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February 1st 2019

Grow Great Zinnias

Written by
Floret

Nothing says 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 lover.

As one of the easiest cut flowers to cultivate, they are a perfect first crop for beginning growers and are reliable, prolific producers for most flower farms.  

We’ve been growing zinnias since the beginning and every year I fall more and more in love with them.

Field of zinnias at Floret Flower FarmZinnias resent cold weather and prefer to be planted after things have warmed up a bit. Many gardeners in warmer parts of the world are able to successfully direct seed their zinnias straight into the field, but here in cool Washington we start our plants in 72 cell trays in the greenhouse 4-6 weeks before our last spring frost.

zinnias germinating in cell traysPlants are tucked into the field around mid-May, once the weather has sufficiently warmed up and all danger of frost has passed. Like every flower grown on our farm, we try to give them the best start possible. Learn more about soil preparation here.

Once the planting beds have been prepared, we lay down four lines of drip irrigation, roughly a foot apart and then the beds are covered with a layer of pre-burned landscape fabric to control weeds. Plants are spaced 9×9 inches apart with five rows per bed. 

Field of zinnias at Floret Flower FarmIf given good soil and a steady supply of water, plants can get huge and require some type of support. We use a layer of Hortonova netting stretched horizontally about 12 inches above the ground. Netting is held by in place by metal hoops that we made with our Johnny’s Quick Hoops BenderAny type of stake, wooden or metal, will work just fine. As the plants grow, they push up through the grid of netting and get the support they need.

Field of zinnias at Floret Flower FarmZinnias like the heat and it’s important that they are grown in full sun. In addition to choosing a sunny spot, I always grow them in fabric for the added heat.  

When we first started growing zinnias this closely together I was worried that they would be plagued by disease, but since they are grown in such rich soil, this hasn’t been a problem. We succession sow zinnias every 2-3 weeks in order to have a steady stream of these beautiful blooms all summer long. 

pinching The secret to getting the longest stems from your zinnias is pinching them when they are young. Here’s how it’s done: When plants are between 8 to 12 inches tall, take sharp pruners and snip the top 3 to 4 inches off of the plant, just above a set of leaves. This signals the plant to send up multiple stems from below where the cut was made, resulting in more abundant flower production as well as longer stem length. The photo above demonstrates pinching with another type of plant. 

Field of zinnias at Floret Flower FarmIf you are not regularly harvesting your zinnias, be sure to deadhead any spent blooms to help focus the plant’s energy into producing new flowers and not going to seed.

Zinnias need to be picked when they are fully ripe, otherwise they won’t last in the vase. To tell whether a zinnia is ready to harvest use the “wiggle test.” Simply grab the stem about 8 inches down from the flower head and gently shake it. If the stem is droopy or bends, it is not ready to cut. If the stem is stiff and remains erect, it is ready to harvest.

Zinnias are considered a “dirty flower” and benefit from a drop of two of bleach in their water. Do not put them in the cooler since the flowers are very cold sensitive.

peach and coral colored zinnia flowers ombreThere are an unbelievable number of zinnias to choose from in every shape, color and size imaginable.

Depending on what your needs are, there is definitely a zinnia for you.

peach and salmon and coral zinniasFor example, if you’re looking for flowers in the peach-salmon range, look at just how many choices there are!

Top row, left to right: Giant Salmon Rose, Zinderella Peach, Queen Lime Orange.

Bottom row, left to right: Señora, Lilliput Salmon, Oklahoma Salmon.

peach and salmon and coral zinnia flowersHere’s a great example of the different size options available in one color. 

Left to right, above: Lilliput Salmon, Giant Salmon Rose, Oklahoma Salmon

Left to right, below: Giant Salmon Rose, Oklahoma Salmon, Lilliput Salmon

I thought I’d share some of my favorite varieties that we grow here on the farm in hopes that it inspires you to plant some of these hardworking, heat loving beauties in your garden this season.

armload of salmon coral colored zinnias salmon coral colored zinniasBenary’s Giant Series: The largest flowered varieties in the zinnia family, plants often reach 4-5 feet tall and have a high percentage of huge double flowers. They come in a wide range of colors (12 in total) and are known for their strong stems and good disease resistance.

My all time favorite variety is Giant Salmon Rose (pictured above) because its warm peachy color is so versatile and softens with age. It pairs well with both pastel and vibrant colors.

field of zinniasI also love the Desert Sunset Mix (pictured above) which includes my favorite warm toned Benary’s Giant colors: Coral, Orange and Carmine. They make a bold statement when combined with acid green or deep maroon flowers and foliage.

