From the Desk of Ed Hume: Zinnias

May 19, 2010 at 12:03 AM Leave a comment

If you’re looking for a top notch Summer-flowering annual that is not only beautiful in the garden but also makes a great cut flower, you may find zinnia’s to be the perfect answer.  Easy to grow, zinnias love the hottest, brightest spot you can give them in the garden.

Zinnias are a warm weather annual flower, so you do not want to plant them outdoors until after all danger of frost has passed.  However, you can start them from seed indoors this month, then plant out your newly started seedling plants next month.

Sow the seeds in a potting soil or seed starting mix.  For a container, you can use a pot, flat, tray with drainage, peat pots, or even egg cartons.  Sow the seeds, covering them with only 1/8 inch of fine soil or peat moss.  When the seedlings are 2 to 3 inches high, pinch the tip growth to encourage bushiness.   At this same time, the young seedlings can be transplanted into individual 2 or 4 inch pots or, weather permitting, directly into the garden.  In the garden space, the plants should be about 9 to 12 inches apart.  The medium and dwarf varieties can be spaced a bit closer for maximum effect.  Outdoors, the zinnias require a bright sunny area with well-drained, rich fertile soil.  I cannot over-stress the importance of a sunny exposure, as zinnias are susceptible to mildew if planted in a shady spot.

Already-started bedding plants are often available at local garden outlets in May.  Larger zinnia ‘color spots’ (plants in bloom) are generally available beginning in late May or early June.

The three most popular varieties of Zinnia are the tall California Giants, semi-dwarf “Sprite Mix,” and the dwarf “Thumbelina.”

California Giant Mix is probably the most popular of all the zinnias because the colorful blossoms make wonderful cut flowers.  The flat-petaled, semi-double flowers are displayed on long, graceful stems.  This variety grows about 3 to 3 ½ feet high.  It’s ideal to use in mid-bed or background landscape plantings because they make an excellent background for other Summer flowers.

Sprite is a semi-dwarf variety that only grows about 12 to 18 tall.  The bright, colorful flowers are about 2 ½ to 3 inches in size and come in a broad range of colors.  Cut flowers are ideal for small-to-medium sized arrangements.

Thumbelina is truly a dwarf variety because it only grows about 6 to 8 inches high.  The bright colored, button-like blooms cover the plant from mid-Summer into Fall.  This is a wonderful variety to use as a border plant, in containers, or rockery plantings. As with all zinnias, the spent flowers must be removed to help ensure continual flowering.

Groupings of zinnias are especially showy when planted with other Summer-flowering annuals like petunias, marigolds, verbena, snapdragons, and other Summer flowers.

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Ed’s Podcasts: Rockery Plants Clip of the Week: Planting a Spring Container

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