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Home Blog FLOWER FOCUS: Growing great Zinnias
March 5th 2014

FLOWER FOCUS: Growing great Zinnias

Written by
Floret

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Nothing screams summer more than an armload of cheerful zinnias! Available in a brilliant rainbow of colors, these happy blooms are a must grow for any flower loving gardener.

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Being one of the easiest cut flowers to cultivate, they are a perfect first crop for beginning growers but also serve as a steady stand in on almost every thriving flower farm I know of. We’ve been growing zinnias since the beginning and every year I fall more and more in love with them.

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Zinnia 'Uproar Rose'

Zinnia ‘Uproar Rose’

Like almost every other flower in our patch, we work hard to treat these guys as well as possible from day one. Before planting beds are given 3-4″ of compost, a light dusting of rock phosphate, a little lime and a big dose of a general organic fertilizer (Nature’s Intent 7-2-4).

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This mix is tilled into the soil and then four lines of drip irrigation are laid down, roughly a foot apart and then the beds are covered with a layer of pre burned landscape fabric. Plants are spaced 9×9″ apart with five rows per bed and our standard seventy foot beds hold about four hundred and fifty plants. Originally we were worried about the tight spacing but they seem to like it just fine.

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I know many growers in warmer parts of the world that are able to successfully direct seed their zinnias straight into the field but here in cool Washington we start our plants four to six weeks before setting them out. Zinnias resent cold weather and really prefer to be planted after things have warmed up a bit. Seeds are sown in 72 cell trays and planted out two to three weeks after our last frost date. Here they usually go into the field around mid May.

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After the babies are snuggled into their permanent homes, we give them a twice monthly foliar application of compost tea (with fish and kelp) and weekly waterings through the drip lines. When plants are about 18″ tall we go through the patch and snip out the center flowers. This technique is called pinching and while is feels pretty counter intuitive at the time, it will encourage plants to begin branching low and ultimately produce much longer stems.

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Johnny’s Select Seed is my favorite source for seed. They carry all of the great ones including the monster Benary Giant Series, the Giant Dahlia Flower Series, the bi-color Zowie, the massive magenta Uproar Rose and my personal favorite, the adorable Persian Carpet mix.

I’d love to know, what are your favorite zinnia varieties?

Zinnia 'Persian Carpet

Zinnia ‘Persian Carpet


 

85 Comments

  1. Arielle on

    In my peppermint stick zinnia patch, a beautiful creamy white zinnia has appeared. I cannot find a more beautiful white zinnia variety in seed. Is it possible to save the seed of this one without it ending up to bloom a different color?

    Reply
  2. Adele naglieri on

    I live in York, Pa. i just live zinnias. This year for the first time I am growing Benary giant mixed, Benary orange & Benary lime. The orange are my favorite. Can you save the seeds if the packet says open pollinated? Where do I but Natures Intent fertilizer in the East or online?
    Thank you for your beautiful pictures & growing info.

    Reply
  3. Deborah on

    I would love to know the proper pronunciation of Zinnia!

    Reply
  4. Jodi F. on

    Just read this for the first time. Love those ribbons of colors. I have been growing Benary’s Wine for probably 8 yrs or more, just for personal and this year for cutting for others. Its my brightness in the heat of the summer when many things are drab from the heat, and sometimes the drought. Wine isn’t common in these parts, so especially cheerful to others. And I personally think you can put them with nearly everything for that extra wow (personal preference of course), unless you absolutely have to have pastels. Looking forward to grabbing a bit of seed from you Erin to mix with the seed I already have. The bright Wine for the summer chime here!

    Reply
  5. Gema ubani on

    Thank You so much Erin!
    Iam writing You from Basque Country. (Nothern Spain).
    You have Encouraged me to grow my flowers, and I am having a great time by doing it. Thank You again for inspiring.

    Reply
  6. Lindsey on

    The crazy rain in GA is rotting all my zinnias and the bugs have gone nuts … what do you use for pests without harming pollinators ?

    Reply
  7. hillary lauder on

    Here you say to space the plants 9X9 inches apart, but in your book you advise 30″. Is it ok to make it 9″ in order to save space?

    Reply
  8. Paul Cape Town on

    How many flower stems are cut off a zinnia plant through your average season?

    Reply
  9. Catrina on

    I bought the uproar rose zinnia variety from my neighborhood gardening center and planted them into my garden bed, using potting soil. Plants were already about 8 inches in height. I planted about 8 of them. I did nothing special to prep the area, aside from pull out any and all weeds, and did deep holes to plant each one. Will they survive? I’m a very new gardener and concerned I may have not known enough about this flower before I planted it. It sounds like from seed is favored. Any help would appreciated!

