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Difference between Zinnia Calif. Giant and Dahlia Flowered?

Posted by ritug 5 (My Page) on
Tue, Sep 8, 09 at 16:09


I have been reading about Zinnias and Zinnia California Giant and Zinnia Dahlia Flowered both sound and look pretty similar. If anyone has grown both these varieties - can you please let me know what the differences are and which one is better in terms of growth, flower patterns etc.

Thanks for youe help.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Difference between Zinnia Calif. Giant and Dahlia Flowered?


Both California Giants and Dahlia Flowered zinnias are old heirloom zinnias. The Dahlia Flowered strain was developed by Bodger Seeds and released in 1919. Their plants are about 40 inches tall with fully double flowers about 4 to 5 inches in diameter. They were once available in 18 separate colors.

The California Giants were also developed by Bodger, and were released in 1926. They were taller than the Dahlia Flowered strain and produced longer stronger stems that made them more suitable for cut flowers. Their flower form is a bit more open than the Dahlia Flowered strain, with petals rounded on the ends and somewhat concave upward (a bit like an upside-down piece of narrow venetian blind.) They were once available in 14 separate cultivars.

The Dahlia Flowered petals are more tightly packed and bend downward slightly on the ends. For my taste, I personally prefer the California Giant flowers to the Dahlia Flowered blooms, because the Dahlia Flowered blooms pack their petals too closely together, almost like shingles. They make a good hiding place for insects like aphids or earwigs. But zinnia flowerform is a matter of personal preference. I prefer the more modern ones.

You can find pictures of various kinds of zinnias in seed catalogs, in paper form or online. Zinnias have a wide variety of colors, flower forms, and plant habits.


RE: Difference between Zinnia Calif. Giant and Dahlia Flowered?

Hi Zenman

Thanks so much for providing these details. Only an experienced Zinnia grower like yourself can know these details. I already have seeds for California Giants and am looking forward to trying them next year.
However do they grow very tall and need a lot of staking? I find that some zinnias I grow tend to flop over and need to be staked and these are just the general type not the bigger ones.

RE: Difference between Zinnia Calif. Giant and Dahlia Flowered?


"However do they grow very tall and need a lot of staking?"

The "Giants of California" grow 3 to 4 feet tall and, under some conditions, maybe taller. Most people don't stake zinnias, but instead, plant them close enough so that they support each other. If you have a bed of zinnias that are spaced a foot apart, the individual plants will be rather tall and spindly, but the "crowd of zinnias" form a landscaping mass that tends to be self-supporting.

A disadvantage of such mass groupings is that the lower leaves of the crowded plants don't get enough sun and die off. Also, branching is reduced because of competition for sun. Yet, mass planting is probably the most common cultural method for zinnias.

Because I am a zinnia hobbyist and many of my zinnias are hand-pollinated by myself, I like to give my plants more individual care. I space them farther apart for better individual plant health and I give my taller zinnias some support. I tried using those commercial wire supports with a ring at the top, and they are handy, but can really run into some money if you use a lot of them.

I have since started using homemade "zinnia cages", which are just smaller tomato cages made from concrete re-mesh wire. This is a picture of one of my "breeder" zinnias in a cage. It was isolated for special attention, including a "water spike," and to give handy access for cross-pollination.

The cage in that picture was actually just a "borrowed" half-height tomato cage that I made for my determinate tomatoes in Maine. My "full" concrete re-mesh tomato cages are 5-feet tall (the height of the roll of re-mesh wire), and indeterminate tomatoes grow out the top of them. I have since started making most of my zinnia cages a bit smaller. My "standard" zinnia cages are 2 feet high after sinking their 6-inch finger wires into the ground, and 15 to 18 inches in diameter. A few of my zinnia cages for extra tall zinnias here in Kansas are double height. The individual re-mesh wires are spaced 6 inches apart, which gives me ready access to the whole plant, while protecting it from being blown over in high winds or knocked over by passing dogs or other animals. I currently have most of my breeder zinnias in standard zinnia cages. My zinnia cages are much stronger than the commercial wire rings.


RE: Difference between Zinnia Calif. Giant and Dahlia Flowered?

Hi Zenman

Thanks again for information on staking. I am amazed at the home made cages. It seems to be a lot of work. My zinnis always tend to flop over if they get too tall, so I have to tie them up - but maybe I will try the tomato cages trick. The standard cages are not very expensive here.

Thanks again for all the fantastic information.

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