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Choosing Zinnia Varieties – What Are The Different Kinds Of Zinnia
By Amy Grant
There is such a dizzying array of zinnia varieties that it’s almost difficult to decide what zinnia to plant. To help you decide, the following article discusses different zinnia plant types and how to incorporate them into the landscape. Click here for more info.
Potted Zinnia Plants: How To Care For Container Grown Zinnias
By Mary Ellen Ellis
Zinnias in pots can look just as lovely, if not more so, than those planted in beds. Zinnias are colorful additions to any flower garden, they’re great for cutting, they are easy to grow and start from seed, so they make a great choice for container gardening. Learn more here.
Creeping Zinnia Info: How To Grow Creeping Zinnia Flowers
By Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Easy to plant with long-lasting color, you should consider growing creeping zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia) in your flower beds and borders this year. What’s so special about it? Click on the following article for more information.
What Is Mexican Zinnia – Growing Mexican Zinnias In The Garden
By Teo Spengler
If you are looking for brilliantly colored flowers that spill over the edge of containers, consider growing Mexican zinnia, which blooms in bright colors all season long. For more information about Mexican zinnia flowers and tips on plant care, click here.
Caring For Queen Lime Zinnias – How To Grow Queen Lime Zinnia Flowers
By Mary Ellen Ellis
Zinnias are known for their cheerful mix of colors, but did you know that there is such a thing as lime green zinnia flowers, and those with hints of rose? Queen Lime cultivars produce stunning blooms and are just as easy to grow as any other type of zinnia. Learn more here.
Zinnia Care – How To Grow Zinnia Flowers
By Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Zinnia flowers are a colorful and long-lasting addition to the flower garden. When you learn how to plant zinnias for your area, you?ll be able to add this popular annual to sunny areas. Click here for more info.
Zinnias, Old and New
What is more lovely and indispensable to a flower lover's garden than a bed of zinnias sparkling in a sunny bed? Not only are they beautiful, but butterflies appreciate the nectar-laden blossoms and can usually be found fluttering amid the flowers. Granny called these colorful flowers "old maids," and it was many years later before I knew another name for them.
Zinnias are members of the Asteraceae (aster) family. Named for the German botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn, the genus is native to the southwestern United States and to Mexico and Central America. Gardeners can choose from a wide range of colors and multicolors, including tints and shades of yellow, orange, white, red, rose, pink, purple, green, and lilac. As a matter of fact, they come in almost every color except blue.
Flowers may be striped, speckled, or multicolored, and they may be single, double, or semi-double. Flowers on doubles may look like cactus flowers, dahlias, or simple buttons. Hundreds of cultivars make it easy for the gardener to choose ones that suit many landscape purposes. Sizes range from mere groundcovers to plants over three feet tall. Sandpapery, lance-shaped leaves provide a perfect backdrop for the colorful flowers.
Zinnias are easily started from seeds. Plant them where they are to grow in full sun and in fertile, well-drained soil. They can also be set out from young seedlings provided they are handled carefully, for they are very sensitive to root disturbance. Add organic matter if your soil is very sandy and lacking in nutrients or if it has a high clay content and poor drainage. Sprinkle about two pounds of slow-release fertilizer such as 6-6-6 per 100 square feet of planting area. Scatter the seeds according to package directions, and do not let the bed dry out until seedlings have emerged.
After the seedlings are two or three inches tall, thin to allow plenty of space between plants for good air circulation. Powdery mildew can afflict zinnias, especially in hot, humid climates or in beds where plants are packed so closely together that the foliage stays wet for long periods of time. Critters such as spidermites, mealybugs, and aphids may be troublesome, but can usually be held to acceptable levels by an occasional strong spray of water to the affected areas. If it becomes necessary, treat with a mild pesticide such as pyrethrin or insecticidal soap.
After plants are up and growing, add mulch to retain moisture and inhibit weed growth. Water during lengthy dry periods. Deadhead spent flowers, and cut often for bouquets. A sprinkling of fertilizer during midsummer will keep plants growing vigorously. Midsummer is also a good time to plant a new bed of zinnias for spectacular fall color.
As winter approaches and the zinnias are in imminent danger of being killed by frosts, allow a few of the flowers to dry on the plant. Then snap them off and keep in a dry place until the following spring. One flower head will most likely yield all the plants you could possibly need. With a few more in the bag, all your friends can be treated to a generous package of seeds for their gardens. Remember that hybrids may not come back true to the parent. A bit of seedling variation, however, can add surprise and interest to the zinnia bed.
Kinds of Zinnias
According to GRIN Taxonomy for Plants, published by the USDA Agricultural Research Service, there are thirteen species of Zinnia. However, of these, there are many cultivars as well as interspecific hybrids that expand the palate exponentially.
The most familiar species is Zinnia elegans, which is the tall, upright type with which most people are familiar. Many cultivars and series are available, including 'Dreamland', 'Magellan', 'Ruffles', 'Oklahoma', Benary Giant, Peter Pan, Giant Cactus, and others. Most of the series are available in color mixes or in single colors.
