When seeds of zinnias were collected and brought to Europe in the 18th century, the plants were not much to look at. Named for the German botanist Dr Johann Gottfried Zinn, who wrote the first description of the flower, the genus Zinnia had to wait for the mid-19th century to become successful in the garden.
When Zinnias were introduced to Europeans, the flowers were referred to as 'poorhouse flower' and 'everybody's flower' because they were so easy to grow. They were also once popularly called 'youth and old age' because old blooms stay fresh as new blooms open. Years of breeding have brought striking new colours, shapes, sizes, and growing habits to the humble zinnia. No present day gardener would ever describe this versatile bloomer as anything less than eye catching.
Zinnias fell out of favour for a while with home gardeners but now they are back in fashion with a vengeance. They are extremely easy to grow from seed and are quick to flower, they are the perfect flower for beginners. They provide colour from mid-summer to autumn and are perfect for cutting. Zinnias are a favourite flower of both gardeners and florists around the world.
So named for their unique spiky appearance, Cactus Flowered Zinnias have semi double, large 10 to 15cm (4 to 6in) blooms each with re-curved, quilled and twisted petals that form interesting textures in the garden or the vase. 'Giant Cactus Flowered Mix' bloom in a wide mix of bright colours including gold, orange, crimson, scarlet, apricot, coral, carmine, lilac, rose, pink and white.
Growing 75cm (30in) tall, with thick straight stems that are less likely to bend when being cut, they make wonderful cut flowers and have a long vase life. Bees and butterflies will be attracted to them too. No wonder the latest 'must have' flower in the garden is the old fashioned Zinnia. They'll keep blooming all through a hot season.
Sowing: March to July
Zinnias grow quickly and may bloom in just 45 days. Successive sowing every few weeks beginning from April through early July will ensure continuous flowering throughout summer, from July to first frosts.
Sowing Indoors: March to April
For early flowers, start indoors four to six weeks before the last frosts are expected. Use trays or pots and a good sowing compost. Seeds should be spaced at least 2.5cm (1in) apart. The seeds need light to germinate, so “just cover” the seeds with a sprinkling of fine, sieved soil. Seeds will germinate in 7 to 14 days. Keep soil moderately moist during germination.
When plants are 3 to 5cm (1 to 2in) in height, transplant to 7cm (3in) pots and grow on. Zinnias are sensitive to root disturbance, so be especially careful when transplanting. Gradually acclimatise indoor started seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed and weather has warmed considerably. Plant out 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) apart. Add garden compost to the soil if it is heavy or infertile.
Sowing Direct: April to July
Sow seeds where the plants are to be grown in spring after the last frost, and in an area with full sun. Zinnia prefers fertile, rich, and well-drained soil, average soil is acceptable, but if you add compost and all-purpose fertiliser before sowing, the blooms will be lusher.
Sow seeds 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) apart in rows 30cm (12in) apart. Barely cover seeds with soil; they need light to germinate. Keep soil moist until seeds germinate, in 5 to 10 days. When 5cm (2in) tall thin the seedlings to 25 to 30cm (10 to 12in) apart.
Zinnias require full sun. They thrive in hot areas as long as they get enough moisture. They like rich soil and appreciate a slow-release fertiliser in the spring when they are planted and a booster shot of fertiliser in mid- to late simmer. Zinnias need to be watered if there is less than an inch of rain each week, sooner if they appear to be wilting. They will reward you with hundreds of colourful flowers for just a little care.
If you are growing some of the older, heirloom varieties of zinnias, a little pinching back in early summer will make them bushier and produce side branches with more flowers.
There is typically little problem growing zinnias, except in extremely humid conditions where a powdery mildew can sometimes form. Protect young plants from slugs and snails. Deadhead spent flowers frequently to prolong flowering.
Water regularly. Water deeply by soaking soil and avoid spraying foliage.
Saving seeds of zinnia saving could not be easier, you not only get the colours you want, but you can also select seeds from the healthiest plants. Do this, and in a couple of generations of seeds, you will have developed your own strain of zinnias selected to perform well in your conditions.
In late summer let some zinnias go to seed. The seeds are easy to collect and store for next year. Wait until they are fully dry on the plant, then clean out the old petals and store at room temperature.
Zinnias are the perfect cut flower--the more you cut, the more you get. When cutting the blooms for the vase, trim off all the foliage; unlike the long-lasting blooms, it does not age well.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Cut Flowers, Flowers Borders and Beds. Container Gardening.
Zinnias are annuals, shrubs, and sub-shrubs native primarily to North America, with a few species in South America. They inhabit scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a centre of diversity in Mexico.
There are more than a dozen species of zinnias, members of the Asteraceae family, but very few of them are grown in home gardens.
Zinnia elegans, also known as Zinnia violacea, is the most familiar species, originally from Mexico and thus a warm–hot climate plant. Its leaves are lance-shaped and sandpapery in texture, and height ranges from 15cm to 1 meter. Tall, mid-sized, and dwarf varieties of this species have been grown for decades, and flowers are available in a wide range of colours.
For decades, Zinnias have been the flowering annual of choice for spreading glorious colours throughout the garden as well as for cutting to bring indoors. But it wasn't always so. When the Spanish first saw zinnia species in Mexico, they thought the flower was so unattractive they named it mal de ojos, or 'sickness of the eye!'
When seeds of zinnias were collected and brought to Europe in the 18th century, the plants were not much to look at. Named for the German botanist Dr. Johann Gottfried Zinn, who wrote the first description of the flower, the genus Zinnia had to wait for the mid-19th century to become successful in the garden.
The species name elegans simply means 'elegant'.
When Zinnias were introduced to Europeans, the flowers were referred to as 'poorhouse flower' and 'everybody's flower' because they were so common and easy to grow. They were also once popularly called 'youth and old age' because old blooms stay fresh as new blooms open.
Zinnia elegans is the progenitor of today’s modern hybrids. Years of breeding have brought striking new colours, shapes, sizes, and growing habits to the humble zinnia. More than 100 zinnia cultivars have appeared since breeding of the flower began. Dwarf zinnias can be as short as 25cm (10in) tall; the giants reach up to 120cm (4ft). They come in single, double, and semi-double blooms, with a variety of flower shapes. Zinnia flowers come in every colour imaginable, except blue.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2.5 grams Average Seed Count 250 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 100-125 seeds per gram Family Asteraceae Genus Zinnia Species elegans Cultivar Giant Cactus Flowered Mix Common Name Cactus Flowered Zinnia Hardiness Half Hardy Annual Flowers Large 10 to 12cm (4 to 5in) blooms Natural Flower Time Late summer to early autumn Height 75cm (30in) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Full sun for best flowering Growing Period 90 days to bloom. Germination 7 to 14 days