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Zinnia Elegans Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Common Zinnia”

Our Guide to Zinnia Elegans - Everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for "Common Zinnia"

Zinnias are the easiest annuals to grow, as they are low-maintenance, grow quickly, and bloom heavily. They are an excellent choice for first-time flower growers and for anyone who wants to add a splash of color to their garden. Moreover, they produce long-lasting flowers that will delight you from mid-summer until the first frost.

These delightful flowers will create an explosion of color in your garden, as well as attract butterflies and hummingbirds. They are great if you want to have cut flowers with a perfect bloom of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Besides becoming a centerpiece in your garden, Zinnia Elegans can also bring to life a dull corner of the house.

Native to South America and Mexico, Zinnias are part of the Asteraceae family, meaning they are plant relatives to sunflowers, marigolds, and daisies.  In their native environment, Zinnias are perennials but are widely grown as annuals all over the world. Although there are many varieties of the genus, Zinnia Elegans is the most popular and easiest to find in nurseries. This variety has very long and strong stems, making it a great cut flower.

If you’re already sold on Zinnias, or if you want to find out more about this easy-to-grow plant, keep on reading below.

About Zinnia Elegans

  • Zinnias are the best summer cottage flowers. They bloom profusely, tolerate drought conditions, and re-seed themselves easily.
  • Although Zinnia Elegans plants can be grown in most USDA hardiness zones during the summer, you may struggle with them if you live in an area with cold and wet summers, as powdery mildew can form on the leaves.
  • If you want to start zinnias indoors before the last frost, it’s recommended to grow them in a peat pot. This will allow you to move the plants into the garden without damaging their roots.
  • Zinnias get their name from the famous German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn who wrote the first description of the plant.
  • In the language of flowers, Zinnia symbolizes friendship. The Zinnia plant was the state flower of Indiana from 1931 to 1957.
  • Once, Zinnias were called “youth and old age” plants because their old blooms stay fresh as new ones open. Also, there was a time when people considered them small and ugly. Spanish people who saw them in Mexico named them “mal de ojos”, meaning sickness of the eyes.
  • When Zinnias were first brought to Europe, they were considered “everybody’s flowers” or “poorhouse flowers” because they were so available and easy to grow.
Zinnia Elegans
Zinnia Elegans

Zinnia Elegans Features: An Overview

  • Zinnias come in all colors and shapes. Most cultivars have daisy-like flowers with single layers of long petals. Some have double-layered petals growing around a black or orange center, while others are shaped like pompoms. The flowers are between 2 inches (5 cm) and 3 inches (8 cm) in diameter.
  • The Common Zinnia is a versatile plant that flowers in a wide range of colors, including yellows, pinks, lavenders, reds, and greens. Because they attract monarch butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, they help pollinate your garden.
  • Zinnia Elegans has lance-shaped, narrow leaves that have a sandpaper rough texture. They are oppositely laid out on the stem.
  • Zinnias can grow up to 4 feet (120 cm) tall and include single and double blooms, depending on the variety. Full sun conditions will help the plant bloom more.
  • If you don’t have a garden, you can still grow Zinnias. There are smaller, creeping varieties that grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall. Z. angustifolia is one of the varieties that work best in containers or perennial beds.
  • To keep your zinnias blooming, you have to keep cutting them. You can place the cuttings in a vase when they first open. Also, you must cut the deadheads off the plant after they fade to encourage more blooming.
  • According to the Chicago Botanical Garden, gardeners who want to avoid deadheading their Zinnias should choose specimens of the Zahara series. Double Zahara Fire and Coral Rose varieties are self-cleaning and also resistant to mildew.

Growing Zinnia Elegans

If you’re looking to add some color to your summer garden, Zinnia flowers are an excellent choice. Although they are normally grown as annuals, they can survive the winter in USDA zones 9 to 11. However, in these areas, you should plant them where they can get some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Another thing we love about Zinnias is that even if they die during the winter, they will reseed themselves so you can enjoy them every year.

Keep in mind that all Zinnia varieties grow best when they receive plenty of sunlight. If they get enough sun and heat, they will grow fast and bloom profusely. They might not do well indoors, but you can try placing them close to southern facing windows. To make sure you get a ton of beautiful blooms, cut spent flower heads. Pinch young plants to promote branching if you are not growing them for cut flowers that require longer stems.

