Saving Seeds of Zinnias

Okiedawn OK Zone 7September 4, 2007

In response to a question on another thread, here's how to save the seeds of zinnias.

Wait for the zinnia flower petals to fade to brown. Deadhead the flowers on a dry day once the petals have turned brown but have not yet fallen off of the plants on their own.

If the flower heads are damp at all, hang them in a cool, dry location to dry for a few days before you remove the seeds.

When you are ready to remove the seeds, you will find the seeds located behind/beneath the base of the petals. The seeds will be brown, a little 'furry' in texture, and will look sort of like an elongated arrowhead. The size of the seed will vary, depending on which zinnia variety or varieties you have.

Remove the seeds from the flowerhead--the seeds should come off the plant easily in your hand. If they don't, they are not mature enough to save. Once you remove the seeds, spread them out to dry in a cool, dry location. Let them dry for several days. Once dry, seal them in a paper envelope or small paper bag. Next, seal that container in some sort of airtight container like a glass jar with a screw-on lid, a metal cookie tin with a lid, or a zip-lock bag. Label with the variety and date collected and then store in a cool, dry, slightly dark place where they will not be exposed to excessive cold or heat.


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Have you found these seeds to come true? When I was a kid I saved Coleus and Celosia. In both cases the different colors crossed and the offspring were not very attractive.

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 10:25AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It depends on the variety and I have grown dozens of varieties over the years.

Because I lean towards growing older, heirloom type varieties, I often get flowers that are true from seed. Sometimes I get odd crosses, but if I don't like them I just rogue them out so they don't get a chance to reproduce.

For me, the cactus-flowered types self-seed and self-sow easily and seem to come true from seed that self-sows. The dahlia-types are more prone to revert to some sort of bright pink and orange ancestry but the flowers are pretty and the plants are very tough. I also get good results from seed that self-sows from Envy (the older green-flowered variety) butI haven't tried the newer Tequila Lime Zinnia offered by Burpee's.

Some of the more unusual zinnias come true from seed for me, especially the ones sold as Persian Carpet, Mexico, and Peppermint Mix.

I like the newer hybrids like Profusion, Magellan and Dreamland, but haven't saved seed from any of them. I have let Magellan and Dreamland self-seed and those self-seeded plants were fairly close in size and color to the original F-1s. Actually, I didn't deliberately let them self-seed. I just failed to clean up the garden properly because we had massive wildfires to fight that fall/winter. My garden was totally neglected and was barely cleaned up at all before everything that had self-seeded started sprouting on its own the following spring.

I often either save seed from zinnia angustifolia or let them self-sow and they seem to come true and are not prone to crossing.

Actually, I only collect a few zinnia seeds nowadays, generally only if I want to start some zinnias in a new location. In my zinnia border, which sits on the eastern edge of my veggie garden, I just dead head the plants and drop the deadheads on the ground where they serve as a part of the mulch in the current season and sprout new plants for the next season. I use a LOT of self-sowing flowers like cleome, zinnias, cosmos, hummingbird sage and four o'clocks.

With celosias, I have had really good results either saving seed from or allowing self-sowing of many varieties.
With the old-fashioned large-flowered Amish-type cockscombs, mine always come true from seed. The same has been true with elephant-head amaranth and many of the grain-type amaranths I have grown. My original seed sources for those types was either SSE or Seeds of Change or both.

With the tall, spiky-flowered celosias that have the taller, wheat-type plumes, mine reseed and are true from seed. With the shorter, hybrid, bedding-plant types, I get all kinds of stuff in the re-seeded generations. With a couple of them, though, like New Look or Fresh Look, the re-seeding plants have slightly smaller flowers, but otherwise perform as well.

Cosomos are tough, drought-tolerant plants that often reseed here and come pretty true from seed. The only problem is they bloom very late in the summer. I just mix them in with the zinnias, verbena bonariensis, celosias, cockscombs, cleomes, and hummingbird sage and have a riot of self-seeding color in my beds.

Some plants, like four o'clocks, reseed here on our place every year and NEVER cross or revert back to something else. I do tend to buy mostly heirloom flowers from places like SSE, Seeds of Change and Select Seed, so that I can let them self-sow and get good results. Sometimes crosses do occur, but not all that often for me. With hybrids, though, you never know what you'll get (and I know that you know that, George, but I mentioned it for others who might not be experienced in saving seed).

I'd rather let stuff self-sow and grow where it will. The actual process of manually collecting and saving seed tends to take time that I don't have....but almost everything I have will self-sow itself without any help from me. It works fairly well, although every now and then I have to remove flowers that insist upon invading my rows of tomatoes and other veggies.

It is raining here today (lightly!) and I am deliriously happy. We are incredibly dry here, not having received much rain at all since July.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 11:23AM
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Will your seed saving method work for all seeds, tomato's, watermelons, etc.



