Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
One of the first flowers I remember planting from seed are zinnias. Showy and long-lasting, they were great both in the garden and as cut flowers on our kitchen table when I was growing up. Having just purchased a house with absolutely no landscaping or lawn, zinnias came to mind as one way to get some vibrant color this summer without spending much money.
I would have normally grown zinnias from seed, but since I didn't move until recently, and lacked sufficient space to start seeds (plus the plants would be one more thing to move!) I came upon some plants labeled Profusion® Cherry Zinnias at a local nursery. The label said they had been an All-America Selections winner, so I had confidence that they were a good choice. All-America Selections tests new varieties of flowers and vegetables in replicated trials across the country to select the best new releases. The closest trial garden to us is in Urbana, at the Hartley Gardens on Lincoln Avenue.
It turns out that the Profusion® series of zinnias is a great choice for the landscape for several reasons. For one, they are resistant to powdery mildew, so they will look good all season, rather than a whitish ragged mess like some other zinnias turn into by late summer. Also, the 3 inch flowers are extremely durable and long lasting. The plants themselves are very low maintenance, and tolerate hot dry conditions well. They grow to be about twelve inches high and up to eighteen inches wide. Branches form from the base of the plant, so it maintains a pleasing bushy shape throughout the season.
In 1999, Profusion® Cherry and Orange were named Gold Medal All-America Selection Winners, the highest award in the All-America Selections program. Since then, Profusion® White was introduced as an All-America Selection, and Profusion® Fire and Apricot were released in 2004.