Common Zinnia
Common Zinnia

Plants that are killed by frost must be removed to prevent diseases from appearing the following year. Taller varieties can benefit from staking, especially if you live in a windy area. Make sure you keep weeds under control during the growing season, as they compete with the plant for nutrients and space. Zinnia Elegans plant can be prone to several types of fungal diseases, including Alternaria leaf spot, leaf rot, bacterial wilt, and powdery mildew. These can be prevented by keeping the leaves of the plant dry and occasionally applying a fungicide.

It is recommended to space out your Zinnia flowers to promote good air circulation. Mealybugs, spider mites, and caterpillars can also cause problems. If there is little leaf damage there is no need to take measures. Unless it’s a true infestation, avoid spraying the plants. Instead, pick them off by hand or wash them off with a garden hose or a spray water bottle.

Planting Zinnia Elegans

You can plant common Zinnias together with other summer-blooming annuals or among perennials. It’s best to place Zinnia Elegans flowers in areas that will get at least 6 hours of sun every day.  Space them 4 inches (10 cm) to 24 inches (60 cm apart), based on the variety.

Plant multiple rounds every two weeks, starting May through early July. This will ensure that they continue to bloom until the first frost of the fall. Flowers will bloom sometime in June. If you want them to bloom earlier, start the seeds indoors four weeks before the last frost. Try peat pots or biodegradable containers that can be planted directly into the ground.

Zinnia Mixture (Zinnia elegans) Seeds, From Amazon

Zinnias are not too fussy when it comes to soil conditions, although the perfect soil would be well-drained and rich in organic matter. The ideal pH should be between 5.5 and 7.5. If the soil is enriched with compost, your Zinnias will grow more quickly. A light, balanced fertilizer can be applied after new growth appears. Apply one pound (450 grams) per 100 square feet (30 square meters) early in the spring. Fertilize often and regularly to encourage lush, vibrant blooming.

Make sure the granular fertilizers do not touch the plant’s crown or foliage to avoid burns. To prevent root rots, use a slow-release fertilizer. Shorter Zinnia varieties are ideal for containers. These should be planted in commercial potting mix, instead of garden soil. Container grown plants require extra fertilizer and water.

Watering Zinnia Elegans

Common Zinnias should be well-watered during the growing season, especially if you live in areas that experience dry spells. Normally, Zinnia plants need approximately 1 inch (2, 5 cm) of rain per week. Although these plants can tolerate drought conditions, they will thrive with consistent moisture in the soil.

However, excessive moisture can damage Zinnias, so use a rain gauge to check if your plants need more water. Make sure to water at the base of the plant only, as watering the foliage can cause fungal disease. Keeping the leaves dry is essential if you want to have happy and healthy Zinnias. It’s best to water with a trickle system or a drip that delivers water at low pressure at soil level. If you want to use sprinklers, water early in the day so the leaves have time to dry before nightfall. Mature Zinnias require less watering than young plants.

Propagating Zinnia Elegans

Many gardeners like to get a head start on their Zinnias by starting seeds indoors one month before the last frost. These fast-growing plants normally take 60 to 70 days to turn from small seeds into beautiful, colorful flowers. However, some gardeners find it easier to sow the seeds directly into the garden.

Zinnia swizzle scarlet yellow
Zinnia swizzle scarlet yellow

The seeds are quite easy to save from mature plants. Simply allow the flowers to dry on the stem, and then proceed to remove them by gently crushing the dried seed head. Store them in a cool, dry place and plant them the following spring. Unfortunately, some hybrid varieties will not develop seedlings that are true to the mother plant. Sow the seeds ¼ inch (0,6 cm) deep and about 12 inches (30 cm) apart. When the seedlings are about 3 inches tall (8 cm), thin them out even more. Keep the soil evenly moist. Zinnias grow quickly, so germination will occur in approximately 5-7 days.

In Conclusion

Zinnia Elegans are among the easiest annuals to grow, making them an excellent choice for first-time flower growers. Zinnia flowers bring an explosion of vibrant colors wherever they go. Their white, pink, red, green, and lavender blooms can bring life to any garden or dull corner of the house.

Another compelling reason to plant Zinnias is the fact that they attract butterflies, bees, and other insects which help pollinate the garden. No matter what variety of Zinnia you choose, it will need well-draining soil, plenty of light, and water. With proper placing and care, Zinnia plants will grace your home and garden with beautiful blooms until the first frost.

Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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