Discover The National Flower of Spain: Red Carnation

Written by Heather Hall
Published: February 10, 2023
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Spain is located in the southwest corner of Europe and is bordered by France, Portugal, Andorra, and Gibraltar. The people of Spain are warm and welcoming, and a vibrant mix of age-old traditions and modern influences characterizes their culture. From the flamenco dance and bullfighting to traditional festivals such as La Tomatina, Spanish culture has something for everyone.  If we consider the weight of Spain’s centuries-long culture, it won’t be surprising to know that even its national flower has great symbolic meaning since it takes part in most celebrations and festivals. By the way, each color has its own special significance. Are you dying of curiosity to know what it is? The national flower of Spain is the red carnation.

Geography and Climate of Spain

Spain has a total land area of 195,360 square miles with mountains, high plateaus, and coastal plains. The country’s longest mountain range is the Pyrenees Mountains which form its northern border with France. Spain also features several islands in the Mediterranean Sea, such as Mallorca, Ibiza, and Menorca. Then you have the Tenerife and Gran Canaria islands off the coast of Africa in the Atlantic Ocean. Spain also has some gorgeous rivers, including the Ebro, which is the largest river in Spain, the Tagus river that flows into Portugal, and Guadalquivir in the south. This geographic diversity implies a highly climatic diversity. And in fact, Spain is the most climatically diverse country in Europe. For the most part, the climate is temperate, with hot summers and cold winters inland and warm summers and cool winters along the coast.

National Flower: Red Carnation

As we mentioned earlier, the national flower of Spain is the red carnation. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, first described this lovely flower in 1753 and gave it its botanical name Dianthus caryophyllus. It belongs to the family Caryophyllaceae. Carnations grow wild in several countries: Spain, of course, but also Albania, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, and Italy. These flowers have been cultivated for over 2,000 years and were popular ceremonial flowers in ancient Greece and Rome. In Spain, carnations are often seen at weddings as well as funerals, symbolizing both happy and sad occasions. These flowers are also part of bullfighting ceremonies, flamenco dances and celebrations, and music festivals throughout the year.

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Red carnations.

The red carnation is the national flower of Spain. Each color has a specific meaning in Spanish culture.


Color Symbolism

The color of the national flower of Spain can range from white or pink to red or yellow, depending on the type. Each color has its own unique meaning associated with it in Spanish culture.

  • Red. Light red carnations represent admiration, and the darker red ones symbolize the passion between lovers. Spain is also a Catholic country, and red carnations are a religious symbol of the passion of Christ.
  • White. White carnations represent a mother’s love and are popular gifts on Mother’s Day. Spain is a country with strong feelings about family, and the carnation represents the love and devotion that can thrive in difficult situations. White also stands for luck and purity.
  • Pink. Pink carnations stand for gratitude. They are also a popular gift on Mother’s day from those who are grateful to their mothers.
  • Yellow. Yellow carnations are for rejection and disappointment. They are the best choice for an apology bouquet.

Common Names

Besides carnation, which derives from the Latin word corona, meaning ‘wreath’ or ‘garland,’ Dianthus caryophyllus is also known as “clove pink.” Other less common names include “sweet William,” “wild carnation,” “clove gillyflower,” and “gillyflower.” An uncommon name for carnation is “grenadine.” The Spanish version of the name is clavel.

What is a Carnation?

Carnations are perennial flowers that grow just under three feet tall. They have gray-green or blue-green leaves and produce sweetly scented flowers. The flowers come in yellow, blue, green, red, and white. There are also striped cultivars. They are usually 25-32 inches tall but also come in dwarf varieties.

Do Animals Eat Carnations?

Many insects like moths, butterflies, bees, and dragonflies feed on the nectar of carnations. Those who grow fragrant varieties of carnations will often attract pipeline swallowtail butterflies and Gulf fritillaries, two species that are especially sensitive to their sweet aroma. If you’re looking for a way to naturally keep butterflies around your garden, planting some scented carnations might be a good option.

Butterflies love carnations.

If you want to naturally keep butterflies around your garden, planting some scented carnations might be a good option: they love carnations!

©Ana Fidalgo/

How to Grow Carnations

If growing from seed, start with a well-drained seed starting mix. Plant each seed only 1/8th of an inch deep. Keep the plants spaced twelve inches apart. Keep the soil moist, and the seeds will germinate in 14-21 days. Plant outside after all danger of frost has passed and the soil temperature has reached 50 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are purchasing perennial carnations from a garden center, it is best to plant them out in fall or spring, giving them enough time to establish roots. Carnations needed 6 hours of sunlight per day minimum and nutrient-rich soil. Remember to stake the tall varieties if you live in a windy area. The dwarf varieties look lovely as edging plants or container flowers. All varieties benefit from being dead-headed to remove spent flowers. This encourages new blooms to form.

Other Uses

Carnations have a variety of other uses. For example, you can choose carnations as boutonnieres for fancy occasions like weddings. Essential oils can be extracted from carnations as well. The essential oil has beneficial effects, such as reducing swelling and inflammation, relieving stress, treating skin rashes, and even reducing fevers and stomach aches. Additionally, carnations are edible, so you can add them to fresh salads or use them to decorate cakes. The pleasant aroma of the flower makes it an ideal choice for flavoring jams and creams too!

Other Native Plants

Wild plants native to Spain range from large trees such as cork and holm oak to smaller shrubs like lavender and rosemary. The most common types of grasses include red fescue, brome, and ryegrass. Spain is home to many perennial plants, including thyme, rockrose, oleander, gorse, and heathers. Many of these plants are heavily fragrant with the scent of sweet herbs or wildflowers. Other popular ornamental plants include common sage, bougainvillea, and jasmine, which are grown for their beautiful flowers and striking foliage. Nothing is more lovely than sweet-scented jasmine twining over a trellis!

When it comes to wildflowers, Spain is a paradise. Many unique species of flowers grow in the country’s varied terrain, from the Pyrenees Mountains in the north to the plains and hills of Andalusia in the south. Common wildflowers native to Spain include daisies, poppies, cornflowers, snapdragons, and vipers bugloss. Other popular Spanish wildflowers include lavender and sunflowers, which bloom across meadows throughout the summer. Wild orchids also thrive on some parts of Spanish soil, where they pop up around late springtime.

Wild mushrooms such as chanterelles can grow in Spain’s woodlands in the Fall.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Diamant Studios/

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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