Zinnias are the queens of the summer garden, flowering non-stop through the heat, and when they’re cut for bouquets they can last a week or more. They come in every color except blue, and there are striped varieties, two-toned varieties, singles and doubles and fuzzy-centered types. They’re a thoroughly likable flower.
But there’s one more thing to confess about zinnias: they get mildew. Oh my, how they get mildew. The current thinking on powdery mildew (a fungus) is that the spores are everywhere, and it makes little difference whether you water by drip or spray. The weather can make it easier or harder for the fungus to grow, and some varieties are more susceptible than others. You can try to get ahead of mildew by buying varieties that are resistant, and you can spray with neem oil every seven to ten days. But in the end you may have to simply tolerate some mildew on leaves, keeping in mind that it doesn’t affect the flowers.
Here at Tiny Footprint Flowers we’re in the middle of our zinnia season, so I’m making a list of the favorites and fails.
State Fair - This one is so great I wonder why I never grew it before. Flowers are enormous and so far almost zero mildew. I didn’t seed these – I bought a six-pack of small plants at my local nursery when we needed to add a few plants where seedlings had failed.
Queen Lime Red - I simply don’t like these! Judging from Instagram, I think I’m alone in that opinion, but I’m entitled to grow what I like and next year I won’t plant these.
Zowie - Fabulous! Almost no mildew, and I love these gaudy colors.
Oklahoma - All of the Oklahomas that we’ve tried are winners. Productive and fairly mildew-resistant. But the Pink variety seems to be the most productive of all, and the flowers develop into a beautiful dome; the other colors don’t do that.
Cupcake - My husband likes these better than I do. When they first bloomed I was going to say no more of those next year! But they’re growing on me. Floriferous and fairly mildew-resistant.
Sunbow - Oh my but these are cute! Tiny little droplets of color that can go into bouquets and give a little wow factor. Stems tend to be long and wiry, which is good. Not particularly productive, not particularly mildew-resistant, but a keeper just the same.
Benary’s Giants - These are my standby, must-have zinnias. They get mildew, unfortunately, but it doesn’t affect the flowers. All the colors are good, but Coral, Carmine and Orange are my favorites. White is beautiful but not as productive; Lime is not as large but it’s very useful in making bouquets because it blends with everything.
Senora - I won’t plant this one again because in our garden it didn’t form cactus-form flowers. That happens with the scabiosa-form varieties too, they don’t express their potential flower form under our growing conditions.
Uproar Rose - This one hasn’t bloomed yet so I’ll have to wait to give a verdict.