Zinnias are an excellent choice as a companion plant for your vegetable garden, providing a host of benefits that are hard to beat. Apart from their stunning display of colorful blooms from spring until fall, they can also help your vegetables grow and produce better than ever. So, Why To Plant Zinnias In A Vegetable Garden? The Reason is Surprising!
Zinnias are renowned for their large, showy flowers, which come in a variety of colors that can brighten up any flowerbed, walkway, fence line, raised bed, container or pot. Not only do they look beautiful, but they also make great cut flowers due to their sturdy, strong stems and long-lasting blooms.
In addition to their aesthetic qualities, zinnias have numerous other benefits that make them an ideal choice for growing. They are highly resistant to drought and heat, requiring minimal maintenance once established, and are also one of the few plants that deer tend to avoid.
However, it is when zinnias are planted in a vegetable garden that their true beauty and usefulness become evident. Many gardeners who love to grow vegetables plant zinnias all around their garden as a companion plant, providing lasting color and a range of benefits for their vegetables.
The Benefits Of Planting Zinnias In The Vegetable Garden
Planting zinnias in your vegetable garden offers numerous benefits that go beyond just their aesthetic appeal. It’s a common practice among Amish communities to surround their vegetable gardens with zinnias, and for good reason.
While the vibrant and eye-catching blooms of zinnias may seem like just a decorative addition, they actually serve a vital purpose in attracting pollinators and beneficial insects to the garden. This can significantly enhance the growth and productivity of your vegetable plants, resulting in a bountiful harvest.
Bring On The Pollinators
Similar to marigolds and nasturtiums, zinnias are a popular flowering companion plant that offer a range of benefits to the surrounding plants. One of their greatest advantages is their ability to attract honey bees, which are essential pollinators for more than 100 fruit and vegetable crops.
Honey bees are known to return to a food source repeatedly, making zinnias a reliable and consistent source of nectar and pollen for them. Since zinnias bloom continuously, planting them in or near your garden ensures that honey bees will visit them daily and pollinate the other plants in your garden as well.
Butterflies, Birds & Wasps – How Zinnias Help Your Garden
Zinnias are not only a magnet for honey bees but also attract other vital pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds, and wasps to the garden. As they visit the blooms of zinnias, these pollinators help distribute pollen and increase the harvest yields of vegetable crops.
Apart from pollination, zinnias also aid in natural pest control. Wasps, in particular, are known to lay their eggs on tomato hornworms, effectively eliminating them and safeguarding your plants from damage.
Zinnias also attract large numbers of ladybugs, which are excellent predators of mites and aphids. A single ladybug can consume up to three to five thousand aphids in its lifetime, making it a formidable protector of garden plants.
How To Plant Zinnias For Success!
Planting zinnias in close proximity to your vegetables is crucial to reap their benefits. The location of these flowers in your garden is largely based on personal preference.
Many gardeners opt to plant them in a mass planting style along the edges of their garden beds. This not only attracts a plethora of beneficial insects and pollinators but also adds a splash of color to the vegetable garden. Alternatively, you can inter-plant zinnias among your vegetable rows to bring the helpful insects close to your plants.
If space is limited, you can plant zinnias in containers and place them strategically around your garden. Sowing a few seeds between your tomato and pepper plants will attract beneficial insects to your plants.
Whether you choose to grow zinnias in your vegetable garden or in containers, the great news is that they are easy to plant and maintain. Zinnias are ideally grown from seed, which is a fast and affordable alternative to planting transplants.
Transplanted zinnias may struggle to adapt to new conditions, so it’s recommended to sow the seeds directly into the soil or containers. Fortunately, zinnia seeds germinate and grow rapidly, resulting in blooms appearing in no time.
When To Plant
To ensure optimal growth, it’s best to wait until both the soil and air temperatures have warmed to a consistent 70°F during the day before planting zinnias. Avoid planting them too early in the spring, as they are vulnerable to frost damage. It’s recommended to plant zinnias in full sunlight, in nutrient-rich soil that drains well.
One potential downside to growing zinnias is that they are prone to powdery mildew. However, this risk can be minimized by providing them with ample sunlight and well-draining soil.
When planting zinnia seeds, place them shallowly in the soil, no more than 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Spacing will vary depending on the growing method and location. For row or hedge planting, space plants 6 inches apart and allow at least 18 inches between rows. In containers, plant seeds 2 to 3 inches apart. There are many zinnia varieties to choose from.
To avoid overcrowding and potential mildew issues in a large planting, it’s recommended to space seeds and seedlings at least 6 inches apart in all directions when planting to fill an entire bed space. This will provide enough room for the plants to grow together while allowing for adequate airflow between foliage.
Water, Mulch & Fertilizer – Growing Zinnias
Zinnias are known for being heat and drought tolerant. In fact, they are more likely to suffer from overwatering than underwatering. Water young seedlings only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Once established, they will rarely need watering unless conditions are extremely dry. If grown in containers, they will need more frequent watering, but be careful not to let the soil become overly moist.
Mulching is important for regulating soil temperature and suppressing weeds. Zinnias do not like to compete for nutrients, so a layer of mulch (about 3 to 4 inches) will help keep the bed clear and the plants healthy.
To promote strong growth and abundant blooms, fertilize with a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer. Wait for 4 weeks after planting before applying the first dose, and then apply a light application once a month thereafter.
Cut Your Flowers To Keep Them Growing!
To ensure continuous production, it’s important to regularly cut back spent blooms from zinnias. They are a great option for cut flowers because they are known as a “cut and come again” plant, meaning that if you keep cutting them, they will continue to produce. Planting zinnias as companion plants in your vegetable garden can help you grow better fruits and vegetables this year.