    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 3:53PM
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Maryl zone 7a

Thanks Dawn for the information. I've tried saving seed from the Candy Stripe series of zinnias in the past but never could get them to germinate the next year. I have all my seeds (of various varieties of plants including Zinnias)in a container in the back of the Fridge. The rest of my seeds remain viable for years. But this wasn't the Zinnia seed I was trying to save. It's Peter Pan white. To my annoyance they've discontinued this old tried and true hybrid in favor of others and I've only got one plant left. So it's do or die on saving the seed this year. Perhaps I'm not letting the seed dry out thoroughly. I'll try again following your instructions to the letter. And if you ever want to start a thread comparing pluses and minuses of various Zinnia varities count me in. Love my zinnias.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 4:30PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Mary,

I think Peppermint is just tempermental. Some years I can't even get newly purchased seed to germinate and grow! Other years it just goes wild! Sometimes I have seed (apparently self-sown some years before) just spontaneously germinate at an odd in an area where no zinnias have grown in a couple of years.

Good luck with your Peter Pan white. I HATE it when they discontinue a tried-and-true favorite, and it happens all too often any more.

One day we'll have to do a zinnia thread and see if we can encourage other folks to share their favorite zinnia varieties, etc. I love zinnias too. There are few plants that are as tough and as resilient, especially in our climate. Of course, I know that you know that already since you grow them yourself.


Vegetables are MUCH more complicated than flowers when it comes to seed-saving. I hope George will see your question and respond because he knows so much more about seed-saving than I do.

I don't know how experienced you are at gardening, so I'll make a few general seed-saving related statements and then you can ask questions if you need to know more. OK?

First, if you want to save seeds, it is better to save those from open-pollinated varieties as opposed to hybrid varieties. Open-pollinated varieties can and should come true from seed as long as they were not cross-pollinated by bees, the wind, etc. Hybrids are produced from crosses of two or more varieties and seed from them can give you almost anything. Sometimes, some hybrids will seem to come true from seed, although there may be differences that are not readily discerned.

Secondly, if you have two or more varieties of the same vegetable, you must grow them in isolation from one another in order to ensure that they do not cross pollinate. You can isolate them by distance, by time or by barrier.

Isolation by distance is the easiest, unless you have a gardening neighbor whose own garden is 'close' to yours, with 'close' being a relative term. Sometimes large distances are required for isolation.

You can isolate by time....planting varieties that absolutely will not pollinate at the same time. This is complicated and requires extensive knowledge and experience....and luck! For example, maybe I decide to plant one variety of corn which matures in 60 days and then about a month later I plant a second variety of corn that matures in 90 days. I plant the first corn in mid-March and the second corn in mid-April. In theory, the early corn will pollinate and form ears long before the late corn. But, in reality, the second corn which is planted later in the spring is obviously growing in much warmer soil, and may catch up AND pollinate at the same time as the corn that was planted earlier in colder soil. See, it can be hard, but not necessarily.

Third, you can isolate by using barriers like floating row covers or wood-framed screen cages to cover a plant and isolate it from the other plants. You'll probably have to hand-pollinate this plant yourself since the pollinators can't get to it. Or, you can bag individual tomato blossoms using little bags made out of netting.

With some veggies, it is just a matter of cutting open the vegetable, separating the seeds from the flesh, drying the seeds, storing them and using them the next year. This works for some veggies like squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, peppers, or watermelon.

With tomatoes, you get better results if you ferment the seeds. See the link posted below.

With potatoes and onions, seed is not a reliable method of propagation in all instances. For example, if the onion is open-pollinated, you can grow it from seed, but you will have to leave this year's onion in the ground and (if it doesn't rot in wet winter weather) let it flower next year. Even then, growing onions from seed is complicated. And even though there are a few novelty potatoes grown from seed, the best way to grow potatos is from seed potatoes that are certified to be disease-free.

Seed saving is not at all hard. It just takes time to learn the ins and outs of each vegetable.

For me, the easiest way to 'save seed' is to throw a pumpkin or gourd or overripe tomato on the compost pile and leave it alone. With any luck at all I will have those plants sprouting in that compost pile in the spring!

If you need to know more about seed saving, just ask. There is a Seed Saving Seed Forum here at Garden Web too. There's also a Vegetable Forum and a Tomato Forum. You can learn a lot at any of these forums, but you have to remember to tailor their suggestions to our climate. You might find it interesting to read the FAQs at those forums.


Here is a link that might be useful: Faq on Saving Tomato Seeds

    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 5:23PM
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I just grab the brown flower heads on the zinnias, tear them apart, and throw chaff and all on the ground. Much simpler for me that way, and they come up the next year just fine. My neighbor doesn't even do that, and he has beautiful zinnias in borders along the east and south sides of his house, just allowing nature to take its course in scattering the seeds.

I have got to get out in my garden and start collecting some of the dried seeds for seed trading this winter.

