The City Magazine Since 1975

The Best & The Brightest

May 2017
The Best & The Brightest
WRITER: 

Make the most of a sunny spot with these superstar zinnia selections

‘Summer Solstice’ is a stand-out cultivar of Zinnia angustifolia, which shares a bushier growth habit with Zinnia haageana (try ’Persian Carpet’). The leggier Zinnia elegans is called “common zinnia,” yet cultivars like ‘California Giants’ and ‘Peppermint Stick’ (center) look uncommon indeed.

Zinnias reign as the easiest and most rewarding summer flowers to grow from seed, adding quick color plus cottage-garden charm to the landscape and attracting butterflies to boot. The question is, do you want the annuals towering up to five feet tall, or would you prefer cheery clusters at the front of a lush border? Do peppermint hues sound tempting, or are you craving more golden tones?

Let’s consider some options, beginning with the most widely grown species, Zinnia elegans. Called “common zinnia,” it comes in a wide array of cultivars, all featuring upright, hairy, branching stems. One of the best picks for adding height to a cut-flower bed is ‘California Giants’, as its stems reach three to five feet tall and its blooms are large and slow to fade. Though smaller in stature, ‘Peppermint Stick’ is equally striking, with each of its blossoms opening to reveal a surprise combination of speckles and stripes.

Zinnia angustifolia, or creeping zinnia, is a popular choice for containers and mass plantings and tends to be more disease-resistant than its elegans cousins. Try the heat-tolerant ‘Summer Solstice’, which grows about 12 inches tall and offers up quarter-sized orange, white, and yellow blossoms. Another bushy, narrow-leaved variety is Zinnia haageana, of which ‘Persian Carpet’ is a favorite for its bicolor flowers in shades of orange, red, and cream.

Before planting seeds in a full-sun spot, remove weeds and amend the soil with compost. If you’re lucky (and careful), you’ll have blooms until the first frost—the more you cut, the more your plants will produce!


Looking for the perfect zinnias to suit your color palette? 

Check out these seed mixes:

‘Fireball Blend’: Intense red and orange blooms

■ ‘Art Deco’: Large pink, lavender, and royal purple flowers

‘Northern Lights Blend’: Burgundy hues offset by pinks and purples

‘Fantasy’: Long, rolled petals on extra-big pink, lilac, red, and white flowers

Resources: 

Photographs courtesy of (seed packets) Botanical Interests & (‘Peppermint Stick’) Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, www.rareseeds.com