Plant Answers  >  Zinnias --- Old Maids in the Garden


Zinnias --- Old Maids in the Garden

Did you know that zinnias used to be known as "old maids?" I'm not sure why, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Zinnias are one of the easiest, showiest, and best cut flowers that can be home grown in East Texas gardens. They haven't always been so showy though. The original wild zinnias from Mexico were small, dull red, and had single petals with a protruding cone in the middle.

According to Peggy Newcomb's Popular Annuals of Eastern North America 1865-1914 (1985) the zinnia was introduced in 1796 with double forms appearing in the mid 1800s. Bernard M'Mahon mentions sowing zinnia seeds in The American Gardener's Calendar (1806). In The Flower Garden (1851) Joseph Breck includes Zinnia elegans and says "The colors are white, pale to dark yellow, orange to scarlet; shades from rose to crimson, from crimson to light purple, lilac, &c." He goes on to say "The flowers are handsome when it first commences the process of blooming; the central part of it, which contains the florets, as they begin to form seed, assume a conic shape, and a brown husky appearance, which gives a coarse, unsightly look." In the American Flower-Garden Directory (1860) Robert Buist notes the varieties coccinea (scarlet), alba (white), and pauciflora (yellow).

Of course today zinnias come in a multitude of colors, sizes, and flower shapes. Some cultivars have been bred for cut flowers while others were developed as summer bedding plants. Many are available as transplants and all are easily grown from seed during warm weather.

Other species of zinnias are cultivated as well. Zinnia angustifolia (Z. linearis), the narrow leafed zinnia from Mexico, is commercially available today in both white and orange flowering forms. It is low growing with multitudes of small daisy-like flowers. It is as excellent summertime bedding plant. Zinnia haageana, the Mexican zinnia is commercially available as well. It is known for its red and yellow bicolored flowers. I have seen the cultivars 'Old Mexico' and 'Persian Carpet' listed.

Whether you're an old maid or not, everybody should have some zinnias to cut in the vegetable garden. Besides, they're prettier than okra and peas.

If you need more accolades and information about Zinnias by Dr. Calvin Finch, go to the "Search:" search engine at the top of the webpage and enter the term "Zinnias" --- IF YOU DARE!!!


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