Zinnias I would have to describe it as a plant that would provide vivid color flowers from the middle of summer until frost, that was ridiculously easy to grow from seed and that would attract not only butterflies but birds as well to the garden.
Zinnias are always a show stopper and there are colors of every hue so they can fit in well with any perennials or annuals in your garden and will even give a pop of color to the herb garden or foliage. Not matter where you plant the will really catch your eye.
From a design standpoint there are Zinnias of all different heights that can fit anywhere from the front of your border or command an impressive presence towering from the back of the border. The Zinnia does not require much attention and if that is not enough they make beautiful bouquets and the more you cut them the more profusely they bloom what else could you want.
How To Grow Zinnia
Growing From Seed
Zinnias are easy to start from seeds, indoors or outdoors. The seeds of most of them are a good size, so they’re a perfect choice for a child to sow in the garden. For earlier flowers, and in colder zones, you may want to give the plants a head start by sowing the seeds indoors.
Starting Seeds Indoors:
Zinnias are fast growers, so plan to sow the seeds indoors about 4 to 6 weeks before the average last frost date in your area. In frost-free areas, count back from the date when you’ll be planting tomatoes, impatiens, and other warm-weather annuals in the garden.
- Fill a shallow container (flat) or individual peat pots with a commercial seed-starting mix. Moisten the mix and let it drain.
- Sow the seeds in rows, so the seedlings will be easy to separate when it comes time to transplant them. If you’re using peat pots, sow two to three seeds in each pot. Cover the seeds lightly with a layer of mix and spritz the mix with enough water to moisten it slightly.
- Cover the flat with a sheet of clear plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag to keep the mix from drying out while the seeds are germinating. Set it in a bright location or under grow-lights. Keep the growing medium at about 75º – 80º F (24º – 26 ºC) by placing it on a heat mat or warm surface.
- Seedlings should emerge in about a week. Remove the plastic cover and keep the mix evenly moist—not soggy—by watering the flat from the bottom.
- When the seedlings have at least two sets of true leaves,transplant them into individual 2¼-inch or larger pots. Provide as much sunlight as possible so the plants don’t get leggy from stretching for sun.
- Plant zinnias seedlings outdoors when the weather and soil have warmed up, about the time you plant impatiens or peppers.
Direct Sowing In The Garden
You can also sow the seeds directly in the garden, just as you would sunflowers and cosmos. Wait to sow until all danger of frost has passed and the air and soil are warm. Amend the soil by digging in a 2-inch layer of compost before planting for better drainage and improved fertility.
- It’s easiest to sow the seeds in rows, but you can also sow them in groups. Cover smaller seeds (of Z. angustifolia, for instance) with about ¼ inch of soil, and larger seeds with ½ inch. Space seeds a little more closely than you’ll want the plants to actually be as they grow; if you’re sowing in groups, drop two or three seeds in each shallow hole. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate.
- When the seedlings have two pairs of leaves, thin them to the correct spacing. If you carefully pull out the unwanted seedlings, you can transplant them to other parts of the garden. Otherwise, simply snip them at ground level.
If you are purchasing Zinnia from the garden center that have reached flowering size already you should cut them back by about a 3rd to help ease the transition into the garden. Then simple sit back and wait for the explosion of color the will shortly follow.
Zinnias grow best in full sun, which means six or more hours of direct sun daily. In desert locales and cold-hardiness zones 9 to 11, choose a site that gets some shade at midday and in the late afternoon. They prefer a moist but well-draining soil—whether planted in the ground or in containers—so it’s important to prepare the planting bed by working in an organic material, such as compost, especially if the soil is sandy, or heavy clay.
The best time to transplant any plant is on a cloudy day or in late afternoon so that the tender young plants have a chance to get settled in before they have to contend with the drying effects of the sun. Don’t crowd zinnias; air circulation is essential to keeping them disease-free. Set out plants so that taller zinnias (Z. elegans) are 12-18 inches apart; dwarf zinnias, 6-8 inches apart; and Z. angustifolia, 6-10 inches apart. Space the new ‘Profusion’ and ‘Zahara’ zinnias 12-18 inches apart. Plant zinnias in the ground at the same depth they were growing in the pots. If you’re transplanting from flats or six-packs, try to keep as much soil around the roots as possible so they don’t dry out. If you started the plants from seeds in peat pots, set the edges of the pots below the soil line—they have a tendency to wick moisture from the soil when exposed to the air. When growing zinnias for cutting, it’s a good idea to stake the plants unobtrusively when you set them in the ground, or shortly afterwards. Unsupported, the stems of taller zinnias will eventually flop over. Water the plants immediately after planting.
Caring for Zinnias
One of the nicest aspects of zinnias is that a part of their maintenance requirements, if you can call it that, is cutting the blooms frequently to keep the plants compact and bushy and producing more flowers. Otherwise, planted in the right site in good soil, they are fairly care-free. There are a few regular garden chores.
- Water regularly, if it doesn’t rain. Even though zinnias love hot weather and came originally from arid regions, they do need moisture. Remember to check the soil in containers daily during hot summer weather and water if it is dry to a depth of 2 inches or more. In extremely hot, dry weather, you may need to water twice a day. Water at the bases of the plants, rather than sprinkling the foliage.
- Zinnias aren’t heavy feeders, but fertilize plantings in the garden at least twice during the growing season. Use a balanced granular or water-soluble fertilizer—for instance, one with 20-20-20 on the label—or mix a slow-release or organic fertilizer into the soil when you plant. Always follow label directions for amounts.
- Mix a timed-release or organic fertilizer into the soilless mix when you plant zinnias in containers, or feed them once a month with water-soluble fertilizer or diluted fish emulsion. Be sure to dilute to the strength recommended on the label for containers.
An Ounce Of Prevention
If you live in an area where late summer nights are cool and humid you may experience powdery mildew attacking your plants the best way to combat this is to maintain good air circulation around the plants, water at the roots, and of course choose varieties that are disease resistant.
Zinnias are often pest free for most of the growing season, but can be affected by two fungal diseases: powdery mildew and alternaria blight. Alternaria blight causes reddish brown spots on both foliage and flowers, and is a problem in the south more than any other area. Powdery mildew can cause Z. elegans varieties to look terrible by late summer or early fall, covering their leaves with a light gray mold. To camouflage the lower foliage of affected varieties of zinnias, plant them with shorter annuals in front.
The best offense against the fungal diseases is prevention: Don’t wet the leaves and do space the plants so they have good air circulation. Z. angustifolia and Z. haageana are more mildew resistant than Z. elegans. Although newer plants, especially the interspecific crosses of Z. elegans and Z. angustifolia, such as ‘Profusion’ and ‘Zahara’, are very resistant to powdery mildew, preventive care is still warranted.
Another problem for those who have trouble with Japanese beetles is they sometimes will attack zinnia keep an eye out for them and simple hand pick the beetles off and drop them into soapy water.
Some of the information in this article was provided by The National Garden Bureau a not for profit organization whose mission is To improve the quality of life and the environment through increased use of seeds and plants.