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Cheap, exuberantly cheerful and easy-peasy to grow from seed, zinnias add that all important ‘zap power’ to summer gardens, balconies, terraces, rooftops or wherever your growing space happens to be.

Seeds sown in April will provide a glorious array of dazzling colour and sheer excitement from June right until the end of October; even longer if the weather permits.

Available in a multitude of shades, from blazing fire engine red, blinding orange, shocking pink, shimmering yellow through to pastels, white and even a luscious lime green, zinnias can be used to incredible effect in the garden.

They range in height from six inches to a towering four feet and more, so select the most suitable species for the space you have to grow them in.

Zinnias are not fussy about soil conditions but much prefer a well drained site to a soggy one. Sun loving plants, they flourish with very little water once established; tall varieties may need support.

Seeds can be sown either directly in the ground or started off in trays/pots of reasonable compost and transplanted to their growing position as soon as they are large enough to handle their new environment.

Sow the seeds just under the surface of the soil/compost; try to plant them at a distance of two to three inches apart so that emerging seedlings have space to develop.
Germinate them in a sunny spot and keep the seed pots/trays slightly moist but not wet. Seedlings are brittle so handle with care.

These stunning, never possible to overlook flowers originated in Mexico and decorated Aztec gardens and fields, as along with being cultivated for their ornamental value, they were valuable animal fodder.

A packet of seeds can be purchased for Rs 20 to 40; imported ones are more expensive.

– B Khan

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 1, 2012.