Zinnias and marigolds provide an old-fashioned summertime feel

Published 5:34 pm Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sometimes the old-fashioned flowers are the best. I enjoy canna lilies and daylilies and phlox. But of all the summer flowers, I really like zinnias and marigolds.

Both are easy to grow and can be planted from seed. The seeds are easy to germinate and grow at home. Zinnias and mari-golds are heat- and drought-tolerant. They continue to bloom until frost. They also come in an amazing array of colors.

You can plant them in flowerbeds (plantings that can be walked around and viewed from all sides) or flower borders (plantings with a backdrop such as a fence, building, or woody plants). They can be planted in containers to accent your deck, patio or porch and provide seasonal color.

Email newsletter signup

The zinnia is also an excellent cut flower. As a matter of fact, the more you cut them, the more they bloom.

The first decision to make is to decide whether to plant seed or buy plants. Purchased transplants are more convenient, require less time and have less risk of crop failure than those started from seed.

However, transplants cost more. When purchasing bedding plants, be aware that the quality of the plants can vary from one retail outlet to another and from one shipment to another even at the same store. If the quality if not good at one store, go to another.

Never buy a plant that appears unhealthy. Purchase stocky, compact plants with short, thick stems, many side branches and a healthy green foliate color. Avoid stretched plants with yellow lower leaves. Don’t insist on buying plants with many open flowers.

Green plants with few flowers open will usually grow more and better fill the allotted area in the garden.

Examine the shoots for insects or diseases, especially on the underside of the leaves. Avoid plants with yellow spots, burned leaf margins or excessive lower leaf loss.

Pull some plants out of their containers and examine the roots. Roots should fill the container completely so the soil and plant come out as one unit with no excess roots toward the bottom. The roots should be white with visible root hairs close to the root tips. Avoid plants with black or brown roots.

Work a complete fertilizer into the soil before planting. The rates and types of fertilizers to use should be based on a soil test. Be sure to water the new plants during the first three or four weeks.

Generally, bedding plants need 1 inch of water per week if there is no rainfall. Proper planting makes future maintenance easier, but it does not eliminate it.

Zinnias have a tendency to grow tall and spindly if not cut. Marigolds do much better if deadheaded (pinch off spent flowers). You can save dried flower heads and plant the seeds. I often just sprinkle the seed in the bed and water them in. This way, I get a second crop of flowers later in the season.

One final thing: plant some of these flowers so that you can see them when you look outdoors. I plant marigolds in boxes on my deck outside the den. They will brighten your day.