Bright, cheerful, prolific Zinnias are the work horses of the flower garden. They provide an explosion of color and an abundance of flowers all summer long. And, best of all, the more you cut them, the more they bloom!
Zinnias are annuals, meaning they grow, bloom, go to seed and die all in the same year. Being an annual also means that they are all about making seeds, so they have to flower to produce seed. If we cut the flowers, or at least dead head the spent ones, it signals the plant to make even more flowers, giving us a bumper crop of blooms to enjoy for a very long time during the summer.
They come in all sizes, from 4” to 40” tall, and flowers start at 2” to 5” across. Zinnias also come in many flower forms – single, semi double, double, cactus, scabiosa; and, they come in every color in the rainbow, except blue.
They are extremely easy to grow, are deer and rabbit resistant. They germinate very quickly, within four to seven days, and go from seed to bloom in as little as 35 days! They can be seeded directly in the ground after all danger of frost, or started inside four weeks before your last frost for the earliest blooms. I like to do three or four succession plantings during the summer every two or three weeks; because, even though they will continue to produce flowers all summer long, the bloom quality drops off after a while. Usually the doubles will become singles. I think they just get tired! Since I sell my flowers, I like them to be of the highest quality, but if you just want gorgeous color in your garden, it really isn't necessary to do succession plantings.
Being a native of Southwest United States and Mexico, Zinnias love lots of sun and heat, but they do bloom best with lots of water, too. Feed every other week with a low nitrogen fertilizer.
Zinnias are an excellent cut flower. They have a long vase life, if tended to properly. Zinnia flowers must be mature before cutting, otherwise the flowers will droop quite quickly. Use the “wiggle test”. Grab the stem of the flower about a foot down and give it a shake. If the flower wiggles back and forth loosely, it's not ready, but if the stem stays ridged it's the perfect time to pick. Cut the stem as low as you can just above a leaf junction. This will encourage two new long stems to sprout.
Strip all the leaves from the stem to make them easier to work with and get them into a bucket of cool water immediately. The leaves have a hairy, almost Velcro, quality to them and they tend to stick together with other stems making them difficult remove from the bucket without pulling them all out at once.
Zinnias are also considered a “dirty flower”, which means that they seem to produce bacteria in a vase faster than most cut flowers. Make sure you add a couple of drops of bleach to the vase water when arranging them and also change the water every other day. If you do just those two things, your zinnias can last up to two weeks in the vase!
I hope you will give zinnias a try. You won't regret it. They are about the easiest flower to grow and will boost your confidence as a gardener. You can't go wrong planting zany Zinnias. They will put a smile on your face for sure!
Valmont Valley Farm
Where Beautiful Magic is Always in Bloom
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