Q. Can you tell me about growing zinnia plants?
Zinnia is a plant native to Mexico. Originally dubbed mal de ojos, meaning "hard on the eyes," by the Aztecs, zinnias are now planted solely to brighten up our garden. They never fail to cheer us up with their brilliant blossoms that open continuously from midsummer all the way to the first hard frost.
Zinnias were named in 1763 by Linnaeus in honor of Johann Zinn, a German professor of botany and medicine. The first double forms were introduced in France in 1856. Zinnias became popular in the US in the late 19th and early 20th century and many familiar forms were bred here including the first cactus flowering and striped varieties. In the Victorian language of flowers, zinnias meant "thoughts of an absent friend."
Zinnias are certainly among the easiest flowers for anyone, whether just beginning or experienced in gardening, to germinate and grow directly from seed. Their easy culture, heat tolerance and colorful mid- to late-summer show, blooming hard when other annuals are spent, make them well worth exploring. Zinnias make superb long-stemmed cutting flowers with long-lasting blooms. You can create bright zinnias mixes near other later summer flowers like amaranth, sunflowers, and tithonia, Zinnias will lure butterflies to visit your garden as well!
In cooler climates, start seeds indoors four to six weeks before your area's average last-frost date. Harden off the plants by transitioning trays outside for a few hours per day before planting them in your garden.
If you buy zinnia plants at the garden center that have already reached flowering size, ease the transition to your garden by pruning the plants back by one-third. Then sit back and watch your zinnia patch mature and flourish.
Zinnia elegans is the well-known species with the most modern cultivars in a wide variety of plant heights, flower sizes, flower forms and colors. As these vibrant flowers mature, their center discs open into a circle of tiny golden stars. Today, thanks to active breeders, there is just about every imaginable flower form: dahlia-flowered, quilled, crested, ball or pompon-like, single, semi double, fully double. Z. elegans come in every color and some bi-colors except true blue. Color choices are so broad that you can choose all the way from deep, intensely bright, shades to soft, creamy, pastels and white. Bi-colors and striped and speckled varieties are also available. Heights range from 8 inches to almost 4 feet tall.
Courtesy of the NYBG Plant Information Service