Seeds for Beginners: Zinnias

Jill Staake

It’s that time of year again… seed catalog time! Page after page of brilliant blooms and luscious vegetables are arriving in your mailbox now, and as you flip through, you can’t help but be tempted. I know I always am. The thing is (and I’m making a confession here) – I’m terrible at growing things from seed. I have a bad habit of neglecting the seedlings, postponing the transplanting too long, and ultimately wasting a lot of money in failed seed experiments. However, there are a few species of seeds that are pretty much fool-proof, and even I can’t screw them up too much. If I can start these seeds, you can too. Over my next few posts, I’ll be sharing my recommendations for Seeds for Beginners, beginning with today’s focus – zinnias.

A Little About Zinnias:

Zinnias are New World flowers, with native habitat stretching from the Southern U.S. down to South America. Mexico is a hotspot for this genus, with the most diversity occurring there, including the most familiar species, Zinnia elegans. As you might expect from their natural growing areas, zinnias tolerate heat well, although some species are susceptible to mildew. Advances in breeding and hybridization have produced species and cultivars that are very disease-resistant, performing well even in the muggy summers of the Southeast. Zinnias are annuals, and many self-sow readily in the garden each year. Zinnias are a must-have in a butterfly garden, and hummingbirds enjoy some of the species as well.

Why I Love Zinnias from Seed:

  • You can start these indoors or broad sow them outdoors, with equal success.
  • The seeds are a decent size, and don’t disappear once you pour them into your hand.
  • No special preparation of the seeds is required – just drop them in and let them go.
  • They sprout quickly and grow like wildfire once they get going.
  • Though you can’t let seedlings dry out completely, if you miss a day or two of watering, they perk up pretty quickly when you do water again.

Five Zinnias to Try:

  1. Profusion Apricot (Zinnia hybrida, Park Seed)
  2. Zowie! Yellow Flame (Zinnia elegans, Park Seed)
  3. Queen Red Lime (Zinnia elegans, Burpee)
  4. Raspberry Lemonade Mix (Zinnia marylandica, Burpee)
  5. Envy (Zinnia elegans, Park Seed)
Seed Starting Resources:
If you agree that zinnias are easy to start from seed, drop your own tips and words of encouragement in the comments below to help others get the confidence to try them too!
  1. Mary Kosak says

    I love growing zinnia’s and have grown them for about 50 years. just make sure you have them planted far enough apart so that you can get the maximum out of each plant ant cut down on powdery mildew. they even work well as a dried bouquet if you use the dark colors.

  2. says

    These are my favorite! Easy and nearly no care. just some water every now and then. They just keep on giving. I grow them every year and keep cut flowers in the house and take bouquets to everyone and they are always so impressed-like I really did something! They do it all!

  3. Sandra Welte says

    Last few years I have had trouble starting plants from seed outside in the flower garden! Not sure if it is the seed or me! Seems that my daughter and I have both had problems and I never used to! Is it the seeds? Marigolds was another impossible one to start the last couple years! Even from new packets of seeds! Any suggestions!??

  4. nancy says

    I have had problems withn every kind of seeds I have tried in recent years. Used to grow all of my own plants-even some perenials from seed. So something has to be wrong with the seeds. Have they been sprayed with something or something that makes them not viable?? Have tried both indoors and out–and have sort of given up. I have been gardening for over sixty years ! Any ideas, anyone ??My daughter has had the same problems.

  5. says

    I’ve never grown Zinnias from seed before, reading your post has made me curious to find out how I would do. I think I’ll have to go get a packet of seed and try it out this year!

  6. S.Lynn says

    I, too, had trouble starting them last year. Must have planted them 5 different times. The last time they finally took. The California weather was weird last year. Late rain/freeze ruined our chances for peaches, almonds and apricots. Hopefully this year the weather will “cooperate” and we’ll have a bumper crop of everything, including zinnias. But my bulbs did great.

  7. says

    In the spring when my Mums have strong & healthy stalks, I cut off tops leaving approx. 5″ left standing. Using large prob (my husbands screw-driver) I punch holes in ground (approx 5 -6″deep) wherever new plants are needed, put the strongest trimmed top into hole. This works best just after a good rain. I do this from first trimming until 1st of July. Always successful. Another hint, when they are in full bloom, I mark the color for reference for the next year. Elaine Ray, Greenwich, Ohio

  8. says

    I may be mistaken, but I thought zinnias did not like to be transplanted, so were not an option for early starting inside. I had always read they had to be direct sown in the garden or spot where they were to grow. It would be nice if this were no longer true????? Any discussion

  9. Mike Malley says

    I thank everyone for their posts. Never too old to learn. We are giving up on square ft beds and turning to flowers in pots. The bending and weeding and watering have taken there toll. The posts about zin-babies were outstanding.. Thank You, Senior-Chief8———-

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