This obscure but noteworthy day is a chance to celebrate President William McKinley. It also presents a wider opportunity to remember the sacrifices presidents make for the country. McKinley was shot at the Pan American Expo in Buffalo, New York in 1901 and died eight days later.
The red carnation is associated with McKinley because he was known for wearing one in his lapel. The tradition began in 1876 when he ran for Congress. His opponent, Dr. Levi Lamborn, was a plant enthusiast and developed a red cultivar of carnations. Before a debate, he gave one to McKinley for his lapel.
McKinley ultimately won the election and considered the flower to be a lucky charm. He went on to wear one throughout his political career. He would often gift the flower from his lapel to people he encountered, including children. According to legend, he gave his lapel carnation to a young girl just before he was assassinated.
Dr. Lamborn was instrumental in making the red carnation the state flower of Ohio, McKinley’s home state. Lamborn’s hometown of Alliance, Ohio is officially known as Carnation City.
What Do Red Carnations Mean?
In the context of President McKinley, red carnations represent remembrance of this past president and his contributions to the country. However, carnations greatly pre-date McKinley and have long held certain meanings in general and by color.
Some people associate all carnations with motherly love because of a legend that says the flowers grew from the ground where the Virgin Mary’s tears fell. In more modern times, a common red carnation meaning is admiration. Deeper red flowers signify love and affection.
What better way to celebrate Carnation Day than by growing this pretty flower? Often overlooked today, this is an ancient cultivated species that deserves a chance to shine again.
Carnations got a bad rap after being used frequently in the florist industry. Many considered it to be an inexpensive filler flower, but really, carnations are beautiful and underappreciated. They are also fairly easy to grow as annuals or perennials.
In the home garden, use carnations as border flowers or in containers. They grow well in zones 6 through 9 and come in a full range of flower colors, including red, which bloom from spring through fall. Carnations are also edible and have some medicinal uses.
Carnations are easy to grow from seed. Use January 29 as an excuse to find some seeds to start indoors for planting outside in the spring. January and February are the perfect time to start these flowers from seed.
Lightly cover seeds with soil mix and keep it moist. Cover the seed tray with plastic for humidity and to keep the seeds warm. You should get germination within a few days. Thin the seedlings as they emerge and repot when you have two to three true leaves on each one.
Transplant your carnations outdoors after the last frost and when the seedlings are at least four to five inches (10-13 cm.) tall. Grow carnations in moist, well-draining soil that is slightly alkaline. Provide full sun to partial shade.
You can stake your carnations if you like, but it isn’t necessary. It is more important to do so if you plant to use them for cut flowers. This will give you nice, straight stems.
National Carnation Day is not well known, but it’s a great opportunity to learn more about this pretty flower and our 25th president.
Gardening tips, videos, info and more delivered right to your inbox!
Sign up for the Gardening Know How newsletter today and receive a free download of our most popular eBook "How to Grow Delicious Tomatoes."
Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.
Best Plants For Frogs: 7 Plant Varieties To Bring More Froggies To Your Yard
A frog-friendly environment is one of the key indicators for garden health – so if you want to improve the health of your plot, here are seven plants for frogs you need to try
By Janey Goulding
10 Front Yard Plants That Will Add Value To Your Home – According To Experts
These stand-out plants will boost your home's curb appeal and make it more appealing to buyers. Invest in your front yard landscaping now, and these expert picks will be established by the time you move on.
By Melanie Griffiths
Carnations In Containers – Learn About Potted Carnation Plants
Carnations are extremely popular and make stunning cut flower arrangements. They are also an excellent choice for growth in containers. Carnations in containers can bring much needed color to small landscape plantings, as well as window boxes. Learn more here.
By Tonya Barnett
Septoria On Carnations – Learn About Carnation Leaf Spot Control
Carnation septoria leaf spot is a common, yet highly destructive, disease that spreads rapidly from plant to plant. However, septoria leaf spot of carnations is relatively easy to manage if caught early. To learn more about this disease, click the following article.
By Mary H. Dyer
Carnation Rhizoctonia Stem Rot – How To Manage Stem Rot On Carnations
There are few things as delightful as carnations. They are relatively easy plants to grow but can develop fungal problems. Carnations with rhizoctonia stem rot, for instance, are a common problem. Click here to learn the symptoms and treatment for this common disease.
By Bonnie L. Grant
Carnation Fusarium Wilt Info: How To Control Fusarium Wilt Of Carnations
Carnations have a rich and meaningful history, and are some of the oldest cultivated flowers. Despite this, they are susceptible to a number of issues, like fusarium wilt disease. The following contains info on treating carnation fusarium wilt.
By Amy Grant
Clove Pink Herb Plants – Learn About Clove Pink Uses In The Garden
Clove pink herb plants are related to carnations and the recognizable scent of clove is borne on the blooms. These lovely little plants are charming additions to the garden. Learn how to grow clove pink herbs in this article.
By Bonnie L. Grant
Companion Plants For Dianthus – Tips On What To Plant With Dianthus
Dianthus are low-maintenance plants prized for their ruffly blooms and sweet-spicy scent. If you're wondering what to plant with dianthus in your garden, click this article to get some helpful tips and suggestions.
By Mary H. Dyer
What Is Firewitch – How To Care For Firewitch Dianthus Plants
Oftentimes, I am asked by customers for specific plants only by description. For example, "I'm looking for a plant I saw that's grass-like but has little pink flowers". I find it is Firewitch dianthus that has caught their eye. Learn more about it here.
By Darcy Larum
Carnation Garden Plants: Tips For Growing Carnations
Carnations remain the most popular cut flower, and many people want to know how to grow carnation flowers. Anyone can learn about growing carnations and enjoy the rewards by reading this article.
By Gardening Know How