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Zinnias are annuals which flower officially in summer, but with the number of cultivars available you're covered for spring into autumn.
They belong to the Aster family (Asteraceae). They are tough and resilient and are ideal for beginners - especially children - because you just can't get them wrong. But they do like good, well-drained soil and plenty of water. However, they are forgiving and they will spring back to life if they have been left drooping from the occasional lack of water.
They are not known for their perfume, which used to put me off them in the days when perfume ruled my garden. But they are known for their daisy-like appearance and their rainbow of colours ranging from white, yellow, orange, red, purple, lilac and even a brightish green. They come in singles and doubles and are a delight in council beddings on roundabouts and pathways. And of course they are a must have for containers.
There are officially about 20 different species, but there are now around 100 cultivars from these original plants. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies and even help defend against whitefly. They are, therefore, great companion plants. And on top of all that, they are deer-resistant. The most common and popular of them all is the Zinnia elegans.
Because they love the heat, they unfortunately will likely be the first to die when the colder weather arrives. If you know this in advance you can have some other plants on standby to take over. Chrysanthemums are ideal for this because they flower in autumn. You may notice that Zinnias look a lot like Chrysanthemums. That's because they belong to the same family, Asteraceae. Daisies and Gerberas are great examples of the 'secret' that all members of this family share. See what it is on the Daisy Flower page. Amazing!
If you want your Zinnias to flower as long as possible, just pick off the dead flowers when they appear. Just like roses, this will encourage them to put their energy into growing more blooms, rather than growing longer stems or more leaves.
It's a good idea to just buy a packet of mixed seeds, sow them and see what comes up. You won't be disappointed!
Z. grandiflora is a beautiful plant which is commonly called the Rocky Mountains Zinnia and the Plains Zinnia, and it is suited to dry climates. It grows to about 22 cms looking rather more like a shrub. Its stems branch outwards and its leaves are long and slender. It is considered to be rare, but seeds can be bought online and will grow if you live in the right place. Photo Credit: Stan Shebs.
Just as they come in a dazzling array of colours, so they also produce many different types of blooms, from a single daisy-like flower, to a dahlia-like flower. Below are some very striking types and colours. Visit Renee's Garden to see some more spectacular types and colours.
List of popular types from Burpee:
If you want to look out on a sea of Butterflies all season, plant the big hot pink and red ones which both Butterflies and Birds love. Sprinkle the seeds, water, wait and then watch what happens. These flowers are today's garden winners. In olden times they took rather a back seat in the garden, now they are in the front row.
Gorgeous Peruvian Type.
Beautiful red pom pom dahlia type. Z. elegans.
The sweet Z. acerosa (desert form). Stan Shebs.
A creamy Z. elegans, clearly showing its special flower head (capitulum) which all members of the Aster family share.
For those who like stripes.
So sweet and simple.
Another creamy acerosa (desert) form. Stan Shebs.