Bold, colourful zinnias

Judith Adam

Updated on:

Zinnias (Garden Making photo)

There’s nothing subtle about zinnias (Zinnia elegans). Their “in-your-face” attitude appeals to me and I appreciate their big, bold double flowers that flaunt deeply saturated colours all summer. Small cultivars like dwarf ‘Thumbelina’ and the single Zahara and Profusion Series are good for massing in borders or large containers, but what interests me are the tall plants with five-inch (13-cm) blooms that have a visual impact in small numbers at the back of a border, or even standing alone as a specimen.

Zinnias (Garden Making photo)
Zinnias (Garden Making photo)

I’m also drawn to some of the surprising colour combinations (that’s gardener-speak for gaudy) and petal forms in these tall plants, like the ‘Peppermint Stick Mixed’ (pastels streaked with scarlet, 28 inches / 70 cm) and Whirligig Series (vibrant colours tipped with white, 20 inches / 50 cm). But this year I’m returning to an old favourite, the Sun hybrids (

I grew Sun hybrid zinnias way back when I was gardening in an allotment plot. They made beautiful bouquets, and I always returned home with a big armload of these classic flowers. The dahlia-style blooms are consistent and organized in form, with blunt-tipped petals all neatly laid flat, one layer over the other, building into an elegant, fully double flower. This style of this zinnia bloom is more formal, compared to other zinnias that are naturalistic (like the daisy form of the Zahara and Profusion Series) or radically altered (like the giant cactus forms).

The primary colours of Sun hybrids (red, gold, cherry pink and white—the white is sold only in mixed packets) are vibrant and deeply saturated. Compared to other typical zinnia forms, the flowers have a sleek, almost Oriental style. They make wonderful specimens set in with other plants, and that’s how I’ll use them in the front garden where I have the most sun. This style of zinnia flower is also found in the double Benary’s Giant Series (40 to 50 inches / 100 to 125 cm), with a broader colour range, including pastels. Lower growing plants like ‘Magellan’ (12 to 14 inches / 30 to 35 cm) have similar neatly formed blossoms in many colours (including a gorgeous light salmon), though not with the characteristic style of the Sun Series.

Zinnias are perfect for anchoring summer bouquets that include smaller and slimmer flowers. They also look terrific combined in a vase with broad hosta leaves. The flowers will last in a vase for weeks (with fresh water every second day). Leave zinnia foliage intact if it will be above the vase rim and water line, and strip off any leaves on the lower stems.


Other posts by Judith this week:

Posts by Judith this week:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment