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What is a Zinnia?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 16, 2024
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Zinnias are annual flowering plants that belong to the family Asteraceae. The name zinnia was coined in the eighteenth century by the Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in honor of his German colleague Johann Gottfried Zinn. Zinn was the first botanist to make a scientific study of these plants.

Originally from Mexico, where the Aztecs cultivated them, zinnias spread around the American continent and then to the rest of the world. For 26 years, until replaced by the peony, the zinnia flower was the state flower of the US American state, Indiana. Over 100 zinnia varieties are available. Popular zinnia types include the Profusion series, Pinwheel, Thumbelina, Persian Carpet, Supreme Variety, Cut and Come Again, Blue Point, Zowie Hybrid, Bonita Red and Benary's Giant.

These plants require warm weather, plenty of sunshine and a well-drained soil to grow in. They are hardy plants and growing zinnias does not involve a great deal of maintenance. In humid climates, mildew may be a problem. This can be resolved by well-spacing plants, watering plants only when required and spraying plants with a baking soda solution.

Zinnia plants are often grown from seeds. The seeds are acquired from the bases of the dead flower heads. Seeds capable of propagating will be green or brown in color. Collect the seeds, dry them well in the sun and then place in a paper bag. Store this paper bag in a cool, dry place until it is time to plant.

Sow seeds in a designated area and water them on a regular basis. Zinnias generally bloom after six weeks from planting. Each plant usually produces a single flower at the end of a long stalk. Zinnia plants of the smaller varieties grow up to 10 inches tall and some varieties can grow up to 4 feet tall.

The flowers, with their wide range of colors, appeal to both gardeners and wild-life. Zinnias normally come in red, orange, yellow, white, pink, lilac, lavender, purple, salmon, green and chartreuse. A host of other colors can be obtained by mix-breeding.

The flowers can be single-petaled, double-petaled, quilled ray petaled, or broad ray petaled flowers. The flower heads have broad, overlapping green bracts or scales under them. Zinnias can range from button-sized to large. The cut flowers make excellent and long-lasting floral displays. Zinnias can last up to a week after cutting, especially if placed in clean water in a clean vase or container immediately.

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