    Reply
  10. adam wallace on

    looks good-i am trying to understand how to prune to get more flowers and when to do flower cutting that doesnt affect further growth?
    one more question how susceptible are they to cold?
    thanks

    Reply
  11. Thomas on

    Pinch back the main stem when 18″ tall. Will be stockier and have many more flowers

    Reply
  12. Thomas on

    They were most likely hybrids. Seeds from hybrids will not be true to parent plant(s)

    Reply
  13. Laura Furness McNew on

    I love all zinnia’s, but my favorite is Queen Lime. It complements every other zinnia like magic. I used to like Envy, but Queen Lime is a better choice for the chartreuse color. I have been growing Zinnia’s for almost 30 years. And, before that, my grandfather would grow them and let me arrange what he cut. I never met anyone that didn’t love a zinnia.

    Reply
  14. lucille rathwell on

    Our Lindsay, Ontario, Canada, Horticultural society will be 150 years old in 2017. Our board decided to choose Zinnia. The seeds are of the lates species of Zinnia called Zinderdlla Lilac. We have planted a dozen seeds with out much luck. I only got one plant the in like the picture. Others are single flowers and different pink colors. Has anyone growen these Zinderdlla Lilac zinnia before?

    Reply
  15. Juluanne on

    So I had read about pinching when the plants are very little, but at 18″? How far down do you cut? My zinnias that are that size already have multiple side shoots. Do you ever take off side shoots that are about 6″ down the center stem?
    Thank you for all the time you spend on your blog!

    Reply
  16. Jenny on

    Aloha Erin, not sure if you still are answering questions on this post, but I recently had my first big zinnia order. They were stunning on the plant and amazing in the bucket!! But they all wilted in 24 hrs. I’m growing here on the big island of Hawaii. I have amazing soil, all organic, foliar fed a few days before I cut and am thinking maybe that caused it?? The water gets super dirty really fast and everything is sterile and I’m adding a few drops of chlorine in the buckets. This is the first time this has happened this season. Even the week before was a great harvest. Just wondering if you’ve experienced this?? Mahalo and Aloha

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Hi Jenny–Did did you make sure that the stems were stiff before harvesting? Grab the stem and do a little “wiggle” test before cutting. If the stems bend, it is too early to cut. If the stems are stiff, they are ready to cut.

    • Jenny Humphries on

      Aloha,
      Mahalo for your quick reply. I did do the wiggle test and only harvested stiff stems (only because I read your awesome post before I planted!) I did realize that a lot of the zinnias had bacterial spot on the bottom leaves. My weekly spray had fish fertilizer, neem and minerals, but was missing worm tea. Do you think the bacteria could be the cause? Maybe the fish? Either way it’s wet here with all the hurricanes and I think worm casting tea may prevent the bacteria and fungus on the leaves? Thoughts? I appreciate your time very much! Mahalo and Aloha

  17. Gomes on

    I got 2 Zinnas from a farmer – One pink the other orange after 2 years I put them to germinate and got a lot of seedlings – and the booms are of every colour – shape and size including white and yellow. How did they change colour???

    I am confused – how do I separate the colours for next year.

    Reply
  18. Bridgett on

    I have grown zinnias for years. I plant 2 rows with a row of sunflowers in the middle. They are beautiful and I encourage all my neighbors to come over and pick/cut as much as they feel like, the more we cut the more we get. I live in Western NYS and we plant every Memorial Day weekend and plant them close together. I have never had a problem with them tip over in the rain or wind.

    Reply
  19. Anna on

    Hello, Im curious, do you germinate your seeds in wet papertowel before planting them into the 72 cell trays?
    Thanks!
    Anna

    Reply
  20. Jenny on

    Hi, I’ve been planting small zinnias in pots for the last 3-4 years. They are fun and pretty but I’m considering putting them in my garden patch this year. Do they do well with Daisies? I’m also wondering if it’s normal to have the color fade on the zinnias? Mine seem to do really well for a week or two but start looking faded and weak after that. Any suggestions?

    Reply
  21. Dorothy Smerz on

    Your beautiful floral photos and website with so much information has captured my heart. I ordered zinnia seeds from you when they became available and so excited for planting time. My farmer friend shared seeds with me about 7 years ago and they grow 5 ft tall and I cram them in tight and they hold one another up so no staking needed. Powdery mildew comes towards end of season due to my irrigation spraying water on their heads. My flower heads are the size of softballs and I do not know names of any varieties. However, your zinnias are to die for. Your photos lure me in and I feel like I am walking the paths with you. Wish I could come and visit for a day … I would feel like I have died and gone to Heaven. You are so beautiful Floret and you match the beauty of your flowers. Thank you for giving us “happy hearts”!