Sennas (bicapsularis, hebecarpa, and chamaechrista)

Verbena bonariensis

Passiflora caerulea

Tropical Milkweed (yellow and red/yellow; I've already collected a lot)

Cleome (pink and lavendar)

Cosmos (Cosmic Orange)

Datura inoxia

Morning Glory (Rose Silk and Chocolate, and a dusky purple with white edge-Japanese)

Cynanchum laeve (milkweed vine)

Greg's mistflower (Coniclinum)

Hamelis patens (gonna try it)

Crotolaria saggitalis (Rattlebox; native)

Desmodium illinoiense (Illinois bundleflower; this is a really cool plant, flowering 1st year from seed)

Blackberry lily (belamcamda - BUT it's yellow and pink flowers rather than the typical orangy red--very pretty)

Pineapple Lily (yes, they'll grow from seed, but probably take 2-3 years to flower)

That's all off the top of my head. Oops - I forgot this was about Zinnias. Maybe we should start a thread about seeds and seed saving????? Sorry, Dawn.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 7:00PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I used to spend tons of time collecting and saving seeds from all kinds of flowers, but then I discovered that I could skip that process, just deadhead the flowers and drop them on the ground, and let nature take its' course. As far as flowers are concerned, almost everything I grow readily re-seeds itself. I am so far south that some things will reseed that I did not expect to....including castor beans and runner beans, both the red and white-flowered varieties. Black-eyed-susan vines reseed everywhere--at least the common one does. Some of the fancier hybrid color mixes and the white ones don't reseed for me. Every now and then, Purple Hyacinth Beans even reseed, and I would have expected those beans to rot during the winter....or to be eaten by a rabbit or field mouse or vole or something.

The only thing is that some of them, such as verbena bonariensis, hummingbird sage, cleome, four o'clocks and datura will self-sow so thickly that I have to spend quite a bit of time thinning them out in the springtime. That's not such a bad chore, though, compared to all the work involved in saving and storing them, and then replanting them in the spring. Sometimes, though, if we have a winter that is BOTH very cold and very wet, I don't have prolific re-seeding the following spring. I assume the seeds can generally withstand being very wet or very cold but not both--at least in my very heavy, slow-draining clay soil. Other flowers that generally self-sow for me are the red poppies and blue/pink/white larkspur and the native white-flowered yarrow. Sometimes I have morning glories and moonvine flowers that self-sow, but not necessarily every year, except for the darned field bindweed, which always pops up someplace. (I didn't plant it and I don't want it, but I have it anyway.)

Most of my herbs reseed, too, so you never know where basil, dill, chamomile, catnip, cat mint, lemon balm, chives, etc. will show up.

Of the veggies, I have less reseeding every year because I have more and more mulch on the no-till beds every year and that discourages a lot of the reseeding. Still, the cherry tomatoes often reseed--esp. Yellow Pear, of course, and they always seem to pop up in the pathways, where I can't generally leave them to grow. I do often get vegetable volunteers in one of the compost piles. That's always fun....just to see what variety we get. This year we had a New Big Dwarf tomato in the newest compost pile.

May favorite way to plant pumpkins and gourds is to give them to the dogs to play with in the fenced-in dog yard. The dogs play with the pumpkins and gourds, and sometimes even bury them In the spring, we have pumpkins and gourds sprouting everywhere in the dog yard and I train the vines to climb the fence and help shade the dogs. Some years I get really great harvests of gourds from the dog's fence and I use those gourds for fall decorations. This year there won't be as many.....the persistently wet soil was hard on them.

With some of the flowers, like 4 o'clocks or cleome, the cold stratification they receive outside is so vital to getting good germination that I always have much better germination from self-sown seeds than I do with saved seeds or purchased seeds.

With our native prairie plants and woodland plants, I just make sure we don't mow them down until the seeds have matured. Then we mow them (or weedeat the ones that are right on the edge of the woods) and let those seeds fall wherever.

I no longer save seeds to trade.....too many chores, too little time.

So, I have gone from saving seeds from almost everything I grow that is OP, to letting them self-sow and plant themselves. It buys me more time for some of the volunteer work I do here in the community too.

I will save seeds for somebody I know if they ask me to save something for them. Most of my neighbors, though, if they grow flowers at all any more, use neat, tidy bedding plants purchased at Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Home Depot or wherever and don't grow their own from seed.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2007 at 8:20PM
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Okiedawn, You sound like my kind of gardener. I too have selfseeders all over the place--poppies, larkspur and batchelor's buttons early, then zinnias, petunias, cleome, impatiens, wheat celosia later. And cherry tomatoes, dill and cilantro--haven't planted those two herbs for years. morning glory vines and cyprus vine have been coming up on the fence for years. Rose campion and zebrina hollyhock usually selfseed, but didn't do well this year. I really enjoy reading your posts wherever I see them as you are so knowledgeable.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 12:17AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi Mulberry Knob!

It is nice to hear from you. My zebrina hollyhocks didn't do well this year at all. I think the excess moisture was just too much for them. In fact, none of my hollyhocks did well, except for one that came up in the gravel was just on the edge of the drive and bloomed profusely. I am hoping for a better hollyhock year next year.

