Why not grow your own summer color from zinnias? Seeds sprout quickly and you can have transplants ready for sunny landscape sites in four to six weeks. And the color should last through fall.
My experiences with zinnias go back sixty or so years. Do you remember selling seeds in school? Not popcorn, chocolates, wrapping paper and such students sell today as a fund raiser but boxes or packets of seeds? Well, my Mom bought the whole box of 22 packets for a dollar and one flower packet was zinnias. They were California Giants that grew to about four feet tall. I still can grow these today.
But there are more zinnias to grow today and some of the best are small flowered and only grow a foot or so tall and wide. Yes we still have the tall types too and one of my favorites is the cactus flowered flourishing in my garden.
Zinnias are native to Mexico and I assume they naturally like the hot weather. They do prefer the lower humidity that helps control diseases but newer varieties seem to be more resistant to fungal problems and grow spring through fall.
I start my zinnias by sowing seeds in small containers using potting soil. Don't sow anymore seeds than you want plants. About 20 to 30 sown seeds should be fine as most germinate. After seeds start to grow, give them full sun, a moist soil and weekly half strength fertilizer applications. When two to three inches tall transplant one seedling to a small pot or cell of a cell pack. With about two to three more weeks of growth they should be ready for the garden.
Give zinnias a full sun and airy location where you can enjoy the blooms. Small flowered types are usually compact and can be grown in containers. Keep moist and fertilize in ground and container plantings with a slow release fertilizer following label instructions.
Now here is part of the fun. Zinnias can be enjoyed in the landscape or the flowers can be cut for bouquets. Pruning faded blooms and cutting bouquets helps extend the life of the plants which can be for months. Give zinnias a try from seed or transplants often available at garden centers.