    Reply
  22. Julie on

    We love all Zinnias, but my personal favorite is Baker Creeks, pink Señorita! Salmon colored and frilly, it is lovely!

    Reply
  23. Tracy on

    I love State Fair Zinnias! They produce a very large flower head! By far my favorite variety! Its mid October here in the Northeast and they are still going strong!

    Reply
  24. Chelsea on

    Sunbow Zinnias took my heart this year!

    Reply
  25. Cynthia Guzman on

    Hi,
    I planted some white zinnias and fuschia colore zinnias next to each other. I also planted a dahlia next to these. My dahlia was originally yellowish, light orangish color. My white zinnias and now my dahlia both have fuschia colored streaks in the flower petals. Is it possible for the fuschia zinnia to have changed the colors of my other flowers? Thank you!

    Reply
  26. john marr on

    what would cause my zinnias to have small flower heads?

    Reply
  27. Debbie Nichols on

    When my zinnias start to die I pinch them off and save them in a cool dry area until next planting season. They do really well.

    Reply
  28. Margie Cole on

    How many sets of leaves do you leave on the plants when you pinch zinnias and celosia?

    Reply
  29. Maureen Macdonald on

    something is eating my zinnias leaves on the new ones coming up. I tried dusting with flour and baking soda and it has slowed the eating but not sure what it is eating the leaves. think it might be earwigs? any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Reply
  30. barb on

    I grew them from seeds years ago and for some reason stopped. Reading your article gave me the push to start them again. I have about 30 Lili put mix hardening off outside and 30 thumbilina still under grow lights …i know I’m a bit behind. I started pinching the Lili put about 2 – 3 weeks ago….was that two early? They were about 8 in tall but they have new shoots coming out. My whole front garden will be nothing but zinnias this year…hope it makes a statement

    Reply
  31. ann zahorik on

    Love zinnias! Always have! Your blog is very informative and appeciated.

    Reply
  32. Celine on

    Hi Erin, Thank you soooo much for all the love and colors you’re sharing ! I’d love to have a flower farm where I live here in France ! Thanks to you, I’m growing more flowers than usually to sell some extras in fleas markets ( the only place where we can make it without being a farmer ) and I have a question : I have several varities that will be planting in a same area. The thing is that I would love to save the seeds. And as nature is wondeful : I’m wondering if they’ll breed. Do you have any experience of it ? Should I bag some flowers of each varieties or plant some of them far from each other ? I wish you a great great season ! Tons of love and beautiful scents and colors ! Thank youuuuu <3

    Reply
  33. Angel on

    Hi! This is our first year of flower farming. Your blog has been so much help in learning what to do, thank you so much! I’ve purchased all of your growing guides and still have a few questions. We will be planting in a 20×30 space and have started our seeds in the 72 cell pots like you recommend. I’ve read so many things that talk about transplanting seeds into larger cell packs while putting the flower deeper in the seed mix to help with more root growth, and then hardening off after transplant. Is this extra transplant step necessary? It will be well past frost season when our seedlings are ready to go into the soil so when they do should we plant them up to the bottom of the true leaves at that time? Thanks again!!

    Reply
  34. Reese on

    id like to know about the powdery mildew as well as this has happened to me.

    Reply
  35. Sirena Sedat on

    How do I prevent the powdery mildew? and do the flowers have seeds at the end of there cycle? I’d like to harvest them for the following year.

    Reply
  36. patti on

    Hi I have grown my zinnias in pots for a few years now. Things go along very nicely until some disease, kind of a combo of powdery mildew and rust develops from the bottom up. The end result is crunchy bottom foliage and eventually a dead plant. Breaks my heart every year. Any idea what I am doing wrong?
    Thank you

    Reply
  37. Tina on

    Hi Erin..
    My husband,grandson, and I planted beautiful orange and off white zinnias with dusty miller around th edges of it in my flower bed. They are still small. Any helpful ideas would be wonderful!!

    Reply
  38. Debbie on

    Howdy Erin!
    LOVE LOVE LOVE zinnias… Here in the northeast I direct sow Cut and Come again, Art Deco ( beautiful pink, royal purple and lavender flowers) and Cactus. I always try a new variety this year and it’s Benary Giant Series for my backyard flower farm. I tried growing them in my greenhouse one year and they barely sputtered along . Too cold here in New England. They thrive and grow very fast once I get them seeded in warm soil and we have consistent warm temps which for us usually begins my mid-may. This year we had over 100 inches of snow and I’m just now able to see most of my planting area. Love watching your flower farm grow! I always learn something new here! Here’s to a fantastic growing season on both coasts! Love, Deb ( Maryjanesfarm Beach Farmgirl Blogger) and author Dandelion House :)

    Reply
  39. louis desena on

    love the benary giant zinnias.johnny’s select seeds is a excellent source of a fine,quality seed.

