Zinnias are one of the world's most popular and easy to grow summer and autumn garden flowers. They put on a remarkable non stop colourful show of brilliant blooms for months in every shade except blue.
Zinnias are easily grown as a bedding, border or cut flower plant and are most rewarding in large containers and tubs.
Hybrid Zinnia Green Envy is one of the most treasured green flowers for floral art. Tiny, creeping Z. augustifolia and the bright, multi-toned Persian Carpet hybrids hardly reach 20cm. forming dense flowering mats that cascade well over walls or baskets. Upright Thumbelina dwarfs that at 15cm.making it excellent for low beds and colorful borders.
The Lilliput series features neat 3-4cm button, globe or egg-shaped brightly coloured blooms covering sturdy 60cm shrubs that are sometimes used as an annual hedge in their native Mexico and Chile.
By far the most dramatic and robust at 1.5m tall is Zinnia elegans which includes such dramatic hybrids as: Gold Medal with perfectly formed super double blooms; Dahlia Flowered in a full range of colours and dahlia-shaped forms; Whirligig with candy cane spirals of color and giant State Fair whose flowers can measure 12cm across! Zinnias were first observed in the ancient garden of Aztec Emperor Montezuma.
It should come as no surprise that these dramatic and vibrantly colorful blooms have had a strong influence on the appreciation of color and art throughout the Native American Cultures.
Yet the first modern hybrids we so appreciate today did not appear in Western gardens until 1861.Zinnias are best planted from seed direct where they are meant to flower. Alternatively, they can be sown into punnets or open separate containers then later transplanted with greatest care not to break or disturb the delicate root system.
The art is to lift the entire root-mass out of its’ punnet intact and immediately settle it into its new position, firm it into place with a tiny skim of soil over what it had in the punnet and then water in thoroughly and possibly daily until new signs of growth are obvious.
Avoid wilting of foliage if at all possible, but if the seedling does wilt, continue periodic misting until it stops. While these seedlings might survive, they can be set back or revert from double to single forms when badly transplanted. Every root damaged when young tends to somewhat reduce the plants vigor and total flowering capacity.
Zinnias’ native habitat in the warm, sunny and often arid Americas should guide the gardener to its cultural requirements. They want warmth in both soil and air. In cool climates especially where early blooms are required sow seed with bottom heat in the glasshouse starting in September (early spring) onward. Seed sown later when conditions have thoroughly warmed often out grow and surpass those started earlier.
Seed/seedlings can be planted outdoors from whenever the ground truly warms through late summer/early autumn in a sheltered, warm spot in full sun or semi-shade. When well-watered they provide spectacular warm-season colour for the hot and sunny to nearly arid garden.
In temperate climates they will flower from the advent of summer weather right up to killing frosts and are a favorite for autumn, winter, spring colour in subtropical climates with mild sunny winters.
Many of the finest blooms are produced in the cool, sunny days of temperate zone autumn and with supplemental irrigation throughout the subtropical winter. Zinnias will accommodate nearly any soil but they thrive in deeply dug, manure/compost-enriched soils that stay moist but drain freely.
For extra spectacular blooms further enriched the soil before planting with a generous dusting of a balanced general plant food, lime and super phosphate. They require plenty of water while air and soil conditions remain warm and summery. Mulches of strawy manure or well aged compost are very beneficial as is an occasional deep summer watering during prolonged dry periods.
Because of their ease to germinate plus their hardiness, combined with rapid and dramatic growth and development, followed by remarkable buds bursting into brilliant blooms, zinnia is a great choice for a child's garden as successful results are nearly guaranteed!
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