Maybe we should start a separate thread on self-sowers? I think more people would grow them if they knew how easy it can be to have annuals that constantly replant themselves.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 10:33AM
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Maryl zone 7a

I don't have a large enough garden to need masses of seeds, so usually it's just easier to buy a fresh packet every year. However with Zinnias they are going more and more to "mixed" colors in one package. If I want to save only one color that pops up out of the mix, I need to learn how to save seed. My Candy Stripe Zinnias have reseeded along with my White Peter Pans in the same bed for years. Unfortunately when they are seedlings you can't tell them apart. Candy Cane gets around 4 feet tall, and PP about 16 inches tall- so it's rather important for the overall scheme of things to know who's who from the get go. I, like Dawn, don't save seed anymore. But in some cases I guess I'm going to have to re-learn.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 2:01PM
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With watermelon I just make it a point to grow but one variety in a given year. Come to think of it... I've grown the same variety for over 25 years now :)

It is possible, however, to hand pollinate watermelon, squash, cucumbers, and cantaloupe. I do plenty of hand pollinations with squash, as I usually grow more than one type of any given family. I'll stick on a link to a thread I started in the Veggie forum, on hand pollination of squash. Squash are the easiest to hand pollinate.

Melons, cucumbers, and watermelon have smaller flowers and open at slightly different times than do squash (usually a bit later). I haven't bothered to hand pollinate them. I just grow one variety of each in a given year.

If you e-mail me I can send you a guide for saving tomato seed, which I wrote a couple of years ago. It has since evolved, including some basics on growing seedlings as well.

In any case, if you just want cucumbers, you can grow as many kinds as you desire,... and save seed. You'll get crosses. But they'll all be cucumbers. The same is true of melons and cantaloupe. I had a mentor, when I was a teen, who saved seed of any cantaloupe he liked. He'd put it in his coffee can with all the rest of his cantaloupe seed. Every spring he'd plant a 50' X 50' cantaloupe patch, with seed from his can. He had a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of melons in that patch. But... they were all GOOD!

With squash, well, I wouldn't recommend that approach. Too many crosses of summer and winter squash result in inferior fruited plants.

Susan Ashworth has written a great book on saving seed. It's worth getting. The name is "Seed to Seed."

Dawn, with your approach, I assume it's the deep mulch which helps you in the battle against Bermuda grass? Do you do deep mulch with your squash as well?

Tahlequah, OK

PS. The one exception to the "cucumbers=cucumbers" rule, mentioned above, is the Armenian Cuke. That's actually a cantaloupe and will cross with (and ruin) other cantaloupes grown for seed.) So one must treat the Armenian Cukes as cantaloupes, for seed saving purposes.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hand pollination of squash

    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 2:19PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Deep mulch is pretty much my only real weapon against bermuda grass in the vegetable garden. Without it, I have bermuda constantly creeping into the edges of the garden. Mulch alone, no matter how high I pile it up, won't keep the bermuda out of the garden.. ..the bermuda is going to try to creep in the minute I am not watching!

To make it harder for the grass to establish itself, I put down a heavy layer of wet newspaper, lay down thick cardboard on top of that, and then pile on the mulch about 6" thick. Even if the bermuda grass roots into the upper layers of mulch, and it does, it is easy to pull it out of the loose mulch. If excessive rain keeps me out of the garden for an extended period, the newspaper and cardboard keep the grass from rooting deeply into the improved garden soil. As a bonus, the newspaper and cardboard attract earthworms like crazy.

My deep mulch is pretty much the old Ruth Stout method, except I use shredded leaves from our wooded acres as well as grass clippings and straw.

The deep mulch has helped me to have less and less trouble with bermuda grass invasion each year. I am going to work this winter to put a 6' wide 'path' around the 3 sides of my veggie garden (4th side is a driveway) to keep the bermuda further away. I might then put containers on top of that mulched pathway. I haven't decided yet.

Bermuda is my biggest problem here as I like to garden in the most organic and natural way possible. I know I could use Round-up or Grass-B-Gone or whatever, but I'd really rather not use chemicals.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 3:14PM
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Grrrr......bermuda grass.....grrrr! I don't mind the crabgrass because it is easy to pull up.

You know that the hyacinth beans and castor bean self-sow prodigiously here in the city, so I guess we're far enough "south" for them to do that, too. I had the white flowering hyacinth bean last year, and while it was pretty, I decided to pull up all the seedlings this spring. They're easy to remove.

Has anyone grown what is commonly called "pink fuzzy bean"? I have one growing, but it has yet to flower and may not now that it's getting cooler. I actually grew it because I thought some of the skippers might use it as a host. Generally speaking, they use a lot of "beans" to support their caterpillars.

Some seeds that self sow from first-year plantings, do much better the second year from self-sowing. Borage is one of those plants. I had read that about it, but kind of took it with a grain of salt....until I saw the following year's borage. Wow! It really did look much nicer than my first year plants, and I've had it self-sowing in the garden for about 7 years now. This is a good bee plant, too, for pollinating your veggies.

Self-sown agastache foeniculum is another one that did much better in the following year.

Yes, when you have self-sowing plants, there is always that problem of having to thin them out, relocate them, or just pull them up entirely from some locations.

I was concerned this spring about some of my regularly self-sowing plants coming up since we had a rather harsh winter this last year. But, they came up faithfully, as usual.

Chives will also self-sow, but it takes a couple of years for them to reach blooming size.

