Longtime favorites for colorful, round flowers, typically in summer and early fall. Butterflies love them. These are hot-weather plants that don't gain from being planted early; they stand still until weather warms up. Subject to mildew in humid places, if given overhead water, and when autumn brings longer nights, more dew and shade. Moderately resistant to damage by browsing deer. Sow seeds where plants are to grow (or set out nursery plants) from late spring to early summer. Give good garden soil, feed generously. Most garden zinnias belong to Z. elegans.
Z. acerosa. DESERT ZINNIA. Perennial. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. From southern Arizona, Texas, Mexico. To 610 in. high, 2 ft. wide, with hairy, needlelike, 34-in.-long leaves. Flowers are 112 in. wide, with fairly large, creamy white rays veined in green on underside. Blooms sporadically from spring through fall, whenever moisture is present; goes dormant during extended periods of drought.
Z. angustifolia. NARROW-LEAF ZINNIA. One of the best annuals for the South; does not get mildew. Compact growth to 16 in. high and wide, with very narrow leaves to 212 in. long. Orange, 1-in. flowers; each ray has a paler stripe. Blooms in six weeks from seed, continues late into fall. 'Classic' grows to 1 ft. high and 2 ft. wide, has 112-in. flowers. 'Crystal White', 810 in. high and 1 ft. wide, bears 1-in. single flowers in pure white. The Star series, also to 1 by 2 ft., has 2-in. blooms in orange, golden yellow, and white
Z. elegans. COMMON ZINNIA. Annual. From Mexico. Sold in strains ranging from less than a foot high and wide to 4 ft. tall, half as wide. Oval to lance-shaped leaves to 5 in. long; summer flowers from less than 1 in. to as much as 57 in. across. Forms include full double, cactus flowered (with quilled rays), and crested (cushionlike center surrounded by rows of broad rays); the many colors available include white, pink, salmon, rose, red, yellow, orange, lavender, and purple. 'Envy' is a novelty type with lime-green flowers.
Among smaller strains (to about 1 ft.) for edging or foreground are Dasher, very quick to bloom; bushy Dreamland; and large-flowered Magellan and Peter Pan. Mildew-resistant Small World grows just 6 in. tall. All have 3-in. blooms.
Intermediate types include 18-in.-tall Candy Cane, with white or gold flowers heavily speckled with pink, rose, and cherry; 18- to 20-in. Sunbow, with fully double, 112-in. flowers; 112- to 2 ft.-tall Lilliput mix, with 2-in. pompons in red, pink, yellow, lavender, and white; 2-ft.-tall Candy Stripe Mix, with 4-in. white flowers striped with pink, rose, or red; 2- to 212-ft. Sun hybrids, with 5-in. flowers; 212- to 3-ft. Ruffles hybrids, 312-in. blossoms with ruffled rays; and 3-ft. Giant Cactus-flowered Mix, with 4- to 5-in. semidouble blooms.
Tall plants for cutting and back-of-border planting include 4-ft. Benary's Giants (also sold as Park's Picks, Blue Point) and 3-ft., double-blossomed Dahlia-Flowered Mix; both have 4- to 5-in. blooms. 'Big Red Hybrid', to 3 ft., has bright red, 5- to 6-in. flowers. State Fair Mix, also to 3 ft. tall, has 5- to 6-in. double flowers in red, orange, purple, yellow, and pink. 'Zowie! Yellow Flame' is a bicolored selection with rose centers and yellow tips; 24- to 36-in. tall.
Z. grandiflora. ROCKY MOUNTAIN ZINNIA. Perennial in Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11; annual elsewhere. Native to Rocky Mountains, south into Mexico. To 1 ft. high and wide. Bright green leaves to 1 in. long, 18 in. wide. Spring-into-fall flowers are 112 in. wide, bright yellow with orange eye. Survives with no supplemental moisture but needs regular water to bloom satisfactorily.
Z. haageana. ORANGE ZINNIA. Annual. From southeastern U.S., Mexico. To 2 ft. tall, 1 ft. wide. Narrow, 3-in. leaves. Persian Carpet (1 ft. tall) and Old Mexico (16 in. tall) have double blossoms in yellow, orange, and mahogany-red, with all three colors usually mixed in the same flower. Long summer bloom season.
Z. marylandica. Annual. These mildew-resistant selections originated with a cross between Z. angustifolia and Z. elegans. Plants grow 1112 ft. high and wide, with 212-to 312-in. flower heads. Pinwheel series has large single flowers in red, orange, and yellow. Profusion series includes single cherry, orange, and white flowers. Large-flowered Zahara series includes an ever-expanding range of colors; 'Zahara Starlight Rose' is a favorite, with double white flowers centrally marked in deep rose.
Z. peruviana. PERUVIAN ZIN- NIA. Annual. Native from southern U.S. to Argentina. Grows to 3 ft. tall and as wide; leaves to 3 in. long, 114 in. wide. In summer, bears profuse, 112-in. flowers in brick-red or soft gold. Blossoms dry well for arrangements, either in a vase or on the plant. Also called Bonita zinnia or Z. pauciflora.