zinnia from seed

WOODSGRANNY(Z9 S LA.)December 11, 2011

when do i plant button zinnia in soutwest louisiana?should i plant in ground or start in pots?


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I live in New England and I planted some in late spring. They came right up and did just fine. I don't know why it would be any different down there. Every single one of them was purple though!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2011 at 6:56PM
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dsb22(z7 VA)

The packet of zinnia seeds that I have says, "Better results when sown directly rather than transplanted."

    Bookmark   January 1, 2012 at 11:38AM
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Zinnias do fine when you plant them in-ground. Just wait for the soil temperature to warm up a bit. You might want to wait a few weeks after your safe no-frost date.

For expensive zinnia seed, like F1 hybrids for example, you might want to start them indoors to get an earlier start and to avoid exposing your little seedlings to some of those outdoor threats, like cutworms for example.

Zinnias resent transplanting only if it disturbs their roots. I grow my indoor zinnias under fluorescent lights in plastic pots, and I let them get big enough to form enough of a root ball in the pot so that it holds together when I drop the root ball out of the pot into my hand, to set it in the garden. That way their roots aren't disturbed and the zinnias are happy to expand their roots into the garden soil. That works better than using those peat pots, that always seem to create a barrier to the roots despite their degradability.

When planting your zinnias inground, don't hesitate to make successive plantings for your own convenience, and to get more succession of bloom. I breed zinnias as a hobby, so I usually don't plant them later than the third week of July here, because I want my zinnias to have enough time to make a good seed set.

But if I were just interested in Fall flowers, I could continue planting throughout the month of August. Zinnias usually start blooming in eight weeks or less from seeds. I have had some indoor zinnias start blooming in only five weeks.


1 Like    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 12:25PM
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thanks everyone.one more question,i'm in south west louisiana zone 9,when do i plant?if you tell anything about the last frost or anything of sorts ill still be lost.thanks again

    Bookmark   January 6, 2012 at 10:15PM
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If you are going to plant them directly into the ground I would start now and continue to plant them about every other week all the way into our warm season. I say season not spring as I have eaten strawberries in December on a year when our spring started around November. The more you try the more you will learn, if you do not make mistakes what is the fun in learning? Also talk with your local extension agent as well as a good local nursery you trust. As for starting them early in pots if the pot is biodegradable the only problem with transplanting is to be sure none of the pot is above ground when planted.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 11:25AM
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Hi Patricia,

"I'm in south west Louisiana zone 9, when do I plant? If you tell anything about the last frost or anything of sorts I'll still be lost."

OK. We will try to come up with some actual planting date recommendations. But we will have to take into account your average climate frost dates. Zinnias are killed by frost, so we have to take that into account.

Really, every gardener needs to be aware of the odds of a safe no-frost date in the Spring, and the odds of a killing frost date in the Fall. Notice that I used the word "odds" because, as we all know, Weather is not a certain thing. That uncertainty means that farmers and gardeners can't avoid gambling with the Weather.

But any good gambler has a knowledge of the probabilities involved, and that holds true for gardeners. Fortunately, weather data has been gathered for well over a century in many areas, and that data has been used to compile the probabilities that you need to place your gardening bets.

This is a link to the Freeze/Frost Data for the state of Louisiana. (I think there is one for every state.) If you click on it, that document will open in a new window. With a little window juggling, you can keep that document and this page readable, or you can just flip back and forth between the two windows.

Notice that the data applies to specific locations in Louisiana. If you are at one of those locations, then fine, you can use that data. I live out in a rural area several miles from Ottawa in Kansas, so I have to interpolate between the two nearest locations here in Kansas that have weather data, one of which is Ottawa. That is fairly easy, because the data varies by only a few days from one place to the other. You can deal with probability numbers very precisely mathematically, even though they remain measures of uncertainty.

I don't know if your location is listed in the table, but for the sake of argument, let's say that you are in or near Lake Charles. LAKE CHARLES AP appears in the table, so we will use that data as an example. There are numbers in parenthesis (1) (2) (3) (4) in the table headings that refer to these notes at the bottom of the table.

(1) Probability of later date in spring (thru Jul 31) than indicated.
(2) Probability of earlier date in fall (beginning Aug 1) than indicated.
(3) Probability of longer than indicated freeze free period.
(4) Probability of Freeze/Frost in the yearly period (percent of days with temperatures at or below the threshold temperature).