    “great article on “growing zinnias!!!”-

    Reply
  40. Casey Patrick on

    I started growing zinnia’s the second year of our community garden. I feel in love with them from that moment on. My grandmother grows a pink variety that has a smaller flower (half dollar size) but vibrant color. I was able to save some of the seed pods and now I will have them for years to come. Saving their seeds are the easiest to do. The seeds I saved from last year, all of them sprouted this year.

    Reply
  41. Cori Jansen on

    Help! Where do you purchase your netting, and landscape fabric with the green lines from? I thought this would be easy to source but I’m having trouble finding it all. Thank you!

    Reply
  42. Krys on

    Do you stake your zinnias? I’ve begun plotting out our cut flower zinnia garden and I hadn’t staked my zinnias in our personal flower beds before but wonder if growing a large patch in the field may need staking and I’ve seen some recommendations that they should be staked.

    Thank you again for such wonderful information.

    Reply
  43. Mandy on

    I love the Oklahoma series and the Lillaput varieties. The Oklahoma are a nice medium sized flower good for bouquets and the tiny beehive Lilliput varieties are just so stinking cute…and last forever in a vase. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  44. hopflower on

    When I worked in a nursery, most customers would come in and ask for State Fair. They are the icon of summer and we sold tonnes of them! Your zinnias are just beautiful; makes me miss the flowers I sold before my boss sold the nursery. I am going to put a few in my own garden this year.

    Reply
  45. Madeline on

    Erin: Do you do anything to support your zinnias? I find that without support, mine get knocked to the ground by strong late summer storms, or they get so big that they fall over and break. I’ve tried twine but thought I’d use netting this year. (6b – Pennsylvania). I love this blog – learning so so much! Thank you.

    Reply
  46. grdnstff on

    love zinnias .. i feel a bit of envy for the amount of sun you have .. and then, feel delighted with the wonderfull photos you’ve shared .. brilliant ..
    looking forward to more visits to your blog ..

    Reply
  47. Eileen on

    Thank you for sharing all of this information about zinnias! I was wondering… how do you deal with powdery mildew?

    Reply
  48. Monica on

    Queen Red Lime! My very (very) favorite :-)

    Reply
  49. Doug on

    Erin, do you plant successions of zinnias, or have you found that one planting gives you flowers all season?

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Doug, we usually do 2 successive plantings. If we had warmer summers I’d go for 4-5 but here they just won’t ripen fast enough.

  50. Adrienne Lee on

    Hey Erin and Kim! You can get the Benary’s series without the film coating from Geo seeds. I’m certified organic here in Maine and can’t use the film coated seed. It might be different state to state. Also, Erin where do you get the black harvest buckets you use?

    Reply
    • Kim on

      Hi Adrienne! Thanks for your input– I just checked out all of my benary’s giant seed from Geo, and all of the packets and the catalog say coated. I have gotten some uncoated through Uprising Seeds, but they do not offer all colors.

    • Floret on

      Sweet! I’ve been in a bind after running out of my old uncoated stock. Thanks for the tip!

  51. Andrea on

    Originally, I liked the Persians because of the variations. Then they became more dear to me because when I gave some to a neighbor (well into her eighties) she was delighted because she remembered her Mother growing them.

    Reply
  52. Kim on

    My favorite zinnia is Benary’s Giant Salmon Rose. I also got “creamy yellow” dahlia-flowered zinnia seed through Johnny’s a couple of years ago, and though the heads were a bit on the small side, the color was gorgeous! Erin, do you have any issues with your organic certifier and the coating on the Benary’s Giants? I know of an organic farmer here in Maine who last year was told though the coating on the BG seeds is listed as “food grade” that it wasn’t an allowed coating under the organic rule. I would love to get my flowers certified, but am not sure how to work with the seed coating issue on so many flower seeds. Thanks! Awesome photos of your zinnia abundance!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      I bought loads of uncoated seeds when they started to make the major switch to coated but am almost out. The flower world is not set up to fit in line with the OG regs so it takes a MAJOR amount of extra work on our part!

    • Anja on

      I asked Geoseed about the coating of the zinnias, they say it doesn’t contain any chemicals, it’s just for making the sowing easier. So our organic certifier accepts that. But we are not even on the same continent, since we’re based in Norway.

