Like most kids, planting flowers from seed was one of my first gardening experiences, and the seed that hooked me was the zinnia. And with good reason.
These annuals are one of the easiest flowers to grow, and the payoff is huge – a constant profusion of colorful blooms from spring until frost in every color of the rainbow (except true blue). They not only yield some of the best cut flowers around, but the more you pick them the more they bloom! On top of that, they come in a wide variety of flower forms – from single-flowered to double, dahlia-like to globe – and heights from back-of-the-border types that reach 3 feet or more to low edging varieties. And if that diversity weren’t enough, zinnias attract birds, butterflies and beneficial insects to the garden.
For all those reasons, these old-fashioned annuals are enjoying widespread popularity these days among both backyard gardeners and the most discerning horticulturists alike.
Besides the well known, traditional varieties, experiment with cultivars such as the ‘Dreamland Series,’ which produces full-size double flowers 4 inches wide but on compact plants with stems reaching 8-12 inches tall. The ‘Profusion Series’ also offers smaller, denser plants that are great for formal borders.
Flats and six-packs of zinnia bedding plants will be showing up in garden centers in early spring, but why not get a jump start on summer by starting plants from seeds indoors and moving the transplants outdoors once they’re several inches tall. Zinnias prefer fertile well-drained soil rich in humus, and full sun is a must. Plants the seeds about a quarter-inch deep. Once the plants are mature, start more seeds so that later in the season as the first plants wane they can be replaced with a new crop for a succession of color all summer long.
Deadhead plants to not only tidy the border but also to prolong flowering, and keep an eye out for powdery mildew, which zinnias tend to attract.
Then...pick away and enjoy the bounty of their beauty indoors!