The Year of the Zinnia

By Susan Littlefield

The National Garden Bureau has declared 2011 to be the Year of the Zinnia. These easy to grow annuals not only provide season-long color, but are available in such a wide range of colors, heights and flower shapes that just about everyone can find a spot for these cheerful bloomers in their gardens.

Zinnias are easy to start from seed, either indoors for a jump on the season in colder climates or direct-seeded in parts of the country with a longer growing season. The large seeds are easy to handle; if you are introducing children to the fun of gardening, they are a great choice for the small hands of budding young gardeners to plant. Started seedlings are also widely available in garden centers and nurseries in spring. Look for stocky plants with healthy green leaves and good branching.

No matter which zinnias you choose, all will do best in full sun and with regular watering, along with a slow-release fertilizer mixed in at planting time or monthly feedings with a soluble fertilizer. Powdery mildew has been the bane of zinnias in the past. Giving plants good air circulation will cut down on disease problems. And some of the new interspecific crosses are very resistant to powdery mildew, including the Profusion and Zahara series.

New for 2011 is 'Profusion Sunrise Mix', bred by Sakata Seeds. This mildew-resistant hybrid forms a compact, bushy mound 10 to 24 inches tall that is covered all season long with a vivid mix of 2-inch, single, red, white and yellow blossoms. New layers of bloom are continually produced so the show continues without the need for deadheading, making it a great choice for both the flower border or container plantings.

For more information on 'Profusion Sunrise Mixed' zinnias and the Year of the Zinnia, go to: National Garden Bureau .

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