2011: The Year of the Zinnia!

zinnia "Giant Double Mix" photo: National Garden Bureau

Well at last, there’s some long overdue recognition for a great annual, a garden workhorse, and an all around terrific plant. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2011 National Garden Bureau Plant of the Year for 2011 is…the zinnia! Think of the thousands of plants  the zinnia had to beat out to receive this accolade. Totally deserving, I say, and the National Garden Bureau obviously feels the same way.

But the Bureau’s news release explains that zinnias were not always admired: “When the Spanish first saw zinnia species in Mexico, they thought the flower was so unattractive they named it mal de ojos, or “sickness of the eye!” For a detailed history of the zinnia, (perhaps more than you ever wanted to know) click here.

Zinnias are members of the Asteraceae family. There are more than 12 species, but it’s  Zinnia elegans (syn. Z. violacea) that we see most often in gardens. Then there’s the lesser known, small-flowered angustifolia, a low cultivar which I have grown and liked.

zinnia "Crystal White" photo: National Garden Bureau

A great thing about zinnias is how many different types and different growing habits there are. The compact, spreading cultivars like “Profusion”  and “Crystal White” are very popular these days.  I prefer the in-your-face impact of the large, intensely colored cultivars, especially the new “Benary’s Giants” which were introduced last year. These are tall, upright plants, easy to start from seed, that form a wonderful hedge of color, which is very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. If you care to read more of my gushing about the Benary’s, go here.

A few other things I like about these plants: they are great for cutting, they don’t need staking, and they are quite low maintenance. At the end of the last season, the Benary’s were showing signs of powdery mildew, but that wasn’t until I was almost ready to yank them, anyway. The best way to prevent this is to avoid getting water on the foliage – impossible, of course in a rainy summer.

I know that some gardeners look upon zinnias with disdain. Too bad for them. To me, a summer garden just isn’t complete without them.


About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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6 Responses to 2011: The Year of the Zinnia!

  1. gardenpest says:

    Appreciated your high spirited voice in this article and I’m also a fan with a hurting heart. Mmmm, my garden: direct sun limited to 4 hrs.

    My heart is beating fast as I ask this question: is there any Zinnia that is less intolerant of 4 hrs of direct sun and subsequent dappled sun?

    I suspect no but still break it to me gently. Thanks.

    To all you full sun gardeners out there, lucky you.


  2. Wendy says:

    I think I would agree. I’ve noticed that whenever a garden catches my eye from the street, it’s always because of the zinnias. I think I’m going to be sure to plant some this year. oh – thanks for your tip on my orchid by the way. The mix is on my shopping list.


    • dirtynailz says:

      I love the impact of Zinnias, and the fact that you can cut some for a nice bouquet.
      When re-potting your orchid, please remember that you have to soak the medium for about a week to saturate it. If you don’t (I have made this mistake) the dry medium sucks in all the moisture when you water, and the plant dies of thirst. You can add a drop or two of Superthrive to the soaking water to encourage root growth after re-potting.


  3. Diane says:

    Thanks for blogging about the National Garden Bureau’s Year of the Zinnia. We love our zinnias!


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