If you’re looking for individual colors, Johnny’s Selected Seeds carries the full range.

coral and salmon zinniasOklahoma Series: These are hands down, the most productive and floriferous zinnias I’ve ever grown. The series boasts 7 colors including Oklahoma Salmon, Pink, Carmine, Ivory, White, Yellow and Scarlet. Ivory was recently discontinued but we are working on building up our stock seed to hopefully reintroduce it in the near future.

Salmon (pictured above) has petite, double blooms that are a warm mix of salmon and peach and combine well with anything. Everyone loves this treasure! 

Queen series of zinniasQueen Series:  Unlike other zinnias, this series includes the most unique array of unusual coloring including lime green, smokey apricot, dusty rose and limey blush.

In addition to their special coloring, the Queen Series also produces vigorous plants with sturdy stems and tough flowers, a welcomed improvement to the zinnia family.

These gorgeous novelties are sought out by designers for their unique coloring.

Queen Lime Blush ZinniasThe mostly double and semi double flowers of Queen Lime Blush (pictured above) are a stunning blend of green and purple, unlike anything we’ve seen.

Everyone who sees them instantly falls in love. It’s a must grow!

queen lime orange zinniasQueen Lime Orange: This exciting new addition to the Queen Series is the most beautiful range of iridescent raspberry, apricot and smokey-peach with a dark cranberry center.

This versatile color looks incredible when combined with rich foliage and blooms.

scabiosa zinniasScabiosa Flowered types: I grew scabiosa flowered zinnias for the first time in 2014 and they quickly became one of my favorite crops of the season. The frilly double blooms look like mini gerbera daisies or double flowered echinacea.

They have nice long stems, good disease resistance and come in a beautiful range of colors.

armload of scabiosa zinniasCandy Mix (pictured above) is an improved mix that contains a higher percentage of double flowers in a warm, cheerful blend of scarlet, raspberry, rose, salmon, tangerine, gold and cream.

scabiosa zinniasOne thing to note is that many growers in warmer climates have noticed that they don’t get the same high percentage of double “scabiosa types” (pictured right) that we do here in the Northwest.

After a lot of research and emails back and forth with the breeders, it seems that if plants undergo any stress, including not getting enough water or too high of temps, they will start producing single flowers (pictured left).

While the single blooms are pretty and unique, many folks have been disappointed by this fact.

zinderella peachZinderella Peach has frilly double blooms that are a warm mix of salmon, peach and cream, accented by a striking dark center.

Of all the zinnias we grow, this might be my favorite.
zinderella zinniazinderella zinnia Zinderella Lilac (pictured above) is a lovely mix of blush and soft lavender, accented by a striking dark center.

It’s ideal for wedding work and floral designers love it!

bicolor zinniaBicolor Novelties: These unique bi-color novelties are sure to catch the attention of everyone who sees them.

We’ve been growing Macarenia for years and have found that people either love it or hate it. Each glowing scarlet petal is tipped in gold for a fun twist. Winner of the Fleuroselect Novelty Award in 2012, this hardworking plant thrives in heat and is very easy to grow.

mazurkia zinniaMazurkia brings a new twist to zinnias and is a Fleuroselect Winner for good reason. The mid-sized plant produces fun, campy double flowers with lipstick pink centers and soft blush tips.

armload of zinnias Miniature flowered types: The old fashioned Lilliput Mix (pictured above) deserves a spot in every cutting garden. The easy to grow, heat loving plants produce a bumper crop of sweet blooms on long, strong stems in shades of rose, carmine, orange, coral, white, yellow and violet. Their petite flower size makes them ideal for flower arranging.

zinnias in flower fieldI especially love Lilliput Salmon (pictured growing above). This adorable bloomer produces an abundance of petite, fully double, dome-shaped salmon flowers all summer long.

zinniasThe Sunbow Series, available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds has been around for ages and has miniature 1-2” double blooms that ride atop long, sturdy stems. It comes in a cheery mix including: rose, purple, golden yellow, scarlet, orange, pink and white. Plants have long, wiry stems that make them well suited for flower arranging. 

cactus zinniasCactus flowered types: These fun novelties have the coolest twisted, shaggy petals and come in a wide range of colors including orange, pink, red, yellow, peach and white.

My favorite is Señora (pictured above) which has warm salmon-apricot, quilled blooms and produces a bumper crop of large flowers that have long, strong stems. It’s a must grow!

Mexican zinniasfield of zinnias at Floret Flower Farm Mexican Zinnias: While plants themselves are compact, they churn out an abundant amount of stems for cutting from midsummer to early autumn. Their petite stature resemble more of a bedding plant than a cropping variety but I think they are deserving of a spot in every cutting garden.