The malva mauritanica has self-sown, but I'm gonna take it out next year. It does well for about a week in flower, and then it just looks ragged, and especially when it gets hot. It really doesn't like our hot, muggy summers. I always see such lovely photos of it and hollyhock in northern gardens. I have yet to see the same standard of growth in our southern gardens.

Last - does anyone grow verbesina encelioides (Golden Crownbeard)? Mine is slowly biting the dust. It is in a location that I water frequently, and it looks like it's probably root rot (foliage is wilting). I want to try it again. There are still some flowers on the plant that I'm hoping will stay long enough to achieve seed maturation and self-sow. It is a gorgeous native plant and the butterflies just love it.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 8:06PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I don't think I know what pink fuzzy bean is. Is it a native?

My malva always looks magnificent in spring and does start looking less than wonderful as the season goes on. I usually just cut it back hard and it puts out new growth and looks fine. It does best for me (and doesn't look as ragged in the summer heat) in areas where is gets some afternoon sun.

Golden Crownbeard grows itself here and there in our pastures, with absolutely no help for us. Sometimes it pops up along the fencelines too. There are years when it seems like it has died back or died out....or somebody's spouse mowed it down before it had finished flowering.....and I think it is "gone", and then it comes back the next year. I think the established plants must have pretty good taproots because they are very drought-tolerant.

I don't save seed of anything in the pasture, because DH runs out and mows it down when the wildfires/pasture fires/hayfield fires start every year, which is usually August here (mid-August this year). Still, it manages to reseed itself....I just never know when it will pop up.

I think golden crownsbeard seed is available commercially if you don't find any of it available via a trade this fall or winter.

Some years I have great borage, and some years I don't. A lot depends on the soil. If it is in very well drained soil, it does get better every year that it reseeds. In the heavier clays that are unimproved or barely improved, it self-sows but never does all that well.

Chamomile is one that just gets better every year that it self-sows. So is catnip. I had a hard time getting it to grow from purchased seed the first couple of years. Since then, though, it reseeds itself all over the place. Sometimes it will pop up somewhere, and I won't even know it is there until a cat is rolling all over it and squashing it flat.

My verbena bonariensis has started popping up here and there in the front pasture.....certainly not to the degree that it is invasive, though. For several years now, my red poppies have been popping up in various places up and down the street. I hope the neighbors enjoy them as much as we do. :)


    Bookmark   September 5, 2007 at 10:26PM
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That's good information on how you use Ruth Stout's method of deep mulch. I was headed that direction. But this year I had a complete and total squash failure in my main garden. The squash bugs over-wintered in the mulch and "hit the ground running," this spring. The poor squash didn't have a chance. Have you encountered this problem? If so, what did you do about it? This is a great thread!


PS. I share your sentiment about Round Up.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 10:19AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Hi George!

I am truly enjoying this thread as well. I just love how we meander from one sub-topic to another.

I hope it is OK with you if I carry the squash bug question to a separate thread, so it can be found easily by anyone searching this forum in the future.

Squash bugs are almost as evil as bermuda grass!

See you on the new thread.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 11:11AM
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I learned something about zinnias this year, sequential sowing. It wasn't on purpose, I had already sown my zinnias several weeks prior and then someone gave me a grab bag of their zinnia seeds. I threw them out on one of my beds. The second sowing has really just started blooming, but it's been a blessing because the first round is gone/laying on the ground. The second set, started so much later, is a nice height and blooming, unlike the first set. Zinnias normally do very well for me, but I think all of our spring rain took a toll on my first batch.

RE: saving seeds...I deadhead and let them fall where they want. I get a few that come up here and there, but I never take it for granted they will come up, I usually trade/buy seeds each year.


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 3:07PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Isn't it great to have new zinnias just now coming into bloom, especially since those left from the spring sowing are about done? I usually scatter handfuls of zinnia seed at about the time my first planting is starting to bloom. Sometimes, depending on weather conditions, a third round will sprout in early September, and will begin blooming in late October. It happens not only with my zinnias, but with Texas hummingbird sage as well (as if I need any more of them!). If, by chance, we have a very long autumn and the first freeze is later than usual, the round of plants that sprout in September will often bloom into late November or early December. One year we had such a late freeze that the plants flowered until mid-December. Of course, some years we have an early freeze and the third round freezes before it even blooms. : (

I think our spring weather was hard on everyone's first round of zinnias around here, but most of had a good second round begin blooming in mid-July. Of course, once it stopped raining here in July, we didn't get the heavy rains for the rest of the summer that so many of y'all got. We've had maybe an inch in August, and only two-tenths of an inch so far in September. The rain keeps going either east of us or west of us.

Your photos are lovely as always.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2007 at 10:07PM
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I have a few doubles (zinnias) show up every year, despite trying only to plant the singles. The butterflies prefer the singles because they have better landing pads and access to nectar. The Gulf Frits and Monarchs especially love the pink singles. I sure wish I could grow that darned Mexican Sunflower. I've tossed seed out in the garden 2 years in a row now and got nothing. I guess I will try to grow some in small pots next year. But, I didn't think that they particularly liked transplanting. Ah, well.

Dawn, another one that I have tried that has NEVER done well for me is chamomile. What is the secret to growing this, and should I grow Roman or the other one? I would love to grow some for tea, and I know one is best for tea, but I don't remember which for the life of me.

Lisa, your garden and flowers always look so nice to me. I'm just a haphazard gardener, and I grow a lot of plants for butterflies that most people wouldn't even have in their gardens because they are not especially aesthetic in appearance.

My friend from Tulsa (Sandy - she posted about the lawnmower?) - brought me some Variegated Frits on the species Passiflora incarnata today! I'm so excited! I've been wanting the species for so long. I have a cultivar - 'Incense' - and P. caerulea. My P. caerulea is completely bare right now since the GFs consumed all of the foliage and the flowers, leaving only bare stems. The 'Incense' is nice and full - full of stink bugs that have had a healthy diet of Gulf Frit cats. I'm finally getting some more Monarch eggs. I had 2 Queens that I found, but one died in the pupation process. I've had a lot of problems this year with disease and predation. I am blaming it on the long, wet spring, a large predator population, etc. Last year in the drought, I successfully raised over 100 Monarch cats. Spiders are ever present, too, and I found one eating a Gulf Frit yesterday, and they're everywhere (the spiders).

The Tersa sphinx mama laid I would be 500 eggs on my pentas. Well, out of that many, I brought in 10 to raise, and there are NONE on the plants - the predators got them. Can you believe they eat that many?

Does anyone grow milkweed here? I'm gonna have lots of tropical milkweed seed when all is said and done. I keep squishing the milkweed bugs as I have so many. But, the population is getting lower because I squish their eggs, too, when I find them. If I didn't they would eat all my seeds! I've found several hatchlings chowing on the HUGE pods of the cynanchum laeve (milkweed vine). They are the fattest milkweed pods I've ever seen! But, I want to send some out to folks, I only have 3 big pods, so I don't want them eating my pods! Sounds like that old horror movie about the pods taking over humans - what was the name of that? They did a remake in the 80s I think.

We've had a ton of rain this last week, Dawn. I think that's why my crownbeard is slowing dying. Too much moisture for it. It did fine in July and the first half of August when it was dry.

I think I've also lost my Illicium 'Henryi', and that's one I didn't expect to lose, since it likes a bit more moisture. I'll try it again since I loved the flowers on it.

One of my favorites and the butterflies, too, was the Cosmic Orange Cosmos that I grew in a pot this year. It really did better in a pot this year, than it did last year in the ground. It look stunning sitting next to the Texas Firebush (hamelia patens), which is an orangy-red. The hummers loved both, as did the butterflies. But, the butterflies with the longer probiscus nectared on the Firebush, like the pipevine and black swallowtails.

I'm also losing my lavendar 'Provence' - the old one. The new one is doing okay, but all this moisture we've had this year has sent it spiraling downward - lots of dieback. I don't know if it will come back next year, so I'm glad I bought the other one.

Which just makes one wonder - you can never really garden for weather. If you plant drought tolerant plants, it rains all summer. If you plant moisture loving plants, we have a drought. What's a girl to do?????


    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 6:52PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I have had better luck with German Chamomile and I think it makes a better tea than Roman Chamomile, although both are used for tea.

Chamomile grows best here if winter-sown directly onto bare soil, where it sprouts and grows quite easily. I had trouble getting it started....I think I tried a couple of years before I got a good stand. Once you get chamomile going, though, it is a terrific reseeder. It sprouts everywhere from wind-blown seed---in the garden beds, the pathways, the lawn, the driveway, etc. I love the 'green apple' smell of the foliage too.

Predators must be severe this year. Nothing has so much as nibbled at my pentas once this year, and they usually are devoured by the tersas. We had had fewer tomato hornworms.....the most I saw in my garden at any given time was just 3 or 4, which is not many for a garden as large as ours.

I have grown tropical milkweed here. It comes and goes, so I have it some years but not others. We also have tons of green milkweed in our pastures.....the one some people call Antelope Horns. For all the milkweed we have, and there are acres of it everywhere around us too, I have never once seen a milkweed bug, so there much be something here that preys upon them and keeps them under control.

I have grown Cosmic Orange cosmos ever since it appeared on the market the year it was named an AAS winner and I love it. It reseeds some years, depending on how heavily the area was mulched. I grow Cosmic Red and Cosmic Yellow as well, but neither one of them does as well as the orange. I grew Firebush in Fort Worth where is was perennial for me for 5 years before it died during one especially cold, rainy winter. I haven't even planted it here....not for any reason, just haven't ever gotten around to it.

My lavenders, Provence and Munstead, have not liked this year's weather at all....and they are in pots! I am about to give up on lavendar as it seems to be unhappy for one reason or another every single summer.

I think you CAN garden for weather, but it is not easy. On our property, there are MANY native/adapted plants that can grow in AWFUL, slow-draining red clay soil, where we have a year with 18" of rainfall or 45" of rainfall. The plants that can handle our conditions tend to be natives or plants from Africa's clay soils that grow in conditions very similar to what we have here. Do I grow ONLY those types of plants? No, I don't, but I probably should.

