Try Some Zinnias
by Holly Boettcher
Because of their brilliant colors, it’s no surprise that Aztecs called zinnias “hard on the eyes!” They are an example of endurance since they bloom from mid-summer all the way through the late fall when frost ends their display.
But why do I love them? Let me count the ways! They are easy to grow, very colorful, and make a great addition to any butterfly garden because they are a great nectar source and attract numerous pollinators. When I walk through my zinnia garden in the summer, I make sure to bring my camera with me. I am never disappointed, because there are plenty of butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds flitting in and out of the blooms. They also make a great companion plant when tucked among zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes. Zinnias are spectacular as a colorful, cut flower arrangement on your table. Did I mention they are deer resistant?
Now that I have your attention, let’s learn more about them.
There are 22 species of zinnias with a wide range of colors, shapes, and heights. The zinnia gets its name from a German botanist named Johann Gottfried Zinn, dating back to the mid-1700s! They are a genus of plant in the sunflower family and come in three different kinds, which are determined by how many rows of daisy-like petals they have, such as single, semi-double, and double.
How to Plant
Zinnias are annuals and love full sun. It is very simple to start them from seed, which can be found at most garden centers. Since it only takes about 60 days from the time you plant them until they bloom, you still have time to plant them now! Plant them in rich, organic matter, although they are forgiving and will grow in just about any soil. They perform best in a PH between 5.5 and 7.5. Sow seeds a quarter inch deep.
Taking Care of Them
Keep them moist until they germinate, which takes only four to seven days. Once they are about three inches tall, thin them to six inches apart to increase air circulation, which helps to prevent powdery mildew. Fertilize every two weeks to maximize blooms and continue watering once a week if you don’t get help from Mother Nature.
How to Keep Them Blooming
Do you want them to continue flowering until frost in late fall? Then consider sewing more seeds every week or so to keep the colors coming! Since they are annuals, they will die in the fall, but you can let the flowers mature and dry, then cut the flower head with scissors, collect the dry seeds from the flower head, and place on some paper towel or waxed paper. Once they are fully dried (which takes about one week) you can clean up the seeds by removing any leftover husks. Now place them in an envelope and store them in a cool, dry place until spring when you can start the process all over again!