Growing zinnias is incredibly easy. In fact, they're so easy that children often learn to garden by planting and caring for zinnias. The flowers are not only hardy, but they're beautiful and produce eye popping flowers in a variety of colors. When harvested properly, the flowers come back over and over, giving your garden color all summer long. Read on to find out more about the history of zinnias and how to grow them.
Zinnias are native to warm climates such as Mexico, although the seeds you buy in the store today aren't much like the flowers that were discovered in the 1800s and brought to Europe by botanists. Seed companies have worked with the traditional zinnia stock to make the flowers different sizes, different colors and slightly different shapes. These hybridized flowers are also often more resistant to disease than their wild counterparts.
This research has resulted in a staggering amount of variety in the zinnia family. Some zinnias produce only one ring of petals around a center stem. Others produce multiple layers of petals, so the center of the flower is completely obscured. Some varieties can grow several feet tall, while others are only a few inches off the ground. Most zinnias are a solid color, although striped varieties are also available. Zinnias come in nearly any color you can think of.
Zinnias are easy to grow from seed, with one disclaimer. They do not like to be transplanted once they're growing, so you simply must start the seeds in peat pots for the best chance of success. Begin the process about six weeks before the last frost is scheduled to hit your area. Place a few seeds in a damp peat pot and place the pot in a warm, sunny location. Keep the pots covered with plastic wrap until the seeds sprout. Keep the soil moist.
When the seedlings are several inches tall and nighttime temperatures are above 50 degrees, plant your zinnias in your garden. Choose a spot that gets full sun, all day long. Follow the directions on your seed packet regarding spacing. Larger plants need to be several inches apart, while shorter varieties can be placed much closer together. Sprinkle a small amount of general fertilizer around your plants, and water it in.
Zinnias like a moist, but not soggy, soil. They typically like about an inch of water per week. Water your plants in the morning, so they have time to dry off during the heat of the day. When your flowers bloom, cut them and bring them into the house for jolly displays. Cut the flowers just above a new set of leaves, to encourage your plant to keep growing. Your zinnias will produce more flowers in just a few weeks. Snip off any faded flowers to encourage your plant to produce more flowers. Some taller zinnia varieties can get quite heavy as they grow and mature. Provide cages and stakes to help them stay upright and off the ground.