Zinnia is a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. They are native to scrub and dry grassland in an area stretching from the Southwestern United States to South America, with a centre of diversity in Mexico. Members of the genus are notable for their solitary long-stemmed flowers that come in a variety of bright colors. The genus name honours German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727–59).
Zinnias are annuals, shrubs, and sub-shrubs native primiarily to North America, with a few species in South America. Most species have upright stems but some have a lax habit with spreading stems that mound over the surface of the ground. They typically range in height from 10 to 100 cm tall. leaves are opposite and usually stalkless (sessile), with a shape ranging from linear to ovate, and pale to middle green in color. The flowers have a range of appearances, from a single row of petals, to a dome shape, with the colors white, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, purple, and lilac.
Zinnias are popular garden flowers because they come in a wide range of flower colors and shapes, and they can withstand hot summer temperatures, and are easy to grow from seeds.[ They are grown in fertile, humus-rich, and well-drained soil, in an area with full sun. They will reseed themselves each year. Over 100 cultivars have been produced since selective breeding started in the 19th century.
Zinnia peruviana was introduced to Europe in the early 1700s. Around 1790 Z. elegans (Zinnia violacea) was introduced and those plants had a single row of ray florets which were violet. In 1829, scarlet flowering plants were available under the name ‘Coccinea’. Double flowering types were available in 1858, coming from India, and they were in a range of colors including shades of reds, rose, purple, orange, buff, and rose stripped.
A number of species of zinnia are popular flowering plants, and interspecific hybrids are becoming more common. Their varied habits allow for uses in several parts of a garden, and their tendency to attract butterflies and hummingbirds is seen as desirable. Commercially available seeds and plants are derived from open pollinated or F1 crosses, and the first commercial F1 hybrid dates from 1960.
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