Some of the plants that are native here and can handle the extreme drought/dry conditions AND extremely wet conditions equally well include oak, persimmon, wild cherry, beautyberry, coral berry, Indian currant, possomhaw holly, Virginia creeper, inland sea oats, pecans, hickories, redbuds (although they struggle more than the others in drought periods), rough-leaved dogwoods, side oats grama, little bluestem, big bluestem, curly mesquite grass, carpetgrass, buffalo grass, snow on the prairie, black-eyed susans, wild petunia, Gregg's mist, western ironweed, red cedar (unfortunately), wild sunflowers, esp. Maximilian, green-thread daisy, and rain lilies. Ironically, I always have gorgeous rain lilies in times of drought but they haven't done nearly as well this year in all the rain. (Now that just figures, doesn't it?)

One surprise plant that does really well here in either wet or dry years is prickly pear cactus. I would have thought that really wet soil would be bad for the prickly pears, but it doesn't seem to affect them adversely.


    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 10:05AM
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I love the prickly pear cactus, but I can't justify the room for it because I have limited sun, Dawn - darn it!

Boy, my Virginia Creeper has NOT done well this year either, though. It grows, and will continue to grow since it is a very well established vine, but it dropped all of it's leaves in July. Some have grown back, but not as much as spring growth. Which means no eumorphas this fall. Wahhhhhh!

Is "wild petunia" ruellia? I have some in a pot that I grew from seed. I need to plant a bunch of stuff, but ground is wet again.....didn't we do this in the spring?

Some of my lilies did well, and others didn't. My formosanum completely died out (too much rain?). My asiatics did not do well, but "some" of the orientals did. My pink tiger babies bloomed, but last year they bloomed better. Some of the bulbs and tubers just did not like all that moisture we had in spring. They store food and moisture in their bulbs, though, so that is logical that they wouldn't. We had so much rain that even a lot of the blooms got knocked over, broken flower stems, etc., so didn't do as well.

If anyone has garlic chives right now - check it out! It really attracts just tons of hairstreaks and other butterflies while it's blooming! It's a short bloom time, so gotta be quick. Apparently, they don't mind the moisture as much.

I have ageratum houstonianum and it's made the transition from wet to dry to wet, magnificently. Very similar to coniclinum, the Gregg's mistflower you are speaking about. It reseeds frantically, so I don't recommend it to anyone that likes to let it romp freely (like me!). It's a great fall nectar plant.

I think you're right about the Cosmic cosmos (say that fast 5 time). I planted some last year and had one meager little seedling come up from it. I planted some seeds I got from someone and it just grew like mad. So, I do think it is better to resow seeds each year. I'll be saving some on it. I have been deadheading to keep it in bloom from late spring thru now. But, I'm gonna have to stop soon in order to have plenty of seed.


    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 6:48PM
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Well, since this is a zinnia thread, I guess it's as good a place as any to ask this.

This is the first year I've planted zinnias. I loved the bright, bold bursts of color, but almost all of my plants suffered from powdery mildew, as can be seen in the picture below that I took this morning.

What's the best way to prevent this? Or fight it once it's there?

Does anyone else have this problem?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 1:55PM
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Maryl zone 7a

Powdery mildew on zinnias has been particularly bad this year. It's prevelant in cooler weather like we just had the last couple of days and is popping out all over most of my zinnias (NOT Peter Pan white however). You can spray with Orthos Fungunex if the temperature is below 85 and that will prevent new infections, but nothing will get rid of the old spots. Where fungus is concerned an ounce of prevention is the only cure. Some varieties are more prone then others.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 2:22PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Some years powdery mildew is more of a problem than others. You can minimize its impact by providing your plants with good air circulation and by irrigating with soaker hoses or drip irrigation to minimize the amount of moisture that hits the foliage. I have found from personal experience that zinnias grown in partial shade tend to suffer more from powdery mildew than those in full sun. Of course, in a wet year like this year (hopefully we'll never be THIS wet again), you can only do so much.

In a 'typical' Oklahoma summer, my plants usually get through the whole summer without powdery mildew, but may get it in early September when temperatures fall and humidities rise.

Of all the many varieties of zinnias on the market, the narrowleaf ones (Zinnia angustifolia, aka Zinnia linearis) like 'Orange Star' and 'Star White' are reputed to have the best mildew resistance. The Mexican zinnias (Zinnia hhageana) like 'Old Mexico' and 'Aztec Sunset' (fairly new on the market and a European Fleuroselect medal winner in 2007 or 2006) are also very mildew resistant, and some people think 'Aztec Sunset' is the most powdery mildew resistant zinnia available.

The Profusion series of zinnias, which are a Zinnia elegans x Zinnia angustifolia cross have never had powdery mildew in our yard, and I have grown Profusion Orange, Profusion Cherry and Profusion White for several years. This year I tried Profusion Apricot and Profusion Fire and they did not have powdery mildew either.

Powdery Mildew tends to be worse on the taller, double-flowered hybrids. Even among that class, though, there are some that resist powdery mildew pretty well. Blue Point/Benary's Giants/Park's Picks (I think they may be the same line sold under different names) have been mildew resistant for me about 4 years out of 5. Others that resist powdery mildew for me are the Dreamland, Magellan, and Oklahoma series.