The Persian Carpet Mix (pictured above) includes adorable gold, cranberry, orange and cream flowers.

Aztec sunset zinniasThe brilliant, eye-catching Aztec Sunset mix includes a wide range of miniature bi-color blooms in shades of buttercream, gold, cranberry, rust and merlot.

These reliable bloomers are a great addition to the cutting garden and front of the flower border.

 

field of zinniasfield of zinnias I would love to hear your experience with this wonderful group of plants. Do you grow zinnias or plan to add them to your garden this coming season? If so, what are your favorite varieties, or what new treasures are you adding to your wishlist?

Please note: If you submit a comment and it doesn’t show up right away, sit tight, we have a spam filter that requires we approve most comments before they are published.

Lastly, if you feel like this information is helpful, I would love it if you would share it with your friends.

12 Comments

  1. Elin on

    I am so curious as to how one shall harvest flowers that grow in netting? Do you cut it under the net and pull it up through?

    Reply
  2. Jan Mooney---Garden Petals on

    Thank you for the article on zinnias, i have fallen in love with all the new colors an sizes. Looking forward to being as successful as you have been in growing them this year.

    Reply
  3. Rogelio Cruz on

    Is there any way to combat or remedy for powdery mildew? I always seem to have this around the end of summer beginning of fall all my zinnias get PM.

    Reply
  4. Janet Phillips on

    I ordered your ‘Cut Flower Garden’ book and LOVE it! I’m hoping to grow the table flowers for my son’s September wedding. I’ve always grown a few flowers, but not for a special occasion. Living in the Flint Hills of Kansas, we knew zinnias would be top of the list, as we tend to have very hot windy summers. I had no idea there were so many beautiful varieties until reading your blog and looking through your book. I’m looking forward to reading all the tips because I know I’m going to need help! Thanks so much for writing such a beautiful, helpful book!

    Reply
  5. Marian on

    It is absolutely pouring here in the UK so this article was a magic pick me up. I have sent it to a sick friend who loves her garden. Roll on summer and thank you for all the advice.

    Reply
  6. Lisa Bindon on

    Thank you for the explanation about why double zinnias can sometimes turn into scruffy single zinnias! I had been wondering why that was and will try a slightly coler spot for them next season

    Reply
  7. Trisha Brink on

    I am growing an annual cutting garden for the first time this year. I usually stick to perennials, roses, fruits and vegetables. But, I fell in love with the Zinderella zinnias this year….and now I can’t stop purchasing all kinds of zinnia seeds! Thank you for the great tips on how to grow these amazing hearty flowers! I am thrilled to hear that they grow so well here in Western Washington. I can’t wait to start them… keep up the good work :)

    Reply
  8. Krista Freitas on

    Zinnias have been in the family garden every year since before my dad was born. There are multiple pictures of my grandmother’s garden bursting with zinnias from back in the day, and my father has been growing from saved seed for years now. They have the coolest antique cream colored single petaled cactus flowered variety that pops up every year. ( I’m going to try to save from it this year. (I cut them all this year.. oops) I named my daughter Zinnia Raine in memory of my late grandmother and we grow tons every year! I’m especially excited to try the zinderella series and the queen lime blush this year !

    Reply
  9. Ali, The Mindful Gardener on

    I love Zinnias. We had a hot summer (for us) last year and the Zinnias loved it. The Queen and Bennary series have been brilliant. I am growing the Zindarellas this year for the first time and I can’t wait! Thank you for this really thorough exploration of varieties on offer!

    Reply
  10. Bouquets of Blessing on

    Zinnias are one of the flower types we grow the most of each summer. They are extremely easy to grow. We direct sow a few times through the summer, but just one planting provides us with blooms for many weeks. Definitely a must-grow!

    Reply
  11. Jontal on

    I used to be a huge zinnia snob, feeling like they were second class to dahlias, but now I’m a total convert. I have too many seed variety for my garden space, so I’m trying to convince my husband to let me dig up some of our existing landscaping; we’ll see how that goes. Anyways, this year I’m really excited to grow a few new (to me) varieties I bought from a different seed company: Uproar Rose and Art Deco. Thanks for the tips about scabiosa varieties! I’m going to pass that info on!

    Reply
  12. Alexis Jorgensen on

    I am so glad to have read this article! Zinnias have been a major part of my cutting garden for years and they are one of my favorite things to grow. I love the look of the scabiosa zinnias but haven’t had as much success with them as I would like, it’s good to know that it’s stress that’s causing the single blooms! I’ll be a little more careful with those this year :) Thanks for all the amazing blog posts!

    Reply

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