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Zinnias: The Gateway Flower

A decade ago I began working on a flower farm. Before that, I worked on farms that primarily grew veggies and fruit, and I thought planting flowers was a waste of space. I believed “Why would I plant a flower when I can plant something that can feed someone.”

Oh, how the tides have turned. Now I believe that feeding our souls with flowers and beauty is just as important as feeding our bellies food.

A bucket of zinnias, mountains, smile, flower farm
This is me believing that flowers are just as valuable as food

On the first day of flower farming, I got to pick zinnias and I was hooked! Their cheery little faces, happy colors, and ruffly petals make me smile every. single. time. We are lucky because Zinnias love to grow here! They love the summer heat and dry climate. Living near the coast where I first encountered them, we battled powdery mildew. This is a fungus that looks like a gallon of poisonous milk was dumped on everything because the leaves fall off and the stems get all white, it is a rough one to deal with. Luckily, here in the high and dry mountains, these little beauties thrive all summer.

I’m going to share some of my favorite zinnia growing tips with you so you can have these happy little flower souls in your garden too.

Salmon Rose Zinnia
Salmon Rose in all her Summer glory

Zinnias don’t like to be transplanted. I’ve found that transplanting stunts them and they have a hard time getting established. I love to direct seed them because they’re so forgiving and rewarding! Zinnias pop up after 3-5 days and even though they’re sensitive to frost, they’re not too picky about soil (though the blooms will be larger and more prolific if they’re well-fed). Plant them in full sun, in early to Mid-May and you’ll have flowers by mid-July. They are not frost tolerant so keep an eye on the weather and cover them with frost cloth if that sneaky Memorial Day frost comes creepin'.

Pinch them. Not like *ouch* but take out the central stem when they are 4-6 inches high and you will be rewarded with many more blooms. In the video below you can see that without pinching there is 1 single stem, but when you remove the central stem when they’re small, you get waaaaayyy more blooms! You can see with my comparison that I have 8 stems in instead of one, pinching is definitely worth it for zinnias!

Wait for strong stems. If you want to harvest these beauties as cut flowers you have to wait. But not too long. If you harvest them too early they have weak necks and will wilt. You’ve got to give them the “wiggle test.” If you give the stem a little shake and the head moves with the stem it’s ready, if the head wiggles back and forth? Give it a few days until the stem is stiffer, it will pay off.

Varieties and sources that I am loving this year:

I hope you add these signature summer flowers to your line-up, they are worth every inch in your garden!

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