Zinnias always lend an exotic touch to the summer garden with their vibrant and intriguingly shaped blooms. They luxuriate in sun, preferring a sheltered spot, but once established are durable and drought-resistant, and will flower their hearts out to summer’s end. They’re highly attractive to pollinators, particularly butterflies, especially single, open-flowered varieties so you’re guaranteed a fly-by spectacle, too!
Their habits vary, from mound-forming varieties to ones which are taller, upright and open. This is due to the range of parent species and hybrids involved in the breeder’s work, so choose ones which meet your need – tall, upright ones as gap-fillers, to the dwarfer kinds for border frontages and pots, either on their own or in association with others.
They do best in a warm, well-drained soil and although benefitting from an occasional high potash liquid feed, they don’t need fertile conditions, performing well on light, poor soils, in as sunnier a position as possible. While continual cool, wet weather can hamper performance, the more compact types, such as ‘Zahara Starlight Rose’ will also stand up better to our capricious summer weather.
Besides single colours, many varieties have been blended to create multi-coloured mixtures which will add jazzy pops of colour. Taller varieties also make good, long-lasting cut flowers. At this time of year you can sow them in seed trays under glass, pricking out seedlings and growing on in 7.5cm (3in) pots before planting out in June, or sow seeds directly. You can also nip down to the garden centre as it’s likely there will be zinnia plants available in trays ready for planting out.
Plants should be spaced around 25cm (10in) apart. Pinch out the tips of young plantlets of taller varieties to encourage them to bush and clip off spent flowers to encourage more to form.
See below for our pick of zesty zinnias
Quirky variety, some with fluffy domes on peach blooms. H: 60cm (2ft).