If you ever tried to grow Dahlias in central Texas, you must have realized that they are a pain. Although Dahlias need warm winter to survive, they do not enjoy constant high heat. Fortunately, there is a good alternative option, which is zinnias. The latter is the little cousin of Dahlias and requires minimal attention, and with the varieties offered today, there is something for everyone. So would you reconsider and consider Zinnia as the new dahlia for your Texas garden?
The history of the zinnia flower
Zinnia flowers originated in Latin America. They were brought to Europe by the Spaniards in the 16th century, but they were not cultivated until the late 1700s. When the first zinnia seed was introduced to the public, only French people were interested in it. They bred it and developed stable double flowers, which then the rest of Europe grew fond of. In the 1860s, zinnias made their way back to North America, where it was gaining popularity.
Later on, dwarf zinnia was brought from Mexico and made its way through to the seed house, where it was made available to gardeners.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of zinnia, you can find it here.
Growing zinnia in Texas
Zinnia is an annual flower that grows in the warm season. They are heat-loving and drought tolerant, which makes them a great choice for a Texas garden. They grow from Spring till the first killing frost. The original plant does not come back, but it reseeds itself easily. The blooms come in three different forms: single, semi-double, and double.
The single blooming zinnia is very similar to a daisy. It holds one row of petals. The double-blooming one holds many rows of petals and can be quite big, reminding us of its cousin, the Dahlia. The semi-double variety is in between but is the most popular.
There is another differentiating criterion, and that is the growth habit of the plant. Some varieties grow as tall as five feet. They are great for a backdrop or cut flowers. Other zinnia varieties are short or dwarf, so they make a very nice flower border.
How to grow zinnia
Growing zinnia from seed vs transplants
The best and easiest way to grow zinnias is from seed. Not only you will have access to unique selections, but you will also be able to have a full bed of them using only one packet.
Choose the right site
Zinnias prefer full sun, but they can take some afternoon shade. The soil has to be well-draining and slightly loose. You may add some well-rotted compost to improve the texture and drainage of any type of soil.
How to sow zinnia seeds?
There is nothing easier than growing zinnias. Scatter the seeds sparingly in the chosen area, then lightly cover them with soil to prevent birds from eating them. You can also protect them with a mesh cover until they sprout.
How far to space your zinnias?
Following the scattering method allows us to imitate nature and create clusters of plants. Some gardening experts recommend 4 to 12 inches apart, but I do not really follow that rule. Naturally, only the strong seedling will make it and grow strong.
How to water zinnia?
Like we mentioned before, zinnias are heat-loving and drought-tolerant. Water lightly, in the beginning, to keep the soil moist for the seeds to germinate. Once the plant is fully grown, it can take some dry time, but not for too long. Water again whenever you notice the plant looking droopy in the morning.
Preparing the soil, in the beginning, is very important. Rich soil is full of life and can be quite self-sufficient. The organisms living in the soil will feed the plants growing in it. For that matter, zinnias may not need extra feeding if the soil is rich. Otherwise, a supplemental feed with fish emulsion or seaweed won’t hurt.
If you are growing the tall varieties, harvest the bloom frequently and make flower arrangements out of them. If you are growing the dwarf varieties, remove spent blooms. This will ensure continuous bloom time through the season and a neat-looking plant.
Does the zinnia plant have any problems?
The main problem you can face while growing zinnias is mildew. It is a fungal disease that manifests in a form of whitish spots on the leaves. It mostly occurs when the weather is hot and humid. Luckily, the plant recovers once the favorable elements disappear.
To keep zinnia plants healthy, prevent the spread of the disease by removing the affected part immediately. Discard them away from the garden to stop the spread of the spores.
Spray the plant with an organic fungicide or a homemade solution, if the problem persists.
How to propagate zinnia?
There are two ways of propagating zinnias, and that is by saving seeds or rooting cuttings.
How to save zinnia seeds?
- Zinnia seeds have and arrow-like shape. They are attached to the base of the petals and in between the folds.
- To save zinnia seeds allow the flower to mature and dry out.
- Using your thumbs, press and push away to allow the seeds to fall off.
- You can pinch out the ones attached to the pertals.
- Save the seed in paper bag or glass jar, away from any humidity.
How root zinnia cuttings?
Although, I find this method not worth the effort since using seed is much easier. Rooting cutting may take weeks.
- Take nice healthy cuttings from a plant.
- Make sure to have one to two nodes (where new growth appears)
- Remove the leaves except for the top ones.
- Dip the bottom of the stem in rooting hormone (optional)
- Insert it carefully in a container filled with moist soil.
- Maintain even moisture until new growth appears.
- Tug the stem gently to feel any resistance. If there is resitance, the roots are forming.
Are zinnia flowers good for drying?
Not really. Zinnias do not look good after drying unless you use silica beads.
- Fill up a container with silica beads halfway.
- Place the flower face down.
- Cover them with more silica.
- Follow directions on the package as for how long you should wait.