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How to grow Zinnias and save seeds

Updated on November 22, 2015

Pollinators are drawn to these perky zinnias

Zinnias are native to Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern United States.
Zinnias are native to Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern United States. | Source

Zinnia are a butterfly magnet

Black swallowtail butterfly visits the zinnias.
Black swallowtail butterfly visits the zinnias. | Source

Simple seed saving techniques

Saving zinnia seed from the garden is easy. You can even create your own custom varieties of zinnias. Seed saving will complete the plant cycle. As you save a little bit of "seed money" and preserve your custom varieties, you also become a more self-sufficient gardener.

Collect, label and store seeds

As you select the best zinnias year after year, it creates a sub-variety that is suited to your garden’s climate and soil. After repeated sowing and seed collection for years, I like to think my home grown seeds are especially hardy in this region and this soil.

Sow Seed

Plant zinnia seed 1/2 inch deep and 4 inches apart in full sun. Scatter seed in a container or flowerbed. Be prepared to thin seedlings to reduce risk of powdery mildew. Sow a few seed every week all spring to stretch the flowering season and provide continious bouquets throughout the summer.

I ended up with a great collection of pink zinnias a couple of years ago. These hardy annuals are known as "cut and come again" because if you cut the first flowers, you will be rewarded with more flowers. Cut one zinnia and it will soon be replaced by two more blooms.

So, I cut those zinnias and gave bouquets to friends or neighbors. Otherwise, regularly deadhead or remove old flowers to keep plants attractive and encourage more blooms.

Save the biggest, most beautiful flowers

After seed is thoughly dry, label and, seal.
After seed is thoughly dry, label and, seal. | Source

Seed Saving and Storing

Collect Seed

As you spot flowers to select for seed, put a loose twist tie or loose twine on the stem of the flowers you plant to collect. Once the seeds begin to dry, petals fall and it will be hard to identify the keepers.

When the seed head is dry, roll your thumb across the seed head to expose the seed. Spread the seed out and allow them to continue to dry. The seed look like little spades. Label seed at every step.

Saving Seed

Once zinnia seed is completely dry, there are three things it needs: cool, dry, dark storage. I use snack size plastic zip bags, or paper coin envelopes. Store the envelopes in a file box, closet or a desk drawer.

Damp potting sheds or musty tool rooms are not a good idea for storage. Humidity is the enemy of stored seed.

Label the zip lock bag or envelope. Include any special growing instructions like: "Thin seeds to prevent crowding and powdery mildew." You think you will remember, but all zinnia seed will look the same next spring.

Keep Cool, Dry and, in the Dark

A sampling of pastel zinnias

Zinnias are named after Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759), a German professor of botany.
Zinnias are named after Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759), a German professor of botany. | Source

Lots of color

What is your favorite garden style?

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