I don't think I have ever had powdery mildew on Peter Pan or Pulcino, but I haven't grown those particular ones the last couple of years, so it could be that my memory is faulty.

I don't spray my zinnias with a fungicide because I don't like using chemicals in the garden. However, the use of fungicide is a viable option, and there are both organic ones like baking soda sprays, copper sprays or Serenade and chemical ones, available under many brand names. Fungicides are best used as a preventative measure, sprayed every 7 to 10 days or as the label directs. I don't think fungicides are very useful once the disease has already set in.

I love zinnias and would never be without them. Powdery mildew is just one of those things that pops up now and then.


    Bookmark   September 16, 2007 at 3:10PM
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The seeds I pulled from my Zinnia petals were more greenish than brown. Does that mean they weren't mature enough and I took them too soon?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 7:15PM
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OK, help me here. My senior brain is not computing. To let the zinnias self-sow, all I have to do is leave the deadheads on the ground & they won't get frozen out this winter? What about mulch? I was planning on covering that bed with chopped up leaves to kind of help the soil & try to hold down the dreaded Bermuda invasion. Will that keep the new zinnias from coming up in the spring? Is this kind of extreme winter-sowing?

    Bookmark   October 26, 2008 at 9:30PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It is hard to say, but not necessarily. It would depend on how greenish they were.....sometimes when harvested green they do sprout and sometimes they don't. The more the green has faded to a whitish-green or a tannish-green, the better, though.

If you want to test their germination, let them sit for a week to ten days which is sort of a dormant period for them. Then, wet a paper towel or coffee filter, lay a row of 10 seeds on it, wrap them up in the paper towel, put it in a plastic zip-lock bag and put it in a cool, dry location. Check every day to see if the seeds sprout, and how many sprout. After a couple of weeks, all of them that are going to sprout will have sprouted. From that, you can estimate if your germination rate is going to be 10% or 50% or 90% or whatever. And, you'll know if your seeds are viable or not.


That's all I do. When I clean up the garden debris, I just leave the flower heads that I want to self-sow. I don't generally tear the flower heads apart and scatter the seed around, although you can if you want to. Sometimes, too many seedlings do come up in one small area and you can either transplant the extras while still vey small, or just pull them up and discard them. Generally, though, wind and rain will scatter the seeds around on their own.

If you pile the chopped leaves onto the beds only a couple of inches thick as mulch, the odds are that the seeds still will sprout in the spring. If you put the leaves much thicker, though, they might prevent or slow down germination of reseeding annuals like zinnias.

If you want to play it safe, save some seed to plant next spring in case your plants don't self-sow. That way, you're covered either way.

I suppose this is an extreme form of winter sowing, minus the containers. I do it all the time. I even gather wildflower seed from one pasture and sow it in another just by scattering handfuls of it around the pasture after the first hard freeze. That seed will lie dormant and at least some of it will sprout in the spring.

When plants self-sow naturally, whether in a cultivated garden, in a pasture, in a woodland, etc., those seeds also have to deal with plant debris and, generally, the debris doesn't hurt the seeds or keep them from germinating. All kinds of annuals and half-hardy perennials self-sow in my garden with little or no help from me, including zinnias, four o'clocks, poppies, larkspur, evening primrose, angel's trumpet, swamp hibiscus, morning glories, moonvine, hummingbird sage, black-eyed susan vine, cypress vine, cardinal climber vine, ornamental peppers, some tomatoes, some herbs (including catnip, catmint, some basils, parsley, cilantro, etc.), clasping coneflower, hollyhocks, french hollyhocks (malva), kiss-me-over-the-garden gate, and verbena bonariensis. Often, pumpkins, winter squash and gourds self-seed as well.

In my garden today, I already have verbena bonariensis, malva 'Zebrina', angel's trumpets, tomato plants and hummingbird sage that have sprouted in the last month or so from seed that ripened and self-sowed in late summer. Of these plants, the tomato plants will not survive and come back next year, but the others usually do if their roots get large enough before it gets really cold here.

The reason some people have better success with winter-sowing than with self-sowing seed in their gardens is often that their gardens have too much wind or too much rain and their self-sown seed blows away or rots before it can germinate in late winter to late-spring, depending on the type of plant it is. In my garden, I let "the usual suspects" self-sow as they choose, and I winter sow other plants in containers if I know from experience that they have not self-sown successfully in my garden in the past.

Hope this info helps.


    Bookmark   October 27, 2008 at 12:40PM
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Thank you so much. I will do exactly as you said and hope for the best.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 6:17PM
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Heres a question maybe some of you zinnia enthusiasts could answer: I need a zinnia that grows not too high, say 2 ft, that ATTRACTS BEES AND BUTTERFLIES that I will reseed and come true every year. The height limit has to do with my watering system. But I could change it to drip if there is some vastly better one that grows taller. I live in northern Nevada. We have a fairly short growing season due to the occasional frost that can happen even into June.
Any and all assistance would be greatly appreciated! I can't afford to buy flowers every year.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 8:26PM
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