Zinnias are among my favourite summer flowers and always feature prominently in our summer garden. They are very easy to grow and are a great way to attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
I normally sow zinnia seeds from early November onwards, when the risk of frosts has well and truly passed but the ground is at the same time sufficiently moist to aid germination. In saying that, it does depend on where you live. New Zealand’s climate varies dramatically from region to region and I do have to remember that not all of my audience lives in Auckland or even New Zealand for that matter. My personal gardening experiences are limited to our urban homestead in the Auckland region, so please take this into account when considering my advice. On the same token, what grows well in my environment may not necessarily thrive in your own microclimate. So please don’t blame me if things go wrong and varieties I’ve recommended don’t grow well in your garden!
Sowing zinnias from seed
It’s really easy to grow zinnias from seed and it allows you to grow unusual varieties which aren’t found in garden centres. It takes about 90 days until maturity, usually around 70 or so days in the case of dwarf varieties.
For the best results, sow zinnias seeds directly where you want to grow them. Over the years, I have tried raising zinnias in punnets for transplanting later, but I found that germination rates were very low. If you’ve left it too late or don’t want to start them from seed, look out for zinnia plants in garden centres from October onwards. You can try your local Palmers store. Awapuni also sell a range of zinnia seedlings and deliver direct to your door. Delivery is free if you order seven bundles or more.
If you’re planning to grow zinnias from seed, you’ll find that they come in an impressive array of colours, sizes and heights. Zinnias come in red, orange, yellow, light pink, cherry pink, peach, white, lime green and purple. Zinnias are either dwarf, medium or tall in height. There are some fantastic varieties of zinnia seeds on the market. Popular dwarf varieties include Fairyland Mix F1 (Egmont Seeds) and Profusion Mix (Egmont Seeds). The Zahara range produces lovely medium sized flowers. Try growing Zahara Double Raspberry Ripple, Zahara Raspberry Lemonade Mix and Zahara Yellow (all from Egmont Seeds). For tall zinnias, you can’t go past Queen Lime (Egmont Seeds). To order seeds from the very extensive Egmont Seeds range, visit http://www.egmontseeds.co.nz/.
How to care for zinnia plants
Zinnias need at least 6 hours of sunshine per day, so be sure to sow seeds in the sunniest spot in your garden. Before sowing zinnia seeds, take the time to prepare the bed properly so plants receive adequate nutrition. Dig the area over that you wish to plant your seedlings in. Mix plenty of compost and some sheep pellets into the ground. I highly recommend Gardn Gro’s Wonder Nuggets, which are 100% organic and function as an excellent fertiliser. Rake the ground so that it is nice and level before sowing and covering the seeds. Be sure to water plants every day, preferably early in the morning or in the evening. Liquid feed zinnias weekly to encourage the growth of healthy leaves and the formation of flowers.
Zinnias are an annual which means that they will grow, set seed and die after one growing season. You will need to re-sow zinnia seeds for next year as in my experience they do not self-seed readily unlike many other annuals.