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Zinnias May Claim Top Title In Flower Gardens
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
You read about all sorts of plant enthusiasts claiming certain flowers are the Queen of Flowers. To a rose lover it's the rose, to a camellia lover it is the camellia, and so the story goes with daylilies and hostas.
For the vase, for color, for butterflies and for ease of growing, there is much to be said for the old fashioned zinnia as the Queen of the Flower Garden. Many a young grower gets their gardening teeth cut on this flower.
There is a revival going on in the world of zinnias. It's as if people woke up and realized this flower is still great. Couple that realization with some new selections and our landscape can be full of color for months on end.
I suspect that many stopped growing the tall Old-fashioned County Fair and cactus-flowered types because of leaf spotting. Leaf spotting does occur, but much of that is our fault. We see this happen with many vegetable crops.
The seeds germinate so easily and the stand of seedlings is awesome that many a gardener doesn't have the willpower to thin zinnias to a proper spacing. Many find themselves growing four to six plants in a space where only one should be. The result is a poor microclimate for this beloved flower. This is a case where the spouse with the weakness needs to have their mate go out and thin. The result will be a truckload of cut flowers.
You might think of zinnias in four groups of dwarf bedding, tall cut flower types, spreading zinnias and landscape zinnias. All will work in the landscape if planned properly. The dwarf bedding group has one of my favorite series called Dreamland. Dreamlands have the same giant dahlia shape flowers but only get about 24 inches tall. They have performed really well throughout the South with little disease pressure.
The tall cut flower group has a lot of varieties and has for the most part been sold as mixtures. Recently they have become more readily available as single colors which I really like. This allows us to plant them in bold drifts. Remember to space as recommended.
The spreading zinnias, also known as narrow leaf zinnias or zinnia angustifolia, were chosen as Mississippi Medallion winners last year. The Star series with orange and gold and Crystal White are the most popular varieties. The current issue of Southern Living magazine touts them as outstanding.
The landscape zinnia group is actually a hybrid of the tall and the narrowleaf. Two varieties in the Profusion series, orange and cherry, were chosen as All America Selections for 1999 Gold Medal winners. This is the first time that two zinnias have received the coveted award.
From the displays I have seen, these zinnias are worthy of the award. Profusion orange and cherry are winners because of proven disease tolerances noted at all test sites in North America. I saw these plants at the test at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
Flowers bloom on 18-inch-tall plants and reach a height of about 20 inches. They are mounded, giving good color on all sides of the plant. This makes them very suitable for rock type gardens. You will want to plant your in well-prepared, well-drained beds about 16 inches apart. For a really show stopping display, mass about a dozen of the Profusion orange in combination with blue ageratums.
The Profusion cherry works exceptionally well with the New Gold lantana and variegated grasses like the zebra or one that is fairly new to the market called Carex, or Japanese sedge.
Zinnias are also great for late summer and fall plantings and will be prominently displayed at this year's Fall Garden Day at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs, Oct. 15 and 16.