Zinnias: Rethinking a Farm Stand Flower
Zinnia ( Zinnia indica ) is a common garden plant native to Europe, Asia and North America. It was introduced into the United States in 1869 by John Jacob Astor, the American financier. Today it grows wild throughout most of the eastern half of the country. It is one of the few annual plants that are not invasive or destructive; however, its popularity has declined due to over-harvesting and poor management practices at some commercial seed companies.
The name zinnia comes from the Latin word “zinus,” which means “of the valley.” Zinnias are considered to have a milder flavor than other types of flowers, such as roses. They are often used in salads and soups because they retain their fragrance longer than many other flowers.
Some people prefer them for their decorative value rather than culinary purposes.
Zinnias are sometimes grown as ornamental plants, but they do best when planted in beds. Because of their low maintenance nature, they make excellent houseplants. They require little care and can survive harsh winter conditions.
Although zinnias are easy to grow, they need plenty of sunlight and space to spread out so that they don’t get too tall. They can grow from 2 to 6 feet tall, but tend to gain height as the summer goes on. They also need fertile, well-drained soil that is high in nitrogen.
Zinnias require approximately 40 to 50 growing degree days to mature. The plants should be planted in the mid spring after the last frost has passed, but before the summer solstice when there are the most daylight hours. Amending the soil with compost or rotted manure can help the plant to grow strong.
These plants do not require pruning, but dead or dying leaves, flowers and stems should be removed in order to give the plant extra energy to flourish.
Zinnia flowers can last up to 6 weeks in a vase if they are submerged in water and placed in a sunny location. The vase should be changed every other day and dead flowers removed. It is best to harvest the zinnias when the morning temperature is below 80 degrees.
Snip off the flowers at the stem and submerge in water immediately to prevent wilting.
Zinnias are easy to grow from seed, but they must be fresh. Like all annuals, zinnias are often sold by the packet, and many of the seeds are discarded. These discarded seeds can be stored for future uses by placing them in a labeled envelope in a cool location.
If you wait too long to plant these seeds, however, up to 75% may be lost due to Vigna or mold rot.
Most of the modern varieties are bred to have intensive color. This high degree of color concentration requires these plants to expend most of their energy producing flowers rather than viable seeds. Buy a few zinnia seed packets at your local garden center.
Follow the planting and care directions carefully for each type of plant.
Once the seedlings have developed their second set of true leaves, you can begin to fertilize them monthly with a water soluble fertilizer. Always choose a fertilizer that does not contain nitrogen. This is the number beside the number 1 in the name.
Nitrogen causes excessive top growth and spindly stems. Slow release pellets are also acceptable. If you use these, follow the package directions for proper application rate.
Zinnias are a great vegetable to plant in a child’s garden. They are easy to grow and can provide hours of amusement as they mature. Zinnias are annuals that typically reach maturity within 75 days from planting.
They can reach heights of 2 to 4 feet. Their preferred growing conditions are temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees and only receive light shade during midday. The flowers come in many different varieties and color patterns. Zinnias make a colorful addition to any flower garden.
Zinnias belong to the Asteraceae family and are related to ragweeds, goldenrods and daisies. There are two main types of zinnias: decorative and vegetable. Decorative zinnias produce only colorful flowers for bouquets while vegetable zinnias are also edible.
Vegetable zinnias have a slightly bitter taste and should be eaten cooked.
Zinnias are known to attract bees and butterflies. They are annuals that grow best in full sun locations in well-drained soil. Zinnia flowers also make attractive additions to salads when they are in their bud stage.
Their colors range from white, purple, pink, red and orange. Earlier varieties mature in about 60 days from planting. The larger varieties can grow up to 4 feet tall.
Zinnia plants come in a wide range of flower colors and types. There are many hybrids and seed varieties of zinnias, including annuals, biennials and short-lifes, so you’re sure to find something that will fit your needs. Zinnias grow best in full sun locations, in well-drained soil.
They also grow best when the soil is kept between 65 and 85 degrees.
Annual Zinnias are typically ready to be harvested in about 75 days from seeding. They grow up to 2-4 feet in height, and make wonderful additions to summer flower beds. They tolerate heat well, so they’re a great flower option for southern gardens.
Many of the annual types send out runners, so if you’re growing them in a bed you may want to trim these off to keep the plants under control. They grow best in loamy soil that contains some organic material, but they can grow in poorer soils too, just don’t expect them to be as colorful or as large. They typically reach maturity at about 1-2 feet in height.
There are a few vegetable forms of zinnias available as well. These include:
Golden zinnia – a type of zinnia that produces edible golden blossoms that taste like spicy broccoli.
Moss rose zinnia – a type of zinnia with a blossom that resembles the moss rose. It has a slightly peppery flavor.
Peruvian dark leaf zinnia – a large plant that can be eaten at any stage of blossom growth, from bud to full bloom. It has a complex, nutty flavor.
Zamia zinnia – a type of zinnia related to the pineapple, and tastes slightly like one too. It is sweetest when the blossom is still closed.
The types of zinnia flowers that are grown for best ornamental appearance are endless. They come in all different colors, shapes and sizes. If you’re looking to add a splash of color to your summer gardens, consider planting a few zinnias.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Jacob’s Well: A case for rethinking family history (JA Amato – 2008 – books.google.com)
- Flowering response of facultative short day ornamental annuals to artificial light intensities (B Jalal-ud-Din, M Munir, M Abid – Pakistan Journal of …, 2013 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org)
- A theory of socioEcological characteristics for food mindfulness (MP Mueller – Revista Brasileira de Pesquisa em Educação em …, 2014 – periodicos.ufmg.br)