Resembling a carpet of sunshine, prairie zinnia will delight you with a profusion of gold flowers late summer through fall. A native southwest perennial, prairie zinnia grows low and mounded. Tiny needle-like leaves of light green grow 4 to 8 inches tall topped with vibrant, nearly round yellow-rayed flowers.
This native wildflower loves the heat and sun. It thrives in dry, well-drained soil and can grow on slopes and in rugged terrain. Prairie zinnia is hardy in zones 4-7 and is deer and drought tolerant. It grows naturally throughout the southern regions of the intermountain west. Start seeds indoors in the spring or sow in the garden in late spring. For a longer flowering period, sow the seed in succession. It will self-seed once it is established.
Prairie zinnia forms masses of golden flowers resembling daisies on finely textured foliage growing from a woody base. The low, shrub like growth makes a good ground cover, spreading 4 to 15 inches wide. Prairie zinnia is perfect for naturalizing, in borders and edging around other dry loving plants such as penstemon and cacti. The flowers remain from summer to fall and attract birds and butterflies. Remove the dead flower heads to increase the number of flowers and length of bloom.
Contributed by Valerie Smith, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 520.7684, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com
Photo by Leslie Holzmann, Colorado Master Gardener.