Everything You Need to Know About Fertilizing Zinnias
With the proper care, zinnias can produce bold, bright, and beautiful flowers on stout stems. Zinnia flowers come in several pastel colors, such as pink, purple, orange, red, yellow, white, and green. To produce these fantastic flowers, zinnias need plenty of nutrition from compost and fertilizer. This article will explain everything you need to know about when and how to fertilize zinnias.
- Fertilizing Zinnias – The Essentials
- Botanical Overview
- About Zinnias
- The Role of Fertilizer in Plant Health, Growth, and Development
- Signs That Your Zinnias are Lacking Nutrients
- When and How Often Should You Fertilize Zinnias?
- The Best Fertilizer for Zinnias
- How to Apply Fertilizer
- Key Considerations
- Fertilizing Zinnias FAQs
- Wrapping Up
Fertilizing Zinnias – The Essentials
Although zinnias are low-maintenance and easy to grow, they do benefit from regular feeding. For the best possible flowers, fertilize zinnias once a month during the blooming season. Choose fertilizers with NPK ratios that provide larger amounts of phosphorus. Always dilute fertilizers with water.
|Scientific Name:||Zinnia spp.|
|Native Range:||Mexico, Southwestern United States, parts of Central and South America|
|Growing Zones:||USDA Zones 2 to 11|
|Flowering Season:||Early summer until first fall frosts|
|Colors:||Pink, purple, orange, red, yellow, green, white|
|Toxicity:||Zinnias are non-toxic for humans, pets, and other animals.|
The Zinnia genus belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) and is part of the sunflower tribe (Heliantheae). Named after Johann Gottfried Zinn, an 18th Century German botanist, the genus contains 22 accepted species. Zinnias are available in a vast variety of different types and cultivars.
Zinnias have composite flowers with single, double, or semi-double flower heads. Each flower has a disc of central florets surrounded by layers of overlapping petals. Available colors range from pink, purple, orange, red, green, and white. Flowering begins in early summer and continues until the first fall frost. Organic pesticides are beneficial throughout the growing season to ward off common zinnia flower pests and diseases.
Zinnias are flowering annuals that typically grow between 1 and 4 feet tall. Zinnias also make excellent cut flowers and can last up to 12 days in a vase (and even longer if you’re interested in drying or preserving zinnias). These gorgeous flowers symbolize romantic and platonic love and are associated with celebration and reunion.
The Role of Fertilizers in Plant Health, Growth, and Development
In addition to carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight, plants also need various other nutrients to grow and develop. These nutrients are broken down into four categories; structural macronutrients, primary macronutrients, secondary macronutrients, and micronutrients.
The structural macronutrients are carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Plants use these to create sugars like glucose, which fuel the growth of cellulose and other plant tissues. While structural macronutrients are absorbed from air and water, the other three categories come from soil and fertilizer.
Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are the three primary macronutrients that plants need to thrive. Nitrogen helps the plant to produce bushy foliage and helps manufacture chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis. Phosphorus fuels flower growth, creating large, showy blooms, while potassium helps transport water and other nutrients around the plant.
Most fertilizers are focused on providing plants with these primary macronutrients. That’s why these products have an NPK ratio that shows how much nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium the fertilizer contains. You can use fertilizer to top up major nutrients that the plant has absorbed from the soil.
Some fertilizers contain secondary macronutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. They may also provide micronutrients like copper, iron, and zinc.
Different Types of Fertilizers
With several types of fertilizers on the market, choosing the right one can be a bit confusing. Most fertilizers fall under two main categories; organic fertilizers and synthetic fertilizers. Both types work in the same way, so which type you choose is down to personal preference.
Organic fertilizers are made from natural ingredients and are a more environmentally friendly option than synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers usually need to be broken down by bacteria in the soil before plants can absorb the nutrients. Common types of organic fertilizers include compost, manure, blood or bone meal, and worm castings.
Synthetic fertilizers are made in labs using chemicals and salts. These fertilizers feed the plant directly, which means the plant can access nutrients faster. However, synthetic fertilizers can cause the quality of your soil to deteriorate over time. Using too much synthetic fertilizer can also damage your plants.
Whether you choose organic or synthetic fertilizer, these products usually come in two main application methods; liquid fertilizers and granules. Liquid fertilizers like liquid seaweed or tomato feed are diluted with water and applied using a watering can. Granules are buried or worked into the soil and usually release nutrients slowly throughout the season.
