Our Mission: Grow a network of habitat for songbirds and pollinators in gardens across the Rocky Mountains and beyond, save water for our streams and rivers, and restore our joy in nature every day.
Our monthly Plant Profiles from Plant Select® feature plants that thrive in the Rocky Mountain region and also provide critical needs for wildlife.
Great for gardens — Prairie Zinnia
Great things are sometimes just off the beaten path, and only found by serendipity. That was the case fora particularly beautiful and vigorous form of our western native Prairie Zinnia that plantsman David Salman discovered just off the highway in southern Colorado. Read the full story in David’s blog post.
Durable and Hardy in the Wild
In the wild, Prairie Zinnia is a rugged, durable plant, flourishing on extreme sites characterized by rocky and sandy soils, severe heat, and strong winds, and often is fully exposed winter’s coldest temperatures. It adapts by having very deep roots that reach water well below the soil surface, as well as by going completely dormant during winter, emerging only when temperatures rise and spring moisture reappears.
Prairie Zinnia is native to southeastern Colorado, southwestern Nebraska, western Oklahoma and Texas, New Mexico and eastern Arizona.
A Vigorous Carpet in Hot Garden Spots
In the garden or landscape, Prairie Zinnia is vigorous and long-lasting. It often carpets large swaths of ground in the toughest spots, including south-facing slopes and along hot driveways and sidewalks.
Blooming in late summer through fall, the golden-flowers with orange centers cover the finely textured foliage. After first frosts, the flowers fade to a creamy beige and remain on the plants until carried away by winds. Another plus: deer seem to avoid grazing Prairie Zinnia.
David’s ‘Gold on Blue’ Form
Several years ago, David brought his discovery to Plant Select®. After two years of trials at Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens, it was selected to be introduced in 2014 as Zinnia grandiflora ‘Gold on Blue’.
Side-by-side comparisons to the “standard” form show that the flowers are larger and more numerous, the foliage is bluer and the plants nearly twice as vigorous. These are ideal characteristics for both home gardens and commercial landscapes because the plants will fill in faster and offer more color and foliage interest.
Wildlife benefits: Like all yellow composites (members of the daisy family), Prairie Zinnia attracts butterflies to feed on the nectar in its compact heads of multiple flowers. The papery seeds are eaten by goldfinches, juncos, house finches, sparrows and other small seed-eating birds.
Growing tips: Plant in summer when plants are actively growing. Water well to establish, but reduce water as plants fill out. Once established no additional irrigation is needed. Well-drained, sandy or rocky soils are best.
At a glance:
- Gold on Blue Prairie Zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora ‘Gold on Blue’)
- Size: 8-10” tall x 18” or more wide
- Growth habit: low-growing, dense groundcover spreading by underground runners
- USDA Hardiness Zones 4-8
- How to Use: for hot dry slopes, along driveways: in the hottest, driest spots