  53. Sarah on

    Uproar rose is my absolute favorite, my second being Benary Coral. This summer I’m growing the Queen Lime zinna (first time) so its possible next year it will be my favorite. I tired growing the Green Envy last year and was not impressed by the flower quality — I had lots of flowers but few that I would consider selling. I will have to try that one again. I also grow the smaller Oklahoma zinnia. I love love love your flower focuses. This is my 2nd year growing for market so I’m like a sponge – soaking it all up!!

    Reply
    • Floret on

      Sarah, Benary Giant Lime is a MILLION times better than Envy! The heads are all perfect, stems are stiff and the color is off the charts.

  54. Alesa on

    I loved the coral color and fun shape of my “pink señorita” zinnias last year. Found at http://www.rareseeds.com. They worked great with a lot my event color palettes.

    Reply
  55. Lisa on

    Over the years I’ve grown all kinds. This year I selected individual California Giant varieties from Landreth to give them a try. But as a stand by I’m also putting in Benary’s mix since they are tried and true. Of course none of mine are for market since I’m just trying out what I could possibly produce this year. And because I love Zinnias so much I’m also doing all of my house window boxes with Profusion Apricot (not a cutting variety).

    Reply
  56. Rondi Anderson on

    My first successful row ever was last summer with Benary Giants and can hardly wait to try more! Hey I’ve heard they respond well to Epsom Salt because of the magnesium. Would you happen to have an opinion? Lovely photos!

    Reply
  57. Kristy on

    I think the Queen Red Limes are my favorite. I love the way that each one has a unique twist on the coloring. I am anxious to try some of those you have mentioned. Zinnias are my favorite — so easy to grow and provide blossoms all summer no matter what our weather in NC is like.

    Reply
  58. Barbara on

    I manage a little one acre farm at my kid’s school, and lately we have been expanding our cut flower offerings– they’re just so profitable for us! (Doesn’t hurt to have a bunch of fresh faced elementary kids running your stand, either.) I have been devouring all the info on your site, and I’m so grateful to you for sharing your knowledge and talent. This year, I am going to grow all Benary Giant Zinnias. Loved them last year, and I will try pinching for longer stems. Wish I could attend your workshop!

    Reply
  59. annette on

    Love your post…. Zinnas are fun

    Reply
    • Denise on

      Growing zinnias from seed. Apparently growing well till they reach4 cms then they just fall to the side literally and die! Help!

  60. Jonathan Leiss, Spring Forth Farm on

    I know the best strategy for zinnias is to move them quickly, but when that doesn’t work, how do you store them until you can?

    Thank you.

    Reply
  61. Marie on

    Very helpful advice, Erin! Thank you! I have one question on the pre burned landscape fabric: how do you do this? Do you have a tool or a cutter that makes the perfect sized holes and then go inside and burn the edges to prevent fraying? We have yet to find an efficient and consistent way to do this. Please help if you can!

    Reply
  62. Hedgerow Rose on

    Love the Persian Carpet mix! In our garden, they get interspersed with the Lavender. Ooohwee can’t wait for summer.

    Reply
  63. Lyuthar on

    All these zinnias are looking very pretty because they are in colorful group. They are one of the easiest annuals to grow,grow quickly and bloom heavily. It is my dream to grow zinnias in my garden,let see when my dream comes true.

    Reply
  64. Lorrie on

    ALL zinnias are my favorite! They have been ever since my 20th birthday, when my friend Hillary waltzed into my house with both of her arms wrapped around the biggest bunch of ‘State Fair’ zinnias EVER, tied with a wide magenta ribbon. That was 36 years ago, and they still “scream summer” to me.

    Reply
  65. Baremtnfarm on

    Our Queen Lime and Queen Red Lime series were exceptionally good looking and abundant last year. Favorites are Benary coral, wine and orange.

    Reply
  66. Jamie on

    LOVE the Queen Limes!

    Reply
  67. Kathleen Barber on

    Green Envy just wouldn’t stop blooming. Even after the frost it kept going. I grew a group in the hoop house because the rain will mess up zinnias and they just kept going they loved it in there.

    Reply
    • crystal broadus on

      Does anyone know the difference between green envy and queen lime zinnia. Which does better?

      Thanks

    • Floret on

      Hi Crystal, Queen Lime is a much better choice than Envy. More vivid color, strong stems and disease resistant.

  68. Alexandra Jusino on

    We grew our first batch of zinnias this summer. All from seed. They grew and grew and grew all summer long. They were actually pretty easy. We had a mix of magenta orange and hot pink.

    Reply

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