When it comes to finding the best companion plant to grow in your vegetable garden, it is hard to beat the amazing benefits that growing zinnias can bring. Not just for their stunning display of colorful blooms from Spring to Fall – but for how they can help your vegetables grow and produce better than ever!
Zinnias have long been admired for their big, showy blooms. With varieties that flower in every color of the rainbow, they look sensational when growing in flowerbeds or along walkways and fence lines. Zinnias also happen to look equally beautiful planted in raised beds, containers and pots.
But beyond their stunning looks, this heavy flowering annual has so many great qualities that make it perfect for growing. For starters, it makes a wondrous cut flower. Their sturdy, strong stems hold up well in vases and arrangements, as do their long-lasting blooms.
Even better, zinnias are extremely drought and heat resistant. In fact, once established, other than a bit of regular deadheading, they require very little in the way of maintenance. And if all of that wasn’t enough, zinnias also happen to be high on the list of plants that deer steer away from as well.
But even with all of those amazing attributes, it is when you plant zinnias in a vegetable garden that their beauty and usefulness come together in full force. And that is exactly why so many gardeners who love to grow vegetables plant them all around their garden!
The Benefits Of Planting Zinnias In The Vegetable Garden
If you have ever driven through an Amish community during the summer, you have likely seen many of their vegetable gardens surrounded with plantings of zinnias.
Although you might have thought it was solely for beauty, it is actually a common practice for the benefits the flowers bring to their vegetable plants. As it turns out, all of those massive, colorful blooms aren’t just pretty. They also happen to attract a slew of pollinators and beneficial insects!
Bring On The Pollinators
Much like with marigolds, nasturtiums and other popular flowering companion plants, zinnias provide a whole host of added benefits for the plants growing around them. See: How To Repel Pests With Marigolds
Zinnias are a major attraction for honey bees, one of natures greatest pollinators of all. In fact, honey bees are responsible for pollinating well over 100 fruit and vegetable crops!
Once honey bees find a source of food, they will keep coming back again and again until it disappears. Because zinnias stay in bloom constantly, when they are planted near or in your garden, it means honeybees are visiting them and your other garden plants each and every day.
Butterflies, Birds & Wasps – How Zinnias Help Your Garden
In addition to the honey bee, zinnias attract other important pollinators to the garden as well, like butterflies, humming birds and wasps. All three help to disperse and distribute pollen as they visit to feed on the blooms of the zinnia, and by doing so, help increase harvest totals of your vegetable crops.
In addition to helping pollinate, wasps also happen to be one of the best natural defenses against the tomato hornworm and aphids. Wasps actually lay their eggs on the hornworms, which ultimately kills them, helping to keep your plants safe in the process.
But it doesn’t stop there. Zinnias also attract huge numbers of ladybugs. And when it comes to devouring deadly mites and aphids, ladybugs are at the top of the list. A single lady bug can eat an entire colony of three to five thousand aphids in its lifetime, protecting tender garden plants in the process.
How To Plant Zinnias For Success!
With all of those benefits, it’s easy to see why you should be planting zinnias near your vegetables. Where you place them in your garden is really a matter of personal preference. As long as they are close, they will bring in the help!
Many gardeners like to plant them along an edge in a row. This mass planting style not only calls in a big amount of helpful insects and pollinators, but can also add a mass of color and beauty to your vegetable garden space. You can also inter-plant among your vegetable rows as well.
Sowing a few seeds to come up between your tomatoes and peppers brings beneficial insects right near your plants. If space is at a premium, planting in containers and placing them around your garden is a great option as well.
No matter where you grow them, perhaps the best part of planting zinnias in or near your garden is just how easy they are to plant and maintain. Zinnias are extremely easy to grow from seed, which is both fast and inexpensive compared to planting transplants.
Zinnias are actually not well-suited for transplanting. As transplants, they often struggle to re-establish their roots into new surroundings. For this reason, it is best to sow directly into the soil or containers. The good news is that zinnias germinate and grow quickly, so it doesn’t take long for blooms to appear.
When To Plant
For best results, wait to plant until the soil and air temperatures have warmed to a solid 70°(F) during the daytime. It’s important not to plant zinnias too early in the spring. Be sure to wait until all threat of frost has passed and the soil has warmed.
Plant zinnias in full sun in rich, fertile soil that drains well. If there is one drawback to growing zinnias, it is that they are susceptible to powdery mildew. By giving them plenty of sunlight and well draining soil, the risk of mildew will be greatly reduced.
Plant seeds shallow, no more than 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep into the soil. Spacing will depend on how and where you grow. For row or hedge planting, allow 6 inches between plants and at least 18 inches between rows. For containers, plant seeds 2 to 3 inches apart. As for varieties, there are a whole slew to choose from:
- Affiliate Seed Link : Zinnia Seeds – California Giants
- Affiliate Seed Link : Zinnia Seeds – Pulcino Mix
- Affiliate Seed Link : Zinnia Seeds (Dwarf) – Button Box Mix
If planting to fill an entire bed space, allow at least 6 inches between seeds and seedlings in all directions. This will allow them to grow together without too much crowding. Overcrowding plants can lead to mildew issues if there is no airflow between the foliage in a large mass planting.
Water, Mulch & Fertilizer – Growing Zinnias
Zinnias are drought and heat tolerant. They actually tend to suffer more with too much water than not enough. Water tender young seedlings only when the soil becomes completely dry to the touch. Once established, plants will rarely need watering unless extremely dry conditions persist.
If planted in containers, they will require more regular watering. Be sure to allow the potting soil to dry out between watering to keep the roots from sitting in overly moist conditions.
Once young seedlings emerge through the soil, mulch to help regulate soil temperatures and control weeds. Zinnias do not like to compete for nutrients. A three to four inch layer of mulch will help to keep bed spaces clear and your plants in good health.
Zinnias can be fertilized with a high quality balanced all-purpose fertilizer to help power more productive growth and blooms. Allow young seedlings to establish in the soil for 4 weeks before applying a first dose. Apply a light application monthly thereafter to help them continue strong flower production.
Cut Your Flowers To Keep Them Growing!
Zinnias will continue to produce as long as the spent blooms are cut back from the plants. They are well-known as a cut and come again plant, meaning if you keep cutting them, they will keep on producing. It is just one more reason they are a great choice to grow for cut flowers.
Here is to planting zinnias as companion plants in your vegetable garden this year, and having them help you grow better vegetables and fruits than ever!
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