Zinnia angustifolia (narrow-leaf zinnia) is a low-growing species that is suited for the front of the flower bed and is available in colors of orange, yellow, and white. Particularly popular as a landscape zinnia, this species requires little or no deadheading, is extremely heat tolerant, and is highly resistant to diseases that plague other species. The Crystal series and the Star series offer dense masses of color throughout the summer. ‘Crystal White' was an All America Selection in 1997.
Zinnia tenuifolia bears red, one-inch, single scarlet flowers with dark centers. Thin, widely spaced petals curve like a spider's legs, giving it the common name of red spider zinnia. The durable plants reach 18 to 24 inches tall.
Zinnia haageana is a species that is smaller than Z. elegans. This very heat, drought, and disease tolerant species bears one- to two-inch wide bi-colored flowers in a range of spicy colors including gold, purple, red, white, and orange. Sometimes they are called "Mexican zinnias." The Persian Carpet series is a colorful mixture of fiery colors while the cultivar ‘Chippendale' sports bi-colored blossoms of mahogany with a yellow or orange rim.
Many of the zinnias on the market today are interspecific hybrids. A popular hybrid is the Profusion series, a cross between Zinnia elegans and Zinnia angustifolia. All demonstrate a high degree of disease tolerance. The Profusion zinnias bloom throughout the summer in dense, compact mounds. Flowers are available in a range of colors including white, orange, cherry, apricot, and red. Work continues with the hybridizers, and new colors and sizes are introduced regularly. ‘Profusion White', ‘Profusion Orange', and ‘Profusion Cherry' are All-America Selection winners. Profusion zinnias are now available in knee-high plants that grow 20 to 24 inches tall and spread about a foot wide.
Three zinnias were chosen as All America Selection winners in 2010. From the Zahara series, the cultivars ‘Double Zahara Fire, ‘Zahara Starlight Rose', and ‘Double Zahara Cherry' performed well in full sun gardens across the United States. Pictures below are compliments of AAS. These interspecific hybrids grow about 12 inches tall and have high resistance to leaf spot and mildew diseases.
Uses in Floral Design
Zinnias are excellent flowers for cutting and enjoying in bouquets and floral arrangements. For best results, choose long-stemmed cultivars such as ‘State Fair'. Generally speaking, a plant that grows more than 18 inches tall is a candidate for the vase. Cut flowers just as they start opening and place the stems in water immediately. The best cutting time is in the early morning before flowers have had a chance to loose moisture and while they are fully hydrated. Arrange in simple vases or baskets and enjoy for about a week.
Zinnias dried in silica jel can be enjoyed for a much longer time. They can also be dried by hanging upside down in an airy place out of direct light. Doubles are best for drying by this method because they hold their shape better than singles. Expect them to change colors somewhat and to lose some of their brilliance.
Whichever zinnias you choose to grow will add charm to your garden, and frequent cutting will lend color to your interior spaces. Adding to the allure are the butterflies that are sure to abound when the zinnias bloom. With so many colors, sizes, and flower forms from which to choose, what's not to like about this group of flowers?
How to Grow Zinnias Throughout the Season
Growth Habit: Zinnias come in a wide variety of plant sizes. Some are low-growing. 1-foot tall plants with a mounding habit. Others are 3-foot tall plants with big flowers. Plant the right variety for your usage and that your space allows. Mounding varieties have smaller flowers and produce more ornamental looking plants. Taller varieties are often used for cutting and are best grown in rows or clumps for a better visual effect.
Staking: These flowers have sturdy stems, so do not need staking.
Watering: Zinnias need moist soil to grow their best. This is especially true of young plants. Water deeply a few times a week so the soil stays moist 6 to 8 inches deep. Don't overwater because zinnias can also succumb to rot diseases especially on wet, clay soils. Once established, zinnias a relatively drought tolerant.
Fertilizing: Amend the soil before planting zinnias with compost. When flowers start to form, side dress with an organic 5-5-5 fertilizer to get more and bigger blossoms.
Mulching: Mulch zinnias once they are established with a 2 inch layer of straw or bark mulch. This will help preserve soil moisture and prevent weed growth.
Trimming & Pruning: Deadhead (trim) spent flowers regularly to promote more flowering and to keep the plant tidy. To create bushier plants on tall varieties, pinch the growth tip of the plant when young. This will stimulate more side branching, a shorter plant, and more flowers. However, it may delay flowering, especially in cool summer areas.
How to Make More Flowers Bloom on a Zinnia Plant
Ensure that your zinnias are growing in full sun. In order to get maximum blooms from each plant, they need a minimum of six hours of sun per day.
- Feed your zinnia flowers with a half-strength solution of a balanced, water soluble liquid flowering plant fertilizer every other week throughout the growing season.
- Leave the last blossoms of the growing season on your zinnias to encourage them to reseed in their current location.
Water the zinnia plant when the top inch of soil begins to dry.
Snip off dead and dying flowers and remove them from the planting area. This will encourage the plant to produce more flowers.
Cut the zinnias for fresh flower arrangements frequently. Removing flowers will cause the plant to produce more. Cut the flowers in the early morning and select zinnia blooms that are just beginning to open.
Fertilize the zinnia plant every four to six weeks through late summer with a balanced water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer at the rate suggested on the label. Feeding the plant forces it to bloom.