Also known as: Zinnia Elegans

Perhaps the hottest flowers in the garden, zinnias provide a bold spot of color in the middle of a field of green. Part of the aster family, it shares characteristics with all of the Mexican flowers and brings a little of the culture's heat to a sunny border. If you're looking to attract butterflies, then zinnias are your flower – in fact, many gardeners plant them just to get the insects to come to their yard.

Zinnias get their name from the famous German botanist, Zinn, who discovered them and wrote about them in the 1700s. Funnily enough, the Aztecs named the flowers "mal de ojos", which means "hard on the eyes". They make a great cut flower that keeps giving – the more you cut zinnias, the more they will bloom. This is also true of some varieties of cosmos, another member of the daisy family.

The flowers have a variety of shapes, from a domed cabbage-like flowerhead to a blossom that resembles a daisy. They can come in red, yellow, chartreuse, purple, orange, pink or white, or bicolored, normally red and orange or pink and white. The leaves are dark green and sandpapery, pointed with a pronounced stem. Zinnias can grow up to 36 inches high and spread out to a foot. Plant them after the last frost and space them about a foot apart.

Growing Zinnias

Zinnias, like other members of the aster family, need full sun and well-drained soil. However, they also need a moist, fertile environment to grow tall. Zinnias do not like to be transplanted, so if you are propagating from seed, it's suggested that you plant them in peat pots so not to disturb the roots. Deadhead the flowers to encourage more plant growth later in the season. Zinnias are drought-tolerant, but benefit from a good soaking when the soil dries out. Try not to wet the leaves.

Recommended Varieties

Zinnia elegans has many of the most common varieties and comes in several flowering cultivars, including single, double and cactus flowered, which means that the petals appear to be rolled into tubes. Many other varieties, like "California Giants" and "Peter Pan" will grow tall and will spice up your garden.

Landscape Design Tips

Zinnias are beautiful in borders, beds and especially in cutting gardens. They can also be used as edging plants, if you plant dwarf varieties. Remember to plant zinnias and other asters in a dry, sunny location, this gardening tip ensures that they can thrive in the heat.

Gardening Zones

Zinnias are hardy in zones 3 to 11.

Pests and Problems

Zinnias can experience mildew and mold if water is allowed to sit on the leaves and blooms. To prevent this, give the flowers a gentle shake after a rainstorm or after watering. Also, provide a good, well-drained soil. In terms of pest control, as mentioned previously these plants attract butterflies so be warned you can expect to see more of them in your garden.