Gardening

Saving an heirloom zinnia

This gardening season, I adopted another unique heirloom seed to try to save from extinction.  Currently, I’m saving four dry bean varieties that are not available commercially plus my own heirloom variety of tomato.

Now I’m adding the first flower to my growing collection of unique heirlooms, a variety of zinnia. It was given to me by a gardener who I lost contact with. She never said what the variety name was; only that she had been saving them for many years. I believe she is no longer able to garden so it’s now up to me to keep the strain going.

This variety has all pink flowers and is not a mix of colors. It probably started out that way a long time ago.

This variety produces flowers about 3 1/2 to 4 inches in diameter — and plenty of them!

The plants eventually grew to nearly 4 feet tall despite the fact that I sowed the seeds very thickly. I didn’t know what the germination rate would be but as it turned out, just about every seed germinated. I transplanted a lot of them into new rows. I eventually gave up on trying spacing them out since there were so many plants that I ran out of room. The remaining ones grew up to form a dense stand, almost like a hedge.

I stopped cutting on some plants a few weeks ago to give time for a seed head to form before frost.

A seed develops under each individual flower petal.

I let the seeds mature on the plant until they were dry and dark brown.

Like other zinnias, they responded well to cutting, the more I cut, the more flowers grew to take their place.

Zinnias are one of the easiest seeds to harvest and save making it a good one to try if you’ve never saved seeds before. After harvesting, make sure they are thoroughly dry before putting them into storage. Otherwise they can quickly get moldy.

I plan to keep the strain going and eventually give away seeds to other gardeners.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.