Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
September, 2000
Regional Report

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Zinnias are still blooming strong in my garden. They come in vibrant colors and make great cut flowers.

Zinnias: My Late Summer Saviors

Flower gardens in our region can look stressed and somewhat colorless now. Most summer bloomers have struggled through the heat and are on their last legs, and it's early for cool-season flowers to fill in. Zinnias are my late summer savior. They add plenty of zip, blooming profusely in a wide range of vibrant colors such as yellow, orange, salmon, pink, scarlet, red, and white.

Zillions of Zinnias

There are as many shapes and sizes of zinnia flowers as there are colors of zinnias. Blooms can be dainty, round, and compact, featuring daisylike faces, or large and robust, sporting spiked petals that resemble an unruly hairstyle. Sizes can range from 1-inch single flowers to giant doubles 6 inches across. Heights range from about 6 to 36 inches.

Zinnias make excellent cut flowers. They're long lasting and have sturdy stems for arrangements. Their colors are so intense that just a few stems in a vase can provide a visual spark in any room. The more you cut, the more they bloom, so clip off spent blossoms to keep the color show coming.

Where to Plant

Zinnias can take full sun, but I've found that planting them in a northern exposure in the low desert is best. They receive plenty of morning and early afternoon sun but have some protection from the harsh late afternoon rays. This seems to keep the foliage greener and healthier. If you live at higher elevations where temperatures are somewhat cooler, it may not make a difference.

How and When to Plant

Zinnias are easy to sow from seed anytime soil temperatures are warm. They like a rich organic soil. Provide consistent moisture to a depth of about 1 inch until they germinate, usually within a week or so. As seedlings grow, gradually increase the depth the water penetrates to about 1 foot for the mature plant.

Zinnias germinate well, so try to space seeds evenly or be prepared to do some thinning. In a hurry to sow seeds before leaving on vacation in early July, I scattered them somewhat hastily and returned to some unusual clumps of seedlings. Since I am one of those gardeners who feels guilty thinning, I painstakingly transplanted the tiny seedlings elsewhere, and my knees felt it for days after! On the other hand, if I hadn't scattered the seeds before I left, I wouldn't be enjoying such colorful bouquets right now.

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