Flowers + Plants 101

Explore the True Meaning of Carnation Flowers

Monday, April 4, 2022

Carnations are versatile, hardy flowers that florists use in arrangements, bouquets, and more. They have been cultivated for over 2,000 years. It’s believed that the word carnation comes from the Latin word carnis, which means flesh.

Close-up view of a vibrant pink peony flower with delicate, ruffled petals and green leaves in the background, highlighting the flower's intricate textures.

Carnations are often pink, resembling the color of flesh. Another theory about the name is based on the word coronation. The ancient Greeks created floral garlands using carnations for ceremonial events, and Europeans and Asians used these flowers for wreaths, art, and perfume. There are over 300 varieties of these blooms.

The true meaning of carnations


There is a Catholic legend that upon seeing Jesus on the cross, Mary wept and from her tears on the ground sprang carnations. This association was immortalized in Leonardo DaVinci’s “The Madonna with the Carnation” painting.

Because of this legend, carnations have become associated with motherly love.

Carnations are also associated with feelings of devotion, love, distinction, and fascination.

Other meanings of carnations:

  • White carnations are used in the Netherlands to remember veterans.
  • Purple carnations are used in France as funeral flowers.
  • Some countries use red carnations to commemorate May Day and the labor movement.
  • The carnation is the official flower for January birthdays.
  • Green carnations are worn on St. Patrick’s Day.


Carnations are the traditional flower of first wedding anniversaries. Because of their commitment symbolism, carnations are often used in wedding bouquets and flower arrangements.

Mother’s Love:

Carnations are also the official flower of Mother’s Day. Anna Jarvis, the creator of Mother’s Day, chose white carnations to honor her mother on the first Mother’s Day. The use of carnations on Mother’s Day also goes back to the legend of Jesus’s mother Mary weeping the flower.

Meaning of the Colors Carnations


White carnations are typically used at weddings, baptisms, and funerals because they symbolize purity and innocence. They can also represent new starts.

Light Red and Pink:

Light red carnations symbolize friendship or possible romantic interest. They are a great way to let someone know you care about them. Pink carnations usually symbolize gratitude. Pink carnations may also denote remembrance so you may see them used at funerals or memorials.


While most purple flowers symbolize royalty and respect, that’s not the case with purple carnations. Purple carnations can symbolize temperamental behavior and unpredictability.


Most yellow flowers symbolize cheerfulness and friendship, but not yellow carnations. These bright blooms are tied to rejection, regret, and disappointment. This makes yellow carnations a perfect flower to use if you want to apologize to someone.

Carnations are hearty flowers that hold up well in transit. They also pair well with other flowers like roses, lilies, and daisies.

Carnation facts

In addition to the interesting facts above, here are some more ways these flowers are popular worldwide.

  • After roses, carnations are the most popular flowers in the US.
  • Carnations were first used in the US in the mid-1800s after being shipped from France.
  • The red carnation was made the official flower of Ohio in 1904 to honor the memory of President William McKinley after he was assassinated.
  • Outside of their color symbolisms, carnations are also thought to have some medicinal properties. Carnation tea has been used to treat headaches, fever, and stomach aches. It has also been used as an energy supplement. Carnations are also used in moisturizers to minimize wrinkles and add luster to skin.

Carnations are one of the oldest cultivated flowers, and it’s easy to see why. They are versatile, beautiful, easy to care for, and relatively inexpensive. The next time you have an occasion to celebrate, consider using this renowned flower.

Carnations are versatile, hardy flowers that florists use in arrangements, bouquets, and more. It’s believed that the word carnation comes from the Latin word carnis, which means flesh.

Vibrant pink and white carnations with a soft focus background, showcasing the delicate ruffled petals and green buds of these fresh, blooming flowers.