Caring for Your Zinnias
Zinnias are flowering plants that are mostly native to Southwest America and Mexico. They produce beautiful, showy flowers in a variety of sizes and bright shades. The zinnia is a popular plant because it is very easy to grow and maintain in most gardens. Butterflies love zinnias and are sure to flock to your garden if you plant these vibrant flowers.
Soil and Planting
Zinnias require well-drained soil that does not retain excessive water, but remains moist. The soil must be rich with high humus content, which is essential to the growth of healthy, abundant flowers. These plants also require full exposure to bright sunlight. Choose a sunny spot in your garden and prepare the planting spot by raking it and applying a suitable fertilizer. Ensure that there is no chance of frost or the plant will not sprout.
Plant zinnias in spring by sowing the seeds about ¼-inch deep in the soil. Space each seed about a foot apart from the next. Cover the seeds with some soil, and water gently.
Apply a layer of organic mulch a couple of inches thick around the soil. This prevents excess evaporation and ensures that moisture is retained. Mulching also keeps weed formation to a minimum and protects the roots from extreme temperature fluctuations. It also offers a certain degree of protection against pests.
Watering and Fertilization
Zinnias are somewhat resistant to dry conditions, but will only grow well if watered regularly. Supply at least an inch of water every week during dry, hot weather. When watering, soak the soil so that it is moist, but not soggy. Never over-water because this will cause water-logging. Avoid watering the foliage, because zinnias are susceptible to mold and fungal problems if the leaves are left wet. Make sure you dry excess water after a rainfall, or if you wet the foliage when watering. One way of doing this is by watering the plants in the morning, so that the foliage can dry itself during the day.
Young plants require regular fertilization, which can be provided by applying an all-purpose fertilizer about once a month. Apply a small amount of fertilizer by sprinkling it on the soil. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers, which will cause a lush growth in foliage, but will lead to a shortage in flowers.
Pruning and Maintenance
You can encourage lush growth in the zinnia plant by plucking off the ends of stems in young plants as they grow. Deadhead zinnias promptly, to encourage new flowers. Zinnias thrive on pruning, and must be pruned regularly as they grow. Avoid cutting back large portions of the plant, as this will affect the development of the plant. Deadheading and regular pruning will keep the plant looking attractive as it grows, while increasing the available supply of air as well.
If you are planting a tall variety of zinnias, the plant will need support after a few weeks of growth. Fix a stake in the soil, close to the plant stem. Leave at least a couple of inches of space between the plant and the stake, so that the stem has enough area for growth.
Zinnias are resistant to most pests and diseases if provided the proper supply of water and air. You can also avoid and control most problems by using fungicides or insecticidal soap when you see an infestation or disease.