Zinnia and carnation are two excellent options for seasonal flowers that can add color to our yard or balcony. Both can easily thrive for quite a long time. Carnation plants can survive even until December in areas with mild autumn and winter. Then they will bloom again next season after a period of dormancy. On the contrary, zinnia plants die at the end of the warm season, but new plants can emerge from the seed produced by the flowers.
These two lovely plants are pretty cheap since three pots with carnations, and three pots of zinnia cost 12 euros in total (14 dollars) (retail price in a plant nursery). We can transplant them either in a flowerbed of our garden or in a larger flower box (jardiniere) on our balcony. But let’s get to know these two popular flowers better.
Zinnia (Zinnia elegance) is generally a highly tolerable and versatile plant. It is easy to grow, and it is one of the most beautiful ornamental plants that we can add to our balcony or yard. There are many different varieties of Zinnia. Plants grow best in moist, fertile, well-drained soil with constant access to sunlight. In general, plants prefer temperatures between 23 ° C and 29 ° C (73.4- 84.2 degrees Fahrenheit). They prefer long and hot summers, while they dislike sudden weather changes and cold winds. The soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7.5. In general, if we add fertilizer, the flowers will grow faster and vigorously.
Carnation, also known as clove pink (Dianthus caryophyllus), prefers slightly acidic soil like Zinnia does. So with a soil pH close to 6.5, both plants can grow properly and give shiny flowers of good quality. Similarly, they both prefer well-drained soil. Excessive water retention in a flower pot or flower bed will most likely kill our carnations. On the contrary, this specific plant can survive frost, as it withstands