Some types of zinnias can be worked into a perennial border, but the full-size version belongs in a cutting garden, where the plants can focus on what they do best: cranking out big, bold, beautiful flowers.
Some of Benary’s Giants, showcased in a bouquet from our cutting garden. To learn more, see the cutting garden plans.
Some types of zinnias can be worked into a perennial border and others look great in containers. But the full-size version of Zinnia elegans belongs in a cutting garden, where the plants can focus on what they do best: cranking out big, bold, beautiful flowers.
There are several cultivars of “dahlia-flowered” zinnias that have been around for many years. These include State Fair and Giant Cactus-Flowered. In my experience, Benary’s Giants are the ones to grow.
Benary’s Giants (sometimes called Blue Point zinnias) carry the name of flower breeding company Ernst Benary Samenzucht. Founded in 1843, this family-owned business has a long and interesting history. Their specialty is begonias, but over the years they’ve introduced hundreds of new perennials and more than 20 All-America Selection winners.
Bred in Holland specifically for the cut-flower trade, Benary’s Giants have long, extra-sturdy stems and extremely long-lasting blooms (7 to 10 days in a vase). The plants are hefty — 3 to 4 ft tall and 2 to 3 feet wide — and heavily branched, with dense foliage. The flower heads vary in size from 3″ to 5″ across, which yields a nice variety for arrangements.
Here are four tips for growing these super-premium zinnias:
1. Start your zinnias from seed, either right in the ground or under lights. If you grow them under lights, don’t start too early. They should be in pots for no more than three or four weeks.
2. Zinnias are native to Mexico. They want sun, sandy soil and dry air. If the weather is cloudy, the soil is soggy and the air is humid, (like it is where I garden) they’re prone to black spot, rust and powdery mildew. I’ve found that the plants stay much healthier if you search out and remove every bloom that begins to go by. If you don’t, those spent flower heads act like sponges, holding moisture and spreading disease.
3. Zinnias are for cutting. Every flower that blooms needs to be cut or the plant will slow down and eventually stop blooming. Bring the flowers in the house, give them away or toss them in the compost pile. Just keep them cut.
4. Be prepared to add some midseason support with bamboo canes or wooden stakes. By the end of the summer, the plants get huge.
Now for the best part: there are 13 colors of Benary’s Giants. Plus a mix. You can choose from Deep Red, Scarlet, Carmine Rose, Bright Pink, Salmon rose, Coral, Wine, Purple, Lilac, Golden Yellow, Orange, Lime and White. This year I am growing Lime, Orange, Salmon Rose and Wine. Maybe I’ll change my mind over the winter, but right now I plan to grow the exact same four next year.
Director of Gardening, Gardener’s Supply