Zinnia Growing Tips and Advice
There are many zinnias, all as bright, generous and insouciant as they are sturdy.
Getting started growing Zinnias
From the days, years ago, when a little old lady tending a small roadside stand neat a tidy farmhouse invited me back to see her garden and gave me dozens of her favorite Youth-and-Old-Age (Zinnia elegans), I’ve never been without them and as many of the amazing new kinds as my garden will hold.
A large shovelful of plants the little farmwoman gave me to set out in my garden yet not one died. Every one grew to fill my garden with cheer the summer long—and my house, too, for the phrase cut-and-come-again and zinnias are synonymous.
Whether seeds are started indoors, for early bloom, or sown outdoors after danger of frost is past, they germinate, develop and become attractive plants almost by themselves. Many of them seem to need nothing more than full sun and good soil.
I crowd some varieties together for certain effects, and get smaller blossoms, but always give tall varieties such as Luther Burbank, Giants of California, Giant Dahlia Flowered plenty of room. I pick off the first buds in order to induce plants to make finer flowers and find it profitable to disbud if I want large flowers or am thinking of entering flowers in shows or fairs. My method is to leave only one bud to a stem and, if the plant is bushy, to remove some of the side branches and all insignificant low ones. The fewer the buds, the more food selected ones get and the larger flowers they become.
One of the more interesting newer zinnias is Persian Carpet. Its smallish flowers, composed of pointed petals tipped or bordered with a contrasting color, come in rich yellows, browns, maroons and copper and bronze. Plants about a foot high make a showy display in masses or as edges.
Navajo, another fine variety for the garden and arrangements, grows about a foot high, too and produces shapely little double or semi-double flowers in vivid shades or lilac, crimson, orange and in yellow, pink or other pastel tints. Flower petals are long, narrow and enhanced by white or yellow tips.
If you’re not familiar with Zinnia linearis, you are missing something useful. Nicely branching dwarf plants produce quantities of single, deep orange-yellow blossoms decorated by light yellow stripe in the center of each petal. When decayed cow manure is mixed with soil around plants they become mounds of ruddy gold.
The Lilliput Zinnia
Lilliputs are desirable for many reasons. Their rotund little blooms look good with almost all other in arrangements and in the garden. Plants are 12 to 18 inches high, flower early in the summer and continue till frost. There’s a mixture available as well as named varieties in white, in light tones and in deep shades from a good clear rose-pink to a blackish maroon.
The Creeping Zinnia, not a zinnia at all but a sanvitalia, is a delightful subject for the rock garden. Given a dry location, plants practically care for themselves and produce a wealth of small double blooms. The old Red Riding Hood (Z. gracillima, horticulturally) is a pert, scarlet variety. Turned down petals of older blooms make them seem absurdly deep- and appealing- for their pygmy stems. This zinnia can be made to grow its diminutive flowers on a slope in gritty, sandy soil very much on the lean side.
A type that’s a hit in the garden and in arrangements is the Peppermint Stick strain which makes nicely formed, medium-sized striped flowers: red on a white ground; rose on yellow; orange on yellow; pink or purple on white. Not all flowers come true (that is, have stripes) but enough do to make a planting as merry as a circus. This strain and Z. linearis are among the earliest of their kind to bloom.
At their best when cultivated, Fantasy zinnias develop into superlative wheels or curly, tubular petals, interlaced and twisted. The flowers, though formed of masses of rays or petals, are airy, graceful, and altogether lovely. Fantasy zinnias come in yellow, pink and other pastel tints.
Both the size and coloring of the hybrid Giants are miraculous. They are as dramatic looking as any flower that grows; as immense, fluffy and glistening as certain chrysanthemums. There are two-or three-toned varieties, unusual pinks, corals, yellows. All seem to have strong stems and fine keeping qualities.
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