Zinnia a summer powerhouse

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

By this time in august the vegetable garden has almost played out with the exception of a few select pepper plants and if I’m real fortunate a tomato plant or two. Due to the excessive heat and humidity not much likes to grow and flourish this time of year.

It is during this time when I find the vegetable garden can look quite dull and depressed and I really appreciate the mixed variety of companion pollinator plants in the vegetable beds, most still blooming. Sunflowers, penstemon, daisy, marigolds, aster, zinnia and many more brighten the exhausted beds with their colorful blooms.

Of all the summertime bloomers the Zinnia shines the brightest and performs the strongest during this time of transition in the garden. The colorful zinnia is a genus of plants of the Sunflower (Asteraceae) family. There are many different species of zinnia.

A native to South America and the dry grasslands of the southwestern United States. They can withstand the hot summer temperatures of our region in full sun. They are extremely easy to propagate from seed in the garden, and one of the very few annuals that I deem worthy to be incorporated into my pollinator plots.

Zinnia’s have upright sturdy stems ranging in height from four to 40 inches. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds and are a great defense against white flies in the garden. They generally don’t require mulching and when planted in mass shade out a lot of weeds. They are also a popular cut flower used in floral arrangements due to the variety of their colors and bloom shapes.

Their blooms have a broad range of appearance from single row of petals to dome shaped flowers with many rows of petals. Colors vary and can be white, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, purple or lilac. I delight in sprinkling a mixed variety of zinnia seeds every spring in the garden. Two of my favorite varieties are Persian Carpet and Benary’s Giant.’

I am usually not a big proponent of the annual plant family. However the zinnia has won me over with its ease of propagation, pest fighting benefits, strength to withstand the extreme summer conditions and most of all its wide variety of beautiful blooms in so many different colors, shapes and sizes.

Dawn Conrad can be reached at conrad.gardenmuse@gmail.com or fb.me/Conrad.gardenmuse.