The common name, garden Cinderella, indicates the level of the zinnia's later transformation. In the late 1800s a French botanist produced the first double zinnias with bright colors. Victorian gardeners grew at least nine or ten varieties of zinnia, but the one preferred above all others was scarlet-rayed zinnia.
In the early 20th century, Luther Burbank created the first dahlia-like zinnia. Today the number of colors and flower forms available is astonishing. Wild zinnias still grow in desert areas and are usually yellow or white with fewer petals than the cultivated varieties. The symbolic meanings associated with zinnias are thoughts of absent friends, lasting affection, constancy, goodness and daily remembrance. Zinnias are the state flower of Indiana.
Zinnias thrive in hot climates and will not grow in cool weather. The seeds need to be sown in mid-April, but not earlier. Zinnias should not be over watered and do not like mildew. A wonderful feature of zinnias is that the flowers that open first stay fresh as new flowers open and begin to bloom.
How to Grow
One of the best things about zinnias is how easy they are to propagate from the seed. These aren't picky hothouse seedlings, so you won't have to baby them with grow lights or special heating pads. If you're really going for ease, simply plant the seeds directly into a prepared bed after the frost date in your area.
If you'd like to get a head start, plant the seeds indoors into potting trays filled with any standard potting soil approximately four to six weeks before the last frost date. Then, once all chance of frost is over, simply transplant the seedlings into your garden. That's another benefit of these hardy flowers, they're not fragile to transplant. You simply prepare a spot for them. So easy, even your kids can help. Just be sure and water thoroughly after transplanting to give them a good start.
For those who don't want to bother with seeds, you can buy pre-started bedding plants, although you won't have as large a choice of varieties and may have to settle for only a few different colors. Many times the bedding plants available at your local garden center are mixed color combinations, which make them almost like an instant mixed bouquet! But if you'd like more control over colors and bloom shapes, go with seeds. If you've never tried planting from seeds, these would be a great plant to start with... that's how easy they are.
Colors and Bloom Styles
Zinnias come in every color of the rainbow except blue, and the bloom shapes vary from single, double, and semi-double. While you're probably more familiar with the typical reds and oranges, try planting a few of the lesser-known colors to see just how great these flowers are in cut arrangements. There are lime-green dahlia-shaped varieties that are spectacular. You could also try many of the newer bi-colored varieties, such as hot pink splashed with vermilion centers, candy-cane stripes in sherbet colors, or white daisy-shaped petals with fuchsia centers.
Whether you grow the huge dahlia-shaped blooms, or smaller button shaped zinnias with row after row of petals, these flowers are made for cutting. In fact, the more you cut them, the more blooms they produce. Due to their long growing season, from summer until fall, you can have indoor bouquets for months.