Available in a wide variety of colors and often underrated, the ubiquitous carnation has been used as a symbolic gift across several cultures for ages. Typically believed to represent love, appreciation and acknowledgement, carnations can make for a meaningful way to express yourself when you know what each color represents.

Pink Carnation Gilly Flower Bouquet
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Meaning of Carnation Colors

What are Carnations?

Carnations are lightly-scented flowers commonly found in bouquets, popular for their variety of colors. Known among florists as the perpetual flowering carnation, these plants are commonly grown in Colombia, Spain and Israel, where their greenhouse cultivation produces large blooms. In addition to being available in an array of colors, carnations are also hearty, durable and can be found in most flower shops and grocery stores as an affordable alternative to more fragrant or exotic blossoms. Perhaps the most popular thing about these flowers is that each color represents something different, making them a thoughtful choice to give and meaningful to receive.

What Do the Different Colors Represent?

Red carnations, like most red flowers, represent deep love and admiration. Typically used to express romantic love, these flowers are often reserved for close, intimate relationships among partners and lovers, but can also be shared among close friends or close family members such as mothers, grandmothers and aunts.

White carnations are meant to signify pure love and good luck. Engagements, birthdays, graduations, new ventures and other fresh starts provide the perfect opportunity to send your well-wishes with a white bouquet. Additionally, when shared on Mother's Day, some use white carnations to represent and honor the memory of those moms who are no longer with us.

Pink carnations are the most commonly shared and are believed to have the deepest meaning. Their complicated story starts with the crucifixion of Christ, where they were said to have sprouted after having been watered with the tears of the Virgin Mary. For this reason, most associate them to represent the undying love of a mother or maternal figure, although they are also often used to express gratitude in a variety of situations. Pink carnations can make for a great way to say "thank you" to a teacher, nurse, coworker or anyone you wish to send a little bit of extra appreciation.

Yellow carnations are a unique flower and are not really the variety to gift a love interest or to honor a special occasion. Typically associated with rejection, disappointment and even dejection, the best situation in which to offer yellow carnations are in times of sympathy, such as the loss of a loved one, a job or even simply to express regret or sorrow. If you need to say "I'm sorry," a bouquet of these yellow blossoms will best convey the message.

Purple carnations are said to symbolize capriciousness or unpredictability. This deep and bright pop of color can make a great offering for anyone who has recently undergone a big change of any kind, from a housewarming to a major loss. Because purple carnations symbolically leave the most room for interpretation, they might make a safe bet if you're not quite sure how your gift will be received.

While the meaning of each color of carnation varies, there does tend to be a lot of crossover and room for interpretation, especially among the red, pink and white blooms, so don't worry too much. Like most things in life, it's the thought that counts!