Monday, February 20, 2012

Z is for Zinnia

I could not list "Z" without it being one of my favorite summer annuals - the zinnia.  It has a long list of positive attributes.  Let's work our way through the list.

Color:
Zinnias are usually in very rich and clear colors and some are multicolored.  I've never seen a blue zinnia.  The "new" bi color this year has chartreuse and mauve petals  - called Zinnia Queen Red Lime.  The tones are more pastel.
Bloom descriptions:
Zinnias are miniature up to very large.  They can be a low clump (6 ins.) or tall  (40 ins.) and sprawling. The flowers may be singles, doubles, domed, twisted, cactus, Mexican, dahlia, and tetraplois.  All with a yellow center.  Some varieties have been hybridized to look like marigolds, cosmos, and galardia.  I'm not sure why since both zinnia and these other plants have value on their own.  
Bloom time:
If in the ground early, they will bloom by mid season and continue until frost.  The richer the soil, the better the plant and flowers.
Disease:
Powdery mildew has plagued zinnias especially during wet summers and if they are crowded.  Select varieties that are mildew resistant, use a mildew formula dust or live with it.  Mildew seldom kills a zinnia or harms the flower.  It may cut production somewhat.  Do not water from overhead.
Pests:
Nothing significant.  Zinnias usually attract so many good bugs, they eat any pests.
Attracts:
Zinnias are a butterfly and bee magnet.  If you plant a large quantity in one place, the butterflies will see them and it will become a stop and shop the rest of the summer.  The flat variety is most enjoyed.
Planting:
Zinnias are considered an annual in this area.  They may also self seed and it is easy to collect the seeds to use (FREE) next year.  They like full sun, rich well-drained soil, good air circulation, and are pretty much no care once established.  They do well in pots.  Sow seeds or plant sets outside as soon as the last frost is over and water once.  This is one easy and hardy annual. 
Cut flowers:
They are a long lasting cut flower (always take off any foliage that will be under water).  IF you aren't going to save seeds, deadhead to prolong the blooms, making a neater looking plant and helping tall varieties keep from flopping.
Year end:
The foliage begins to turn brown towards the end of summer.  I usually ignore or strip the brown ones and leave it blooming on semi-bare stems.  It's not an indication of disease or pests, it's the cycle of life. 

Zinnias are an excellent plant for first time gardeners and for children.  Seldom do they fail and no part is poisonous.  However, they are not considered a foodstuff. 
These beauties are considered a native flower ranging from the southwest United States into Central and South America.  One has to admit, one of the top reasons for having an annual flower in the garden is having all summer beauty.  Did I mention they are the perfect flower for photographers!!




“The Amen! of Nature is always a flower.”
            - Oliver Wendell Holmes


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