2011: Year of the Zinnia
The National Garden Bureau has named 2011 The Year of the Zinnia. For years, gardeners have chosen zinnias as the flowering annual to make their gardens pop with color. With so many varieties available now, you can never get bored with zinnias. Both in the garden or taking cuttings for a vase of fresh-cut flowers, zinnias are versatile enough to complete any arrangement.
Versatile really is the word to use when describing zinnias. Not only do they do well in a garden or a bouquet, but they come in multiple heights, have a variety of flower heads, and are available in just about every color of the rainbow—some are even bi-colored.
Let’s start with the height. Zinnias are available in tall, mid-size and dwarf varieties. The tall varieties Vern Goers Greenhouse carries are State Fair (30-36”), Profusion (12-24”) and Cactus Flower (24-36”). The mid-size are Dreamland (10-12”), Magellan (10-12”) and Peter Pan (12-15”). The dwarf varieties we carry are Short Stuff (8-10”) and Thumbelina (6-8”). The main difference between the varieties in each height category is the flower shape and colors available.
Flower forms of zinnias range just as much as their heights. Zinnias have single, semi-double and double flowers. These categories are fairly self-explanatory, where the single flower form has just one row of petals and the center of the flower is showing. The double flower, however, have more than just two rows of petals. There are so many rows that the petals hide the center of the flower. There are also zinnias that have distinct petal shapes. For instance, the cactus flower zinnias have a larger flower head with petals that twist and bend as the edges of each petal roll under.
Zinnias also greatly vary in their color. Most zinnias are a solid color, available in almost every color except blue. There are also some zinnias that are bicolored, combining colors like yellow and red or pink and white.
Once you’ve selected the zinnias you want to plant in your garden or container, it’s time to plant them. Zinnias grow best in full sun or a western exposure where they will feel the hot afternoon sun. They like to be kept moist, but in well-drained soil. Mixing in compost or other organic material with your soil can help with that.
When planting zinnias, air circulation is crucial to keep them disease-free, meaning give them some space! Taller varieties should be planted about 12-18 inches apart, while dwarf varieties should be planted about 6-8 inches apart. With the taller varieties, you may also need to stake up the flowers once they begin to grow, to prevent breakage.
To keep your zinnias compact, be sure to cut the blooms frequently. This will help the plant continue producing flowers throughout the season, and will give you some nice fresh-cuts for your home. Zinnias also need to be watered regularly and fertilized about once a month. If you don’t have a water soluble fertilizer, you can mis the time-release granules with your soil in the beginning of the season.
Should the worst happen and your zinnias get powdery mildew, any fungicide should be able to help, but it’s best to stop this before it starts. Be sure to plant them with plenty of air circulation and water them at their base—wetting the leaves too much can also cause mildew.
The best time to plant zinnias is towards the end of May or early June in the Midwest, because they are definitely summer flowers and not big fans of cold weather. Vern Goers Greenhouse has zinnias for sale starting in May and throughout the summer months. If you want any additional tips on how to grow great zinnias, be sure to ask our head grower, Scott Miller, who grows zinnias every summer in his garden. They typically reach 5 to 6 feet in height!