- Author: Bud Veliquette
Zinnias are from the family Asteraceae, and there are many species. The most familiar, Zinnia elegans, is originally from Mexico, and is therefore sun and heat loving plant that grows up to 3’ high.
They have become one of my favorites for cutting because of their intense and varied colors, which make it perfect for a tabletop vase.
I have them planted right now in one of my 4x4’ mini farm boxes, and they have been doing very well for the past two months after a slow start. I put in 6-6 packs of the State Fair Mix last May. The young starts took hold, but showed signs of fertilizer burn for the first 6-8 weeks, which now in retrospect makes sense because of the fresh bagged potting soil they were planted in. However, now, they have more than compensated for their earlier malaise, as they have almost outgrown their container. I pick enough weekly to have a fresh arrangement or two for the house, or to give away. Cuts are made about 12 inches down, but above the side shoots, which will allow new blooms to grow.
This time of year some of the lower leaves have powdery mildew, from too many overcast mornings in Sunset Zone 17, and in spite of hot afternoon sun. However, this is not a problem, since most of the leaves are stripped when they are brought in for arrangements.
For strictly ornamental garden beds, dwarf zinnias (Zinnia angustifolia) look great for instant color, and also as a butterfly attractant. They come in brilliant colors of orange, yellow and white, and they are more resistant to powdery mildew. Mixed with pockets of electric blue Lobelia (Lobelia erinus), they make a stunning garden display.