Ever notice how some flowers just seem happy? Zinnias are like that. If flowers could smile, zinnias would be grinning from ear to ear. Maybe it’s because they’ve been making gardeners happy since the days pioneers planted their first flowerbeds.
Zinnias are fun and easy, and now they’re better than ever. Here’s the scoop:
- Zinnias love heat and sun.
- Thrive under dry conditions, where moisture is lacking.
- They grow fast. Although they can be direct seeded outdoors into flowerbed soil in May, they bloom quicker if started indoors early. They are among the easiest bedding plants to start from seed early.
- We can select varieties that are short or tall, useful for flowerbed edges or background, and everywhere in-between.
- We can choose flower shapes that are double, single, individual colors or mixtures, large-flowered or small.
- When selecting varieties, check descriptions for mildew resistance. Many new varieties resist this powdery-gray foliage disease that can be the downfall of older zinnia types.
Where to get zinnias:
- You can find zinnias sold as bedding plants in some garden centers. Because they grow rapidly and their greenhouse shelf-life is very limited, large selections of zinnias are often difficult to find.
- Because it’s difficult for greenhouses to offer a wide selection of zinnias, many gardeners choose to start zinnias from seed themselves.
- Seed catalogs offer wide selections of zinnias, and some seed racks have a few types also.
How to Start zinnias from seed:
- Because they grow rapidly, the large seeds should not be sown too early indoors. Start them about April 10-15.
- Provide very bright light, either direct sunlight or within 1-2 inches of fluorescent light tubes.
- Plant seed in shallow trays, and then transplant into individual packs or containers when they have a set of ‘true’ leaves. Transplanting lets you set the seedling slightly deeper in the potting mix, reducing stretched stems. This transplanting step produces a healthier huskier plant, rather than seeding directly into the cell-pack or pot.
- Set transplants into the flowerbed when danger of frost is likely past, between May 15-25.
Interesting newer varieties:
- Zahara Series – Zahara Double Cherry and Zahara Twilight Rose. Both are head-turners in flowerbeds, especially mass plantings. I’ve grown both and was very pleased.
- Rasberry Lemonade Mix – A Burpee variety with a pleasant assortment of bright colors.
- Forecast Zinnia – Another Burpee zinnia with good season-long bloom and well-suited for cut flowers.