We are interested in the safe frost free date in the Spring, so we will be looking at the Spring column data. The data is given for three air temperature values, 36, 32, and 28. A light frost can occur at an air temperature of 36 by radiative cooling. In other words you can get frost on your car windshield even though the air temperature is slightly above freezing. The tips of tender plant leaves can also be damaged by 36 F. The 32 refers to the actual freezing point of ice, in which ice can form on the surface of exposed shallow water, and tender plants will lose their leaves. The 28 F refers to a hard killing freeze, in which tender plants will be blackened and killed to the ground.

We will take the middle ground, and use the 32 F data on which to base our outdoor zinnia planting data. That is a mere judgement call based on how much risk you are willing to take.

So for Lake Charles airport, we have the dates Jan 24, Feb 19, and Mar 16 in the columns 90, 50, and 10. According to Note 1, this means that the probability of a frost occurring after Jan 24 is 90%, the probability of a frost occurring after Feb 19 is 50%, and the probability of a frost occurring after Mar 16 is 10%. That Mar 16 date is the least risky frost-free date, so I am going to use it and a month later would be April 16, so based on all that, April 16 would be the date I would use for planting my zinnias inground in the Lake Charles area.

In case you don't want to plant your zinnias at the Lake Charles airport (and who does?), you might want to look at some other locations in the table.

I hope your head isn't hurting by this time, but if it is, "no pain, no gain". My zinnia seeds are hand selected and hand pollinated by me, so I tend to plant them on the safer dates. But if you had some zinnia seeds that you are willing to take a long-shot gamble on, you could use the 90-percent-probability-of-frost-after date (10 percent chance of safety) of Jan 24 in the Lake Charles example, and plant zinnia seeds on Feb 24, knowing that you are doing a very risky thing. The Winter Sowing people would say that is OK, and I have had volunteer zinnias come up after a spending the Winter in frozen garden soil. So cold won't necessarily kill a dormant zinnia seed. But a hard freeze will kill a zinnia seedling. And zinnia seeds need warm soil for good germination.

If you have any questions about any of this, just ask. It is kind of hard to "get your head around" those weather data tables. But they can be a good guide in figuring out how much risk you are taking. As an alternative, ask an expert at a local garden store. If Louisiana has the equivalent of county agents, they could be of help.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 12:25PM
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ZM,i think i understand you.lake charles is right across the bridge,i'm going with the dates you gave.maybe between april and feb.thanks so much for all your time,sure do appreciate that

    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 1:25PM
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You are welcome, Patricia.


    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 10:34AM
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wally,what zone are you in?we've had some freezing temps in jan,feb,i'm kinda scared.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 2:40PM
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This will be my very first attempt to start zinnia seeds indoors. My questions are: what type of bulb would I use and how long every day do I keep the light on? Would it be 8 hours every day? Does it run up the electric bill very much? I plan to transplant them into pots once they are big enough and put them in my "plastic mini greenhouse" on the south side of the house and cover with newspaper to filter the sunlight for about 2 - 3 days. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 8:41AM
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My hubby and I have been using cool white shop lights. They are just the cheap kind from the big home improvement stores. They've been working great. Hubby turns on the lights around 6:30 am and we leave them on until anywhere from 10pm to midnight. Sometimes we sleep later and they don't get turned on til 10 am and the plants do just fine.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2014 at 9:27PM
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blushing_susie - How many days/weeks do you have to do this and does it make a big difference on your electrical bill? Thank you for your response.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:37AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Zinnas grow so rapidly that starting them indoors isn't generally recommended. They work best when direct seeded as many don't survive transplanting them.

But if you want to do them indoors then wait until approx. 2 weeks before the time they can go outside to start them as they will be ready to transplant within that time.

If you read through all the FAQs here on how to grow from seed - they apply to most everything including zinnas - you'll find answers to most any basic question including lights and how to use them. The effect on your electrical bill from fluorescent shop lights is minimal unless you set up a big operation of multiple fixtures.


Here is a link that might be useful: Growing from seed FAQs

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 3:41PM
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Hi Beethie,

I haven't begun my zinnia seeds yet, but if I do start them indoors it will be two or three weeks before I would put them outdoors since they grow fast. I will probably just direct sow them in a few weeks.
I have been growing tomatoes, peppers, impatiens, canterbury bells, various herbs, and morning glory vines. I started the slowest growing plants at the beginning of March. I have four shoplights set up.
As for my electric bill, I don't recall what it was last month. I don't think there was a big increase or I would have remembered.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 5:15PM
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