I've come to the time where I need to start one of my favorite hummingbird flowers. My season is quite late compared to most, but it's definitely not too late for those in the south to start Zinnias. The main reason I plant these flowers are for the arrival of the young hummingbirds when they start leaving the nest. I consider these flowers essential for any hummingbird garden. These plants produce large bright targets on the tops of tall stems, and are a wonderful choice for attracting young hummingbirds.
Here are a few steps to get these flowers going. For those who don't have frosts or temperatures dipping below 5C(42F), you can direct plant the seeds in the ground, keep them moist until they germinate, and watch them grow. But for those of us who are expecting temperatures below 5 Celsius for the next month, here is the way to get them started.
1. You can purchase a seed mix which can be costly, or you can purchase a bag of peat moss and a bag of perlite, I mix 75 to 80% Peat moss with 20 to 25% perlite. Stir it together thoroughly.
2. Prepare your pots. I like to lay plastic garbage bags under the pots so any excess water doesn't end up leaking out on the floor.
3. Fill each of the pots to within half an inch of the top of each pot, filling them loosely, and not packed. Give them a good dose of water at this point. Once the soil is wet, scatter your seeds on the top. If you have a huge supply of seeds, you can be generous with spreading them, as once they germinate you can pluck out the weakest ones, leaving three or four in each pot.
Otherwise, Lay four seeds equally spaced in each pot. Lay another quarter inch of soil over top of all of the seeds.
4. Spread out the soil evenly, water thoroughly again, and push any seeds back in the soil that are exposed.
Keep the soil moist, and within 5 to 7 days you'll start to see them emerge. To avoid shock of transplanting later, place the seedlings out in full sun as often as you can right from germination, making sure they are NOT exposed to temperatures below 5 Celsius(42F). Bring them indoors during the cooler temperatures, but making sure they are getting as much light as possible. Place them outside again as soon as temperatures are above five Celsius. From seedlings, don't worry about wind, as the earlier they are exposed to the elements the hardier they will become. Once they germinate, water as needed, JUST KEEPING THE SOIL slightly moist, and even better watering the tray and allowing the soil to moisten from the bottom up. Zinnias don't like to be sitting in a wet soil. If they are too wet, the tips of the leaves will start to brown and rot.
If you follow these instructions, you should have a very successful summer of Zinnias, and the young hummingbirds will certainly appreciate them.
Much of the year I spend time attracting hummingbirds and other species to my garden. Please take some time to read and enjoy my blog. I hope it inspires you to build and create a beautiful place to attract birds of your own.