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Past Articles Library | How to Grow and Care for Zinnias

Are you a brown thumb gardener or a beginner?  If the answer is yes then you need to plant zinnias.  This annual is the easiest annual to grow in the world and the best part it will look like you spent hours in the garden.  They thrive in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 3 through 10 and can tolerate any soil type.  While they are flexible with their growth requirements, they do have two needs that are critical.  One is the location of the zinnias needs to receive full sun.  The second requirement is that this annual needs a well drained soil. 

The zinnias themselves can be found in an array of different colors, which includes white, purple, yellow, red, pink, orange, and even multicolored.  The flower shape can also be different, which can add texture to your landscape design.  These flower shapes include dahlia-and cactus-flowered. 

Now that you have the basics on the zinnias, let begin the propagation process.  Zinnias are grown from seed.  While you could start the seed indoors, there really is no need.  The seed itself germinates very quickly.  Another reason to simply plant the seed in the garden space is the fact that zinnias do not like to be transplanted. 

To begin the planting process, starts with garden site selection.  As stated before, zinnias like a sunny location.  Once you have decided on the best spot, the next step is to prepare the garden space.  If this area is an existing garden, move on to the next paragraph.  If the space is new, remove the sod and fill in with soil so that the soil level is even with the existing soil.

Next, add a good amount of well seasoned compost.  While this is not a requirement, the addition of compost will encourage the flowers to grow quicker. Once that is done, you are ready to plant.  To save money and time, it is better to go ahead and properly space out the seed.  This can be an issue since different types of zinnias require a different amount of spacing.  In general, the spacing can range from 4 to 24 inches apart but to get more detail on the planting space check the seed package.

Prior to planting the seed, rake the soil to smooth it out and sprinkle the seed on top.  The seed should not be planted any deeper than ¼ inch.  Once you have sprinkled the seed, add a very slight layer of soil.  While the seed needs to be planted very shallowly, the soil on top of the seed is only to hold the seed down.

At this point, you may be on a roll as far as planting your zinnia seed goes but wait.  Since this plant is an annual, you can space out the blooming by planting a succession of seed throughout the early spring and summer.

Once the seeds have been planted, you will need to water in the area and wait.  Since the seed is planted outside, you need to let Mother Nature take over.  Germination will occur when the outside temperature reach 74 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  At this temperature, germination can take between 5 to 76 days.

To maintain the beauty of this annual flower, deadhead the spent flowers to extend the flowering period.

While most people will consider planting zinnias in window boxes, and as borders, you may want to consider using them in containers and even in hanging baskets.  If you choose to plant in other areas beyond your landscaping, make sure that the variety you choose will fit that location or purpose. 

As easy as this annual flower is to grow, there are a few problems that can creep up.  This includes bacterial wilt, bacterial and fungal spots along with powdery mildew.  All of these problems are caused by environmental issues.  This includes hot weather and humid conditions.  While there is not much you can do about what Mother Nature deals out, there are a few preventative measures that can be taken.  The most important two include only watering the soil and spacing out the zinnias properly.  Both of these approaches will keep the foliage as dry as possible.

If you do find that you have any of these issues even though you followed a prevention plan, do not worry.  There is still one thing that you can do to save the zinnia.  What is this?  Well, it is simple and only requires one to remove the diseased plant material and throwing it away.  If the problem is too wide spread, consider just pulling up the plant material and replanting if there is enough of the growing season left.

Plant diseases are not the only problems one can expect.  Plant pests are another issue.  While they normally do not cause much of a problem, the issue still exists.  Pests that seem to like zinnias include an assortment of caterpillars, spidermites, and mealybugs.  Once you see these pests, you may be tempted to pull out the bug spray but do not.  While these pests can make the leaves look a little unsightly, this is all that will happen.  When your local frost appears, the zinnias will die and so will your pest problem.

To help your zinnias to continue to look its best, there are two chores that will need to be done.  One deals with helping the zinnia keep a bush appearance.  To do this, one will need to pinch off the ends of the stem when the plant is young.  This will force the plant to send out side branches.  The second thing that will need to be done is to feed the zinnia.  While I normally do not feed annuals, this plant is an exception.  To get the most out of your plant, consider giving your zinnia a dose of 5-10-5 fertilizer twice during the growing season.  The first time needs to occur when the zinnia plants are about 4 inches in height.  Do not give the plant the full strength but instead dilute it down so that the plant is only getting a quarter dose. The second time should occur during the mid season and the dosage should be full strength. 

If you do find that your zinnias are falling over, do not worry this problem is easy to solve and can be accomplished in a couple of decorative ways.  One way is to use metal hoop stake that is sold in many garden centers.  If you do not want to use this stake, consider making your own with a y-shaped branch.  When using this latter approach, simply push the y-shaped branch into the ground and adjust the height as needed to support the plant material.  If you need additional support, gently encircle the zinnias with green garden twine and secure to the branch or circular stake.  When using the garden twine, keep in mind that the goal is to add support and not to tie up the plant material.


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