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Gardening From Southern California

by Gerald Burke
by Gerald Burke


Gerald Burke is a freelance travel and horticultural writer. He spent 35 years in the seed business, 30 of them with Burpee, and is a member of the Garden Writers Association and the North American Travel Journalists Association

April 8, 2007

Summer is zinnia time, and if you want tall zinnias in the garden for beauty and for cutting, now is the time to plant from seed or started plants. Tall zinnias take longer to get to the bloom stage, so they need to go into the garden in early spring to bloom well until late fall.

Plant breeders have worked on many new tall zinnias over the last few years and have come up with some good ones. The “Swizzles”, tall zinnias with multi-colored blooms, and Oklahoma Mixture are relatively new and add a different look to tall zinnias. But some of the very good older varieties have made a comeback and if you look at seed catalogs you’ll find some interesting varieties to try.

The standard for mixtures of tall zinnias for many years has been dahlia flowered mix, California Giant Mix, and cactus flowered mix. I haven’t seen California Giant mixture for some time, but several seed catalogs list dahlia flowered mixtures, and cactus flowered mixture, and lately I’ve noticed some of the separate colors of those good mixtures. And another good, but old mixture, State Fair Mix is in Burpee’s catalog this year.

Burpee also lists a couple of separate colors from the old dahlia flowered type. Exquisite is one with blooms that start out bright red and fade to a soft rose pink as they mature. The other is Purple Prince, which has always been a favorite of mine. It’s a rosy purple that holds its color well and has big blooms four to five inches across.

Park Seed Company lists an older mixture of the cactus flowered zinnias, Bright Jewels Mix, as well as the old Candy Stripe, with blooms that are white splashed and striped with red and pink.

You may have trouble finding these tall zinnias as started plants, except in four inch or gallon sized plants, a little expensive for zinnias. Bedding plant growers don’t like these tall flowered plants in packs because they won’t bloom in the pack, but zinnias of all types are very easy to start from seed, and seed planted this month will germinate quickly , grow well and be in bloom by late June and July. Seed racks will have some tall zinnias.

Start zinnia seed in a sunny spot, keep well watered to germinate, and when the plants are around three inches tall transplant, being careful to keep as much soil with the roots as possible. Zinnias don’t like to be transplanted, but if you’re careful it works. Started plants should be spaced eight to 12 inches apart. And bait for snails when you transplant.

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