Zinnias are a versatile, easy-to-grow flowering plant that makes any garden more bright and cheery. They have few requirements, and bloom all summer long. They also come in a lot of different styles from a ground-cover style to tall plants with giant dahlia-like blooms.

What makes zinnias such a treat to grow, though, is the way you can actually cross-pollinate them to create your own varieties. They're not particularly picky about the soil, but to encourage them to grow and bloom, you'll probably want to fertilize them lightly every three weeks.

What Zinnias Require

The one thing that zinnias absolutely do require is full sun. Though they may bloom with a little less, to perform their best, they'll need at least six hours of full sun every day. So, make sure you take that into consideration when you choose where to plant them because it's the most important of all aspects when it comes to keeping them healthy and blooming.

Pollinating Zinnias

Zinnias do cross pollinate between varieties, so if you want to keep your zinnias pure (and you plan to harvest the seeds), don't mix the different types in the same flower beds. Technically, varieties should be kept a half mile apart for maximum purity, but I've found that just keeping them in their own beds keeps my seeds pretty consistent. Of course, this cross pollination can also be a really enjoyable aspect of raising zinnias because it means you can breed your own unique varieties. Zinnias are pollinated by insects, especially bees, as they travel from flower to flower, and that's what makes their seeds possible.

Finding Zinnias to Get Started

Zinnias grow very easily from seed, and you'll get a lot more plants for your money if you start your own plants instead of buying them already blooming. They grow very quickly and can be sowed straight into the ground after the final frost. They'll start blooming in a little over a month given ideal circumstances, so they aren't a plant that requires much patience.

That said, if you only need a small number of plants, or if it's important that they be precisely the right colors (and you can only find mixed seed packets), it might make sense to buy them as plants at the local nursery.

To buy seeds, you'll find lots of places have them from nurseries to drug stores to Walmart. If you want a very specific variety or color, you may need to hunt online. Burpee stocks many varieties on their website, and even Amazon offers an extensive selection from specialty plant companies.

Planting Zinnias

Before planting zinnias, prepare the garden by tilling the soil and amending it if necessary. Then, plant zinnia seeds about four inches apart (more if you've selected large plants, less if you've selected small ones) and cover them with about a half inch of dirt. Water throughly.

I know this is much closer than the seed packet tells you to plant the seeds, but zinnias often look better clustered into a dense group and they grow quite well this way. This will provide you with a real mass of beautiful blooms. Of course, you can follow their recommendations instead and the seed packet will go further.

Until germination, the zinnias are going to need frequent watering. Since the seeds are so close to the surface, they won't need a lot of water, just an even sprinkling over the surface area. Seeds sprout best when kept reliably moist, not soggy, and the ground is very warm.

Getting More Flowers from Zinnias

To get the most flowers from zinnia plants, deadhead the spent blooms regularly. If you intend to save the seeds, you won't want to deadhead the plants, so instead fertilize more frequently to ensure the plants have plenty of nutrients. A flower fertilizer like those offered by Miracle Grow will do the trick to encourage profuse blooming.

The other key to lots of flowers is plenty of sun, so make sure you choose your garden spot carefully. You'll get a lot less flowers if the plants are in a shadier spot.

Caring for Zinnias Throughout the Season

Zinnias are low-maintenance plants, but they may have trouble with bugs who find their leaves especially delicious. Stick with organic methods of pest control since the pests usually won't prevent the plants from blooming beautifully. Ladybugs are very helpful as is Neem seed oil.

The other key to keeping pests at bay is to keep your plants healthy. A layer of mulch over the soil will help the plants roots retain extra moisture and warmth, which makes the plants stronger and more pest-resistant. The regular fertilization will also help.

You can also sneak outside late at night and catch any bugs in the act. One of the big pests with zinnias are caterpillars. Yes, they become beautiful butterflies, but if they're endangering your zinnias, you may want them gone. They're easiest to control by simply picking them off the plants and moving them to a better spot.

Displaying Zinnia Flowers

Zinnia flowers look great in taller vases because they have long stems. When you cut them to bring them in, make sure that you only cut one branch at once--that'll help the plants continue to bloom all throughout the season.

Saving Zinnia Flower Seeds

If you're going to save seeds, don't bring the flowers inside to enjoy (well, bring some of them in, but make sure to leave some outside, too). Let the seeds dry out on the plant, then, when they're about ready to be released, snip the branch and bring the seeds inside. Separate the seeds out and put them on a white paper plate in a dry, cool spot in the house.

Once the seeds have completely dried out, they're ready to be stored. I recommend storing them in purchased seed packets (that you can buy especially for this purpose) because making your own packets is difficult and may not be ideal, plus purchased packets are really reasonably priced.

Now that you've read this article, you're ready to enjoy zinnias in your yard. Remember, zinnias are easy to grow and they grow really fast, so you'll be enjoying flowers very shortly after planting the seeds in your garden. They make such a great treat to bring into the house and enjoy a full bouquet of the beautiful blooms. Plus, if you're careful about saving your seeds, you'll be able to enjoy a new batch of plants each year from last year's seeds. Because they have such a profusion of flowers (and therefore, seeds), you'll soon have a lot more seeds than space in the garden!

Zinnias are easy to grow, colorful, and come in many different varieties. What's more, they bloom like crazy and are quick to sprout from seeds. There's lots of reasons to plant them in your garden, so what are you waiting for? Get started today!