Zinnias are colorful summer annuals that are practically care-free and a great choice for beginner gardeners. The zinnia is a rewarding plant especially for those of you who have never started flowers from seeds before.

Colorful zinnias
A cutting garden of colorful zinnias
© Thinkstock

Rewarding is an understatement actually! From early summer, you will pick dozens of flowers from just a small zinnia patch and it continues to produce all season long. The bees and butterflies love them too so you might pick blooms right out from under the insects, so give a quick "sorry" as you run off to put them in a vase.

Oklahoma Carmine Rose Zinnia
Oklahoma Carmine Rose zinnia
© Kathy Jentz

Zinnias come in an array of colors from soft pastels to bright neons. Your own tastes will dictate which you prefer. Or try combinations such as ‘Queen Lime Green’ and ‘Uproar Rose’ in one bed. ‘Oklahoma Pink’ is another favorite producing full double blooms that are 1-1/2 to 2-1/2″ across and demand a featured section by itself.

To start zinnias from seed, clear off a patch of soil in a sunny area of your garden. Here in the humid Mid-Atlantic US, good wind circulation is a must as zinnias are vulnerable to powdery mildew, so make sure it's out in the open and not next to a brick wall or blocked by tall shrubs. If your plants do get powdery mildew, they will still keep on flowering and growing. The lower-foliage will just not be very nice and you will want to strip that off anyway when you add them to a vase.

To sow the seed, scratch a few lines in the ground and then sow your seeds according to the package instructions. Water them in well. If it doesn't rain consistently, give them supplemental water, but usually they are fine without it.

Cut zinnias in a bouquet
Zinnias add brilliant color in cheery floral bouquet
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The only other care note is to have your floral snips handy whenever you are in the garden as once they start blooming, you will want to pick them practically daily. The more you cut them, the more flowers they produce.

And it is not too late for this growing season! Zinnia seeds planted as late as early August can be picked by the end of September and keep producing through October.

Some great companions for zinnias in both the cutting garden and the vase include: Lemon Basil, ornamental Sunflowers, Cosmos, Marigolds and Celosia.

For container-grown zinnias, pick one of the many dwarf, compact varieties available. Fertilize your plants more often than those planted in the ground as the soil in containers quickly becomes depleted of nutrients. Try Natural Start by GreenView All Purpose Plant Food for bigger plants with more blossoms and more vibrant blooms.

By Kathy Jentz