How To Grow and Care For Zinnia Elegans Flowers

Zinnia elegans (ZIN-ya ELL-eh-ganz) is a member of the Asteraceae family hailing from Mexico. The genus name honors botany professor Johan Gottfried Zinn (1727 – 1759). The meaning of the specific epithet is “elegant.”

This traditional, sun-loving summer garden flower is available in various sizes, colors, and bloom types. The plant is commonly referred to as merely Zinnia, but many cultivars have its own moniker.

Zinnia elegans bloom
Flower of Zinnia elegans up close | FreerLaw-DepositPhotos

Zinnia Elegans Care

Size & Growth

There are hundreds of Zinnia cultivars. Height varies from 6″ inches to 4′ feet tall. Most types have a spread of about 1′ foot.

Zinnias typically have very strong, sturdy stems and an abundance of bushy, slightly, furry medium green lance-shaped leaves.

Flowering & Fragrance

Zinnias bloom profusely from early summer until the first frost. In very hot, humid climates, bloom production may slow down during the hottest, most muggy periods.

The showy, fragrant flowers come in three forms:

  • Semi-Double
  • Double
  • Single

Blooms are in many shades of:

  • Red
  • Rose
  • Pink
  • White
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Lavender

Zinnias are very attractive to butterflies of all kinds, especially Monarchs. They make excellent cut flowers.

Light & Temperature

In most settings, Zinnias do best in full sun. In areas with extremely hot, punishing sun, they may do better in light shade. 

But, lack of sun may cause a dearth of flowers and the tendency to develop fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.

Zinnias are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 2 through 11.

Watering & Feeding

Keep Zinnia seedlings well watered. After the plants are established, they are quite drought tolerant. Treat them as you would wildflowers, watering deeply occasionally.

Start young Zinnias in soil well amended with compost. When buds form, add a side dressing of a balanced 10 – 10 – 10 fertilizer.

Soil & Transplanting

Zinnias prefer well-draining, light, fertile, humusy soil with a great deal of organic matter worked in. Once plants are well established, mulch with a couple of inches of bark or straw to block weed growth and retain moisture.

Grooming & Maintenance

With all types of Zinnias, you can encourage more blooms by deadheading spent flowers.

With taller varieties, pinch the tips of stems back while the plants are young to encourage a bushier, fuller growth habit.

Even with very tall varieties, you shouldn’t need to stake these flowers because they have very sturdy stems.

How To Propagate Zinnia Elegans

After all danger of frost passes, you can sow Zinnia seeds directly into prepared soil. Sow more every couple of weeks to promote continuous blooming throughout the summer and into the autumn.

If you want blooms earlier in the springtime, you can start Zinnia seed indoors a month or so before the last predicted frost date.

You can also purchase seedlings in nurseries in the springtime.

Some varieties depending on the climate, are self-sowing. You can also collect your own Zinnia seed to plant each year. Be advised that anytime you do this, the resulting plants may not resemble the parent plants.

Zinnia Elegans Pests or Diseases

Problems to watch out for with Zinnias include:

Generally speaking, the fungus related problems can be avoided by positioning your Zinnias in an area where they will get ample sun and good air circulation. Avoid overcrowding and overwatering.

If your Zinnias develop powdery mildew, treat it with a variety of mild sprays made up of natural ingredients. For example, you can mix a couple of tablespoons of Neem oil into a gallon of warm water to make an effective spray for use once a week.

Alternately, a tablespoonful each of horticultural oil and baking soda mixed into a gallon of water can also make an effective spray.

Aphids can usually be discouraged by simply blasting them with water several days in a row until they’ve all been knocked off your plants.

Japanese beetles are a bit more difficult to deal with. You need to treat the soil in your garden by adding beneficial nematodes, which will kill off the larvae. 

Adult Japanese beetles can be gathered by hand and tossed into soapy water to kill them off. 

There are also Japanese beetle traps available. You can set around the outskirts of your property in hopes of stopping the beetles before they get into your garden and start laying eggs.

Is the plant considered toxic or poisonous to people, kids, pets?

Zinnias are not toxic but should not be used as a culinary flower. They are safe flowers for kids and pets to play in, and roaming livestock may occasionally partake of them without harm.

Is the plant considered invasive?

One particular type of Zinnia, Zinnia peruviana, is classified as a weed in the state of North Carolina. [source]

Suggested Zinnia Elegans Uses 

With so many different sizes, shapes, and colors, there are many ways to use Zinnias. They do well in:

  • Butterfly Gardens
  • Cottage Gardens
  • Cutting Gardens
  • Mixed Borders
  • Window Boxes
  • Flowerbeds
  • Containers

Common Zinnias are attractive to a wide variety of birds, which like their seeds. Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds also enjoy them.

Zinnias can survive and thrive when planted around Black Walnut trees.

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