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White Zinnias Turn Black Thumbs Green
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Want to enjoy flowering plants all season without labor-intensive care? Zinnia angustifolia Crystal White, one of the All-American Selection flowers for 1997, is the answer.
This group of zinnias have proven to be heat and drought tolerant and have superior flowering in spite of weather conditions. Additional colors include golden-orange, yellow and another white variety named Classic white.
They all have an excellent length of blooming season from planting to killing frost. You can hardly beat that for a bedding plant.
One drawback might be they never look impressive in the jumbo six pack, but if you plant them, you will be surprised how well they perform.
Proper bed preparation, as usual, is important for best results. Spade in or till 3 to 4 inches of organic matter, or make raised beds and use a prepared landscape mix. They need water and adequate nutrients in the soil for maximum performance.
As with all bedding plants, water is crucial while roots spread to the adjacent soil. After they are established, water when there is less than 1 inch of rain in a week. I like to use 20-20-20 slow-release fertilizers once a month.
The zinnia angustifolias prefer full sun and will perform equally well in the landscape or as a container-grown plant. Use them near steps or other garden features for highest visibility at dusk when the pure white, golden-orange or yellow blooms reflect the diminishing sunlight.
The single daisy blooms are attractive, and like all zinnias, they can be cut for bouquets or arrangements. They are highly tolerant of powdery mildew and other common diseases that result in a severe decline in performance. Those of you who frown on other zinnias because of leaf spotting diseases will love these.
Plant them from seed or transplants. The Crystal Whites are pure white with a golden center and reach about 1 to 1 1/4 inch in width. The golden-orange variety has orange on the outer margins of the petals and the appearance of a paint brush stroke of yellow in the middle of the petals.
The yellow zinnias are slightly darker on the petal margins. All the flowers are about the same size, although the orange and yellow plants seem slightly more vigorous.
They work well in combination with other annuals and perennials. I have planted the Crystal White in front of Victoria Blue salvia. The prettiest combination I have was by accident because I forgot how vigorous the Tapien verbenas are.
I have planted the golden-orange zinnias surrounded by Tapien blue-violet and Tapien lavender. They are gorgeous! I also have used them as spot color in the perennial garden. They work well with liatris or gay feather.
A gardener in Meridian told me she planted the yellow zinnias around her mailbox with a pink mandevilla growing up the pole in the center. This sounds equally impressive. As a member of the composite family, they are among the best for butterflies and bees.
If you are looking for a plant as easy as new gold lantana or melampodium, zinnia angustifolias may be the answer. Don't be alarmed when you see the plant in the container. It is the ugly duckling wanting to be your beautiful swan.