At last the Zinnia has come into its own. Because it is of easy culture and does well for anyone, it has in the past been admired less than it deserves. Recently the seed growers of California have developed enormous flowers of unusual shapes and with excellent colors. We may now obtain clear rose, rich purple, golden yellows, the palest cream colored sorts, as well as salmon, orange and crimson. Note that the catalogs are listing curled and crested sorts and wonderful new giant-flowered varieties, measuring 7 and 8 inches across. In the opposite direction there are charming dwarf sorts which produce small flowers that cover the plants. The taller sorts are three feet in height while the dwarf varieties, known as Tom Thumb, Pompon or Lilliputian Zinnias (all of these are forms of Zinnia elegans), are only a foot tall.
There is, however, another species, Z. haageana, the Orange Z., which is dwarf. Its flowers are commonly shades of orange, but many new colors are advertised. There is also a type with star like, narrow petaled flowers known as Stellata hybrids. This attractive dwarf form is offered in all colors.
USE. The modern Zinnias, though stiff, may be effectively arranged for home decoration and show up most effectively under artificial light. There are many pure colors and as these usually combine well, the effects possible are charming. In Texas, Mrs. J. C. Darnell reports that her Zinnias grow 8 feet tall. She says that, in arranging long-stemmed sorts, it is wise to remove all leaves, as the flowers last longer. For low bowls the dwarf sorts are superior to the larger flowered tall varieties. They need no added green to set them off, forthe Zinnia is well furnished with foliage.
In the garden, Zinnia effects are rich, the plants are thrifty, and the colors are decided. In bold masses for distant effects few other annuals can rival them. The dwarfs are especially valuable as edging plants, their profusion of bloom and foliage serving to cover the soil completely. The rank foliage provides a background for lower growing annuals.
GENERAL. Give these excellent new strains a little extra care and note their appreciation. Sow the seed in a sunny window in March. Transplant the seedlings to shallow boxes. Set the plants out in the open soil, when the weather is warm, placing the plants in well-enriched soil. One might even be kind enough to place some manure deep down beneath where they are to be planted.
It is only seed of the largest flowering sorts that should be expected to give the giant flowers. There is a difference of opinion relative to the distance apart to set the plants. Some persons set them 18 inches apart, and thereby get the largest flowers; others claim that by planting closely, the plants produce fewer, but larger flowers. It is easy enough to follow both sorts of advice and see for yourself. The dwarf sorts are surely better when each plant is given a space of 2 feet on each side.