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Gardening 101: Zinnias

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Gardening 101: Zinnias

February 28, 2017

Zinnia: “Farm Stand Favorite”

Truly, zinnias have to be one of the best annuals to grow. Not only do they shoot up from seed to flower with astounding speed, zinnias also produce the longest lasting colorful flowers from mid-summer way into frost. For the cutting or cottage garden, nothing could be easier.

Read on to learn more:

Above: Fresh-picked farm stand bouquets of zinnias for sale in Connecticut. Photograph by Erin Boyle.

Native to Mexico and Central America, Zinnias come in about 20 different species.

Above: For a rainbow of colors, a Candy Mix of Zinnia elegans seeds will reach maturity in from 75 to 90 days; $4.95 for a packet of seeds from Floret Flowers.
Zinnia elegans is the most popular and easiest to find in nurseries because this variety makes the greatest cut flower with long, strong stems and striking colors. Z. elegans has bright daisy-like flowers on erect stems, and some varieties will grow to an impressive 3 feet.

&#8\2\20;This Floret customer favorite and cottage garden classic comes in a dramatic deep wine hue,&#8\2\2\1; says flower grower Erin Benzakein. A packet of  Zinnia Giant Wine seeds is \$4.95 from Floret Flowers.
Above: “This Floret customer favorite and cottage garden classic comes in a dramatic deep wine hue,” says flower grower Erin Benzakein. A packet of  Zinnia Giant Wine seeds is $4.95 from Floret Flowers.
I love it that when the heat of summer is on, zinnias don’t fail. They meet all my requirements for summer cottage garden plants: they tolerate drought conditions, are low-maintenance, and bloom in  bright colors. Plus they re-seed themselves easily.

A packet of 50 Zinnia ‘Mammoth’ seeds is £\1.95 from Higgledy Garden.
Above: A packet of 50 Zinnia ‘Mammoth’ seeds is £1.95 from Higgledy Garden.
You can also save the seeds from heirloom varieties and directly sow them in a well-prepped garden bed.

Tip: You will have to let the flowers dry on the plant to get the seeds (and this can be an unsightly process because exhausted zinnias are not so attractive).

Cheat Sheet

  • The almost ridiculously bright colors of most zinnias can be a challenge to integrate into a garden, so I reserve them for rambunctious cottage gardens and cut flower beds.
  • There are smaller creeping varieties of zinnia, such as Z. angustifolia, which work well in containers or as edging for perennial beds.
  • Try adding a few zinnias to attract pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds, and because of their rapid growth these annuals shade out weeds.

Keep It Alive

  • Try growing zinnias from seed because they quickly sprout and don’t appreciate being transplanted.
  • Full sun is key to zinnias’ success; otherwise unpleasant powdery mildew forms on the leaves.
  • Amend the soil with compost before planting, and deadhead to prolong flowering.
Above: Wondering how to mix and match colorful zinnias with the rest of your flowers? See Family Matters: Restoring a Historic Landscape in Concord, MA. Photograph by Justine Hand.

Plan your summer flower garden with design tips from our Annual Plants: A Field Guide. And grow your own zinnias, with a little help from:

Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for zinnia with our Zinnia: A Field Guide.

Interested in other annuals for your garden? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various annuals with our Annuals: A Field Guide.

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