In this case the first stage is the original two node cutting while the second stage is the new proliferation which has the potential to set roots.

Last winter I got one Carnation clone to this state and then lost it with too much TLC indoors during the winter. This winter I am going to leave the Carnations outside in a highly protected location and hope for the best.


Thumbnail by Michael_Ronayne
(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

I have followed this dialogue for a while and still don't know what a 'proliferation' is. Explain please?

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

As applied to living organisms in general and plants in particular a proliferation is defined as: ďTo grow or multiply by rapidly producing new tissue, parts, cells, or offspring.Ē Flower bearing Carnation stems contain nodes at which a pair of leaves develop on opposite sides of the stem. Generally the leaves at each node are rotated 90 degrees to the leaves on the preceding node. Sometimes a new stem will immerge at the point where a leaf is joined to the node. Basically a proliferation is a side branch. In the cut flower industry proliferations or side braches are considered unsightly and are removed. At the supermarkets and box-stores which sell discounted cut flowers you have a better chance of finding cut Carnations with the proliferations still attached.

As the proliferation is derived from rapidly growing tissue, you have a better chanced of cloning plants using this tissue. For Daylily growers proliferations are a valuable alternative to divisions when cloning Daylilies.

How To Use Proliferation to Increase Your Daylilies

Normally Carnations are not cloned from flowering stems because fast growing young stems are usually available on the parent plant. Actually I got the idea for using Carnations proliferations from Daylilies. This is not a commercially viable method of cloning Carnations but all I need is one plant with roots.


(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Going back to the original topic of cloning green carnations? Is that the issue then. You haven't found plants only cut flowers in the green color. Therefore no proliferation per your note above. Interesting. I wanted to clone a dianthus of a dark red variety just to see if I could do it, but I have the plant itself so that would be a different issue. Yes? I only wanted to try it to see if I could do it. I propagate dahlias easily and wanted to try something different.

Nutley, NJ(Zone 6b)

If you are talking about the Green Ball Dianthus, they are not Carnations but Dianthus barbatus (Sweet William). Unlike Carnations the stems of Sweet William are hollow and die quickly. I grew Sweet William this past summer and once the seeds were ripe, the stems quickly died. I have been attempting to clone the umbel (i.e. the green ball) structure but have unsuccessful. I have some new ideas which I plan to test this winter if I can find some more Green Ball Dianthus at the store and purchase a cloning machine which I need for my Hibiscus projects.


Aschaffenburg, Germany

Hi Mike,

My name is Martin and I live in Germany. Last year I bought a cloner for 100 $ from the US, which I could have produced myself for perhaps 30 $, but I didn't have the patience to google the information in order to buy the parts and materials described in the US. Often the product names are different too from what it's called here in Europe and sometimes you cannot find them at all. To cut a long story short, I've used my cloner last year for cuttings from herbs and this worked fine. I am rooting the cuttings purely in the green sponge that florists use for the flower arrangements. So in this process no soil is involved, which may be the root of all evil in your process as it is difficult to keep mold and fungi off the cuttings. Perhaps your chances of getting new cuttings will improve if you use a cloner system and root your cutting in water instead of soil.


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