Signs That Your Zinnias are Lacking Nutrients
Because plants depend so much on getting the right nutrients, you can often tell if a plant is lacking nutrients. The main signals that your zinnias are lacking adequate nutrition include:
If your zinnia looks small and weak and is struggling to produce flowers, it’s probably not getting enough nutrients. Zinnias need lots of nutrition to produce flowers but also won’t flower if they’re growing in full shade. Check the position of the plant before fertilizing.
A lack of nutrients could be to blame if your zinnia has yellowing leaves. The type of yellowing can tell you exactly which nutrient your zinnia is missing. If new leaves are green but old leaves are yellow, your zinnia needs more nitrogen. The plant lacks magnesium if the older leaves are yellow and have green veins.
Yellowing leaves are also a symptom of other problems like overwatering, underwatering, and a lack of sunlight. Check the conditions of your zinnia to eliminate these possibilities before fertilizing.
When and How Often Should You Fertilize Zinnias?
Zinnias have different fertilizer needs at various stages of growth. For established plants, fertilize them once a month during the zinnia flowering season to encourage plenty of flowers. The zinnia flowering season usually starts in early summer and continues until the first fall frosts.
Seedlings can be given a ¼ strength dose of fertilizer once they reach approximately 4 inches tall. Feed them again when they start flowering and keep feeding monthly.
The Best Fertilizer for Zinnias
Zinnias are grown for their fabulous flowers, which bring bright splashes of color to the garden during the summer. To get the best possible flowers, feed your zinnias with an organic fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus. Choose fertilizers with an NPK ratio similar to 5-10-5.
Avoid fertilizers with a higher nitrogen content, which plants use to produce masses of strong, bushy foliage. Although this benefits some plants, using nitrogen-rich fertilizers for zinnias means you’ll get more foliage and fewer flowers.
Zinnias need well-draining but fertile soil, so you could work some slow-release organic fertilizer granules into the soil before planting. Alternatively, incorporate some bone meal or organic matter such as compost into the soil. Organic matter improves drainage and contains nutrients, while bone meal is high in phosphorus.
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How to Apply Fertilizer
Applying fertilizer to your zinnias depends on what type of fertilizer you’re using. Liquid fertilizers must be diluted in water before being applied to your zinnias:
- Choose a fertilizer with an NPK ratio that favors phosphorus.
- Follow the packet instructions and put the recommended dose in an empty watering can. In most cases, a ¼ strength dose of fertilizer is sufficient.
- Fill the can with water and ensure the fertilizer is thoroughly mixed in.
- Pour the mixture over the soil, avoiding splashing the leaves or flowers.
If you’re using granule fertilizers, follow the packet instructions and mix the correct dose of granules into the soil. For fertilizers like bone meal, sprinkle some over the soil and then mix it in.
Although fertilizer is highly beneficial for zinnias, it’s possible to use it incorrectly or overuse it. Here are a couple of things to consider:
Don’t Apply Too Much Fertilizer
Giving your zinnias too much fertilizer could severely damage them, especially if you’re using synthetic fertilizers. Always follow the recommended dosage on the packet. Start by giving your zinnias small doses to see how they respond.
Depending on the soil that your zinnia is growing in, you might not need to use a lot of fertilizer. Zinnias can grow in chalky, sandy, loamy, or clay soils as long as they’re well-draining. Clay and loam hold nutrients much better than chalk or sand. You’ll need less fertilizer if your zinnias are growing in loam or clay soils.
Fertilizing Zinnias FAQs:
Do Zinnias need fertilizer?
Zinnias need lots of nutrients to produce a good crop of flowers. Fertilizers that are high in phosphorus can really improve the quantity and quality of zinnia flowers.
When should I fertilize my Zinnias?
Fertilize zinnias once a month during the flowering season, which runs from early summer until the fall frosts, when these flowers can be cut back.
What is the best fertilizer for Zinnias?
Organic fertilizers that are high in phosphorus are the best option for zinnias. Choose fertilizers with an NPK ratio similar to 5-10-5.
Is Miracle-Gro good for zinnias?
Miracle-Gro is a good option for zinnias if you want to use synthetic fertilizer.
Zinnias are famed for their fabulously showy and colorful flowers that bloom from early summer until the first frost. To get the best zinnia flowers, apply an organic fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus once a month. Apply this during the flowering season and always follow the packet instructions regarding dosage.
Edd is a budding content writer and gardener living in the United Kingdom. He has a bachelor's degree in Creative and Professional Writing and has written for several gardening publications online. He is passionate about nature and sustainability with a focus on gardening and wildlife.