Dictionary of Flowers: Zinnia

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  • Zinnia
  • Common name: zinnia
  • Family:  Asteraceae
  • Category: annual
  • Height: 8" to 24”
  • Width: 12"
  • Sun
  • Blooms: summer to fall
  • Attracts: butterflies
  • Growth habit: upright, mounding. Used as a filler or thriller in container combinations
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: fertile, well drained. Water regularly if grown in containers. 
  • Garden uses: containers, mixed border, bedding plant, wildflower garden, cutting garden
  • Diseases: powdery mildew
  • Pests: Japanese beetles

Zinnias are native of Southern United States and Central America.

The species has a large number of varieties that range widely in size and color. Zinnias are available in every color except blue and their size ranges from dwarf cultivars to tall cutting flower size. Flowers grow on stiff stems on plants with oval, coarse leaves. The flowers can be double, semidouble or singe. They are an annual garden staple, easy to grow and to take care of.

They need to be grown in full sun, in fertile soil. They are not picky about soil pH. The garden beds should be amended with compost if soil is sandy or clay, to improve drainage and add nutrients. Zinnias need to be fed when first planted with a low dose fertilizer, then in midsummer more fertilizer needs to be applied to keep zinnia blooming.

Deadhead spent blossoms to prolong blooming season.

They need an average amount of water. During summer drought, water as required and mulch beds if needed to prevent drying. Zinnias grown in containers need to be watered daily if there is no rainfall during summer. 

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Zinnia is easy to grow from seed and available in nurseries as starter plants or in plugs. To propagate by seed, plant seed in peat pots, as zinnia dislikes being transplanted. They sprout quickly when kept at around 75F, in about five to seven days. Wait till soil has warmed up before setting zinnia in their permanent position in the garden. They can also be planted directly outdoors, after all danger of frost has passed in good potting mix or in beds that are fertile and raked smooth. It takes zinnia about sixty to seventy days to bloom when planted from seed.

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Zinnia suffers from powdery mildew when watered from overhead or if grown in crowded conditions. Improve cultivation by allowing air circulation between plants and watering from the bottom. Pests can occasionally bother zinnias. If so, treat with an insecticidal soap and set traps for Japanese beetles. 

Popular varieties:

  • Zinnia elegans - tall, upright types. 'Giant Cactus', 'Magellan', 'Ruffles' and many other varieties are available in this species. They are available in a wide range of colors. Good for cutting gardens and the back of the border
  • Zinnia angustifolia - low growing and mounding. Heat tolerant species. 'Crystal' series offers single flowers in white, yellow or orange
  • Zinnia haageana - grows up to two feet tall, small flowers. 'Persian Carpet' is a bicolored variety with small double or semidouble flowers in dark red and yellows
  • Zinnia hybrids - most of the zinnias available today are hybrid varieties. 'Profusion' series is very disease tolerant as is 'Zahara' series. They are short, about twelve inches and bear flowers in a wide array of colors

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Full List of Dictionary of Flowers Entries

Annuals For Containers

Perennials For Containers

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