Thank you, Dr. Zinn


Pink Z. angustifolia seen through a veil of prairie dropseed panicles.

This is the summer where it really hit me what a great annual Zinnia angustifolia is. If you want all-summer color in your garden that is drought-resistant, tolerates dry soil, is resistant to powdery mildew, and that doesn’t need deadheading, this is your plant. Our garden group at church has planted this zinnia along with other annuals in the beds around church, and the Z. angustifolia is looking spectacular.

Z. angustifolia with a sedum and Pennisetum Hameln.

This zinnia is so useful that it reminds me strangely of impatiens–it’s easy color in the garden, a blank slate that can be used many ways. Is there a downside to this zinnia? I think that while the whites are sparkling clear, that the pinks and oranges are just a tiny bit muddy and screechy. But that’s my opinion, and if you take a look at the Z. angustifolia planted with a grass and a sedum above, the screechiness has been greatly softened. You could have a fantastic silver and white sun garden with Zinnia ‘Crystal White’, some small grasses, various dusty millers, annual baby’s breath and a pale blue annual verbena.

This red celosia almost appears to be in a shadow.

I am showing a white zinnia here with a dark red celosia to show the difficulty of working with red. Red is really quite a dark color, and a mass of it can almost disappear into the soil.

When shopping for Zinnia angustifolia, be aware that it appears  at nurseries under a number of guises. Some botanists call it Z. linearis. Some gardeners called it creeping zinnia–others narrow-leaf zinnia. Plant hybridizers have come up with Profusion zinnias and the Star series zinnias. To  make things even more confusing there is a Zinnia ‘Crystal White’ that is a type of Z. haageana. I’m only mentioning this so you are aware of the many names. The Profusion series is actually a cross between Z. angustifolia and Z. elegans, which is the common garden zinnia.

Who is Dr. Zinn? His full name was Dr. Johann Gottfried Zinn, an 18th century botanist who was the first to describe this plant, which originally came from Mexico. So, thank you, Dr. Zinn.

Zinnia 'Crystal White'
Common garden zinnia (Z. elegans)
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