Growing zinnias

by Adam Pasco

Why is it that you rarely see zinnias in summer bedding displays? Do they give the impression of being an old-fashioned flower?

Purple-pink blooms of Zinnia 'Purple Prince'Why is it that you rarely see zinnias in summer bedding displays? Do they give the impression of being an old-fashioned flower? Well, I think they're in for a revival, and with some stunning new varieties coming onto the market I'm recommending them to everyone.

For me it's the single colours that appeal. Bedding plant producers tell me that at retail it's always packs of colour mixtures that sell best, but I always avoid these. OK, so I must be an exception, but thankfully the seed companies cater to my taste for single colours.

Pictured above is a brand new zinnia that you may have discovered this year, but will be widely available in the 2011 seed catalogues. It's called 'Purple Prince' and I've been trialling it this summer. I love it! Growing up to about 75cm (30in) the large, mainly double flowers open first at the tip of the main shoot. Once these fade and are snipped away, further flowers develop in succession on side shoots.

This new variety has very long-lasting flowers that I've enjoyed in the garden, although they could have been cut for indoor display.

White and pink flower of Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Starlight Rose'Another variety to consider is Zinnia marylandica 'Zahara Starlight Rose' (pictured left), a beautiful bicolour variety that has resistance to leaf spot and mildew disease, that can sometimes devastate zinnia plants, particularly varieties of Z. elegans.

There are many others, including the fiery Z. elegans 'Cactus Orange', burning 'Benaries Red' and pale green 'Envy'.

Are zinnias set for a revival, and will you be growing them?

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Gardeners' World Web User 23/08/2010 at 13:03

I grew zinnias for the first time this year and they have flowered continuously throughout the summer and still going strong. They were easy to grow from seed and I had a good germinate rate. They do not need dead heading like petunias or cosmos and seem to withstand our hot dry conditions,

Gardeners' World Web User 23/08/2010 at 17:59

they look gorgeous, and when it comes to plants I like I don't care if they're 'in vogue' or 'old fashioned' or just somewhere in between! Are they easy to grow? I get a fair bit of sunshine (when it shines) in parts of my garden, but up here in Central Scotland, it's not overly warm ... if I were to start them off in the greenhouse (which I'm hopefully purchasing later this year!) would they be ok outside when I plant the rest of my summer bedding, say in early June?

Gardeners' World Web User 23/08/2010 at 18:59

We grew zinnias for the first time this year, they have been spectacular, or should I say, they are spectacular, with a bit of dead heading they just keep coming. We did loose a lot of plants in the spring, but had enough survivors to put on a really good show, and will certainly grow them again.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/08/2010 at 15:48

Thanks for the variety recommendations Lila. I'll have to try some of these, as I prefer the single colour varieties rather than the mixes. 'Blackcurrant Cordial' sounds tasty. Pleased to hear from everyone else, too, about how well their zinnias have grown. Flowers appear very long lasting, and are sometimes recommended as cut flowers. Has anyone tried this?

Gardeners' World Web User 25/08/2010 at 13:00

For cut flowers, Adam, cut before the flower bud opens up. I had one orange plant from our local council's leftover sale at their nursery, a beautiful orange one. They remove the labels but I will certainly do some research to find it and try it next year from seed as I am going all out to get a Gold award in next year's "Bristol in Bloom" comp. rather than the Silver I was awarded. Zinnias were a favourite plant in Bristol when I was gardening in my former garden 50 years ago so you are right when it is considered old-fashioned but what is wrong with that when it is such a flamboyant flower?

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