Do you like flowers? (this is important because some people don’t and – not judging, this might be a good blog post to skip if that is the case 😉 If you do – and want to grow some bouquets yourself, try ZINNIAS!
Under the guidance of family, I have been planting, splitting, and cutting my own flowers for the past few years now. When I moved into my last home, it was a mess of overgrown…everything. Hostas and day lilies for days that needed to be moved around and cleaned up. With the help from my grandma, I started with zinnia seeds in 2016 and have tried to grow them every year since, with the pinnacle of zinnia growth the replacement of my houses’s hedges! We had the old school hedges removed and threw down zinnia seeds that ended up like flower BUSHES!
Let’s talk about zinnias for a moment. You might not have a keen familiarity with them but you have seen them around. They are an annual flower that needs to be seeded again every spring, they don’t come back like peonies, beebalm or coneflowers. If planting flowers from seeds scares you, try these – YOU WON’T BE DISAPPOINTED!
You can buy zinnia seeds at any place that sells plants and, well, seeds. They come in a variety of heights and colors so make your choice depending on how the package is labeled. My grandmother bought me my first packet and most of the tips are from years of growing these in her garden. My favorite go to type is “cut and cut again” which is exactly as the label describes – a zinnia that produces blooms that are meant to be cut so it can produce more blooms – TO BE CUT! A few cut and cut again Zinnia plants = fresh flower bouquets in your house Aug-Oct, after you plant them late spring, it takes about 6-8 weeks for blooms to start!
A few cut and cut again Zinnia plants = fresh flower bouquets in your house Aug-Oct
Sometimes gardening is the pinnacle of procrastination. The seed packet says May-April, can I plant in early June? YES! Late June? SURE! Just keep in mind that the longer you wait, you might not have blooms for as long once the flowers start with cooler temperatures starting to creep in. As with many things, gardening is sometimes the long game – you don’t get immediate results unless you pay for fully matured plants to be planted or purchased etc. And I will keep this reminder as key WATERING your plants is a FULL TIME JOB. You can plant your seeds whenever you want, but you HAVE to keep them watered! Make sure you pick a place that you can easily get water to!
So – planting technique. In a mostly full sun area loosen the dirt in the shape of where you want your seeds to be. (Obvious planting techniques should be mentioned – make this area somewhere you will want go to keep watered, hasn’t been treated with pesticides in the past two weeks, and is currently clear of most weeds). After roughing up the area, take the packet of seeds and GENTLY shake the seeds all over the dang place – then LOOSELY cover the area with a commercial top soil like Miracle Grow, OR if you don’t have any, just gently fold the seeds in under about 1/4 inch of soil. It’s just that easy!
Planting late spring is important because it might be warmer earlier, but as it was in my case this year, my seedlings kept getting washed away by crazy spring rain. I even started my seedlings inside this year but foolishly planted them before the spring rains were done and most were obliterated by buckets of rain water. No WORRIES! Best part about Zinnias are that the seeds are readily available for less than $2 a packet on avg AND once you grow your own - you can gather your OWN SEEDS! The flowers themselves can be dried and once brittle, the seeds can be harvested from the center!
Keeping the soil moist is key for the first few weeks and I also like to incorporate a ONCE weekly Miracle Grow flower food to my plants. You never know what the health of your soil is and what available nutrients are there so a little flower food does the trick in creating strong plants and healthy blooms! I follow the basic instructions for outdoor use – a big spoonful (measuring spoon included) and a full watering can! Remember, you are not watering the plants with this mixture, so just a little bit at the base of the plant root will give them extra nutrients to grow stronger!
After the seedlings are established, you just keep them watered (see above, daily moist soil is the best) and weekly feedings if that’s your jam. Some plants will thrive while others have to wiggle their way to sun if the seedlings established too closely. Don’t despair! You can just leave them be, and they will all continue to grow with minimal interference as long as you keep watering them! If you notice any droopiness in leaves give the soil a good soak – That’s it!
Once you starts seeing blooms, you need to start cutting flowers once they are fully formed and opened at the base of the stem – being careful to not cut off any new incoming blooms! The above flower is just ready to bloom but not open. I will wait until all the petals have unrolled before cutting and bringing it inside. You do want to check the flower for bugs and make sure you aren’t bringing any friends in with you and make sure you remove any leaves that will be submerged in water. Just like with purchased flowers, if you keep the ends snipped, they will stay longer and UNLIKE purchased flowers, since you are cutting them and bringing them into your home directly, they should last up to 2 weeks in a NON sunny location in your home! You can also re snip the ends and add fresh water to keep the blooms fresh.
Looking at the picture above the center stalk has been cut and three new blooms are already on their way! I could have left the flower growing but it would have kept the three new ones from starting as quickly. As the flower grows the energy goes into the bloom, so as you cut, new blooms will come faster. As I will mention below, this plant will go almost a full week without a bloom but once the flowers start, each one of these three stalks will also have additional blooms that come. Eventually this ONE seed will become almost bush-like as you can see below, it just takes time!
Zinnias attract butterflies and are great for pollinators as well!
Below is my newest zinnia endeavor, I finally moved around some older plants around in my garden and made a space that was mostly sunny (we have a lot of mature trees in the back yard and so my gardens are mostly part shade). That said, these will start blooming in the next week or two and once they do, I will have flowers through September! I planted this plot later in the year so it will be a shorter blooming season for me.
One side note with zinnias is that they are a target of Japanese beetles.
Japanese beetles are a species of scarab beetle and they are iridescent copper-colored with a green thorax and head (wikipedia). I like to flick them off or drop them in soapy water – there’s really no avoiding them and are a common garden pest issue. I have read that if you smash them near plants or irritate them, they attract more beetles so watch out for that too!
Zinnia seeds are super easy to grow! They are annuals so they require patience and a relatively sunny plot of land with some planning and most importantly WATER! You will have all green plants or blank garden until they get going. Make sure you are OK with this process since from spring to mid summer you will likely have seedlings growing into small plants with no blooms for some time! With lots of watering, some trimming and maybe a bit of flower food, once you get some blooms – you can have zinnias for weeks or potentially months!
Let me know if you have luck with your zinnias or have another hardy seed plant you love!