Southern Gardening: Time spent gardening yields beauty, benefits

 

If you decide to grow Zahara zinnias like this Double Cherry selection, you will have to make a variety of choices, such as whether you want a single or double flowering type and what colors to choose.

If you decide to grow Zahara zinnias like this Double Cherry selection, you will have to make a variety of choices, such as whether you want a single or double flowering type and what colors to choose. Photo by: Gary Bachman/MSU Extension Service

 

Gary Bachman

 

 

We are certainly experiencing troubling and scary times right now. "Quarantine," "pandemic" and "social distancing" have become frequently used words, at least until we get a handle on COVID-19.

 

As a result, garden and landscape shows are being canceled all across the South out of an abundance of caution. But that doesn't mean that gardening has been canceled.

 

Quite the opposite! Experts are reminding us that working in the garden is good for you. Working outside gets you in the sun, and garden chores are great exercise. The good news is your local garden center is open and has a great selection of plants ready for purchase.

 

 

One of my favorite summer annuals for all-season color is the Zahara zinnia series. In my opinion, these zinnias are some of the hardest working flowers gardeners can grow.

 

Zahara zinnias meet the top three requirements for my Mississippi landscape: They're low maintenance, they tolerate heat and drought, and they give brilliant color.

 

The selections in the Zahara series have a well-branched structure that supports their abundant flowering. There are several flowering choices to make. They begin with either single or double flowering types. Then, you'll have problems trying to pick from the wide range of colors like white, orange, fire, cherry and yellow.

 

There are even bicolor options. Starlight Rose features pretty, pink streaking the center, but the hotter the summer, the less pink is expressed. Sunburst is a fantastic choice, with sunny-yellow petals streaked with bright orange, and the colors are stable in our hot Mississippi gardens.

 

Zahara zinnias have larger flowers when compared to another great landscape choice, the Profusion zinnia series. I like that the flowers of Zahara zinnia have a fluffy, dahlia-like appearance.

 

For my own home garden, I grow the double forms almost exclusively. A couple of my favorites are Double Cherry and Double Fire. Double Cherry, an All-America Selections winner, has deep-magenta blooms. Double Fire has hot scarlet-orange flowers on vigorous plants that can create an amber carpet.

 

Plant Zahara zinnias in the full sun, and be assured that the flower color will not bleach out. In many areas of Mississippi, planting in raised beds will result in superior plant growth and flowering all summer long. And don't neglect containers; Zahara zinnias are excellent container plants.

 

Transplanted in the landscape, Zahara zinnias will quickly provide a blanket of color. One of the best features of Zahara zinnia is that deadheading is seldom necessary.

 

A friend of mine shared a list of essentials for gardeners as we deal with COVID-19. Food is essential, whether fresh from the garden or from local restaurants. Home gardening is essential, as it gives you sunshine and exercise. Your local garden center is essential, as supporting your neighbors is crucial right now.

 

Garden on!

 

Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at [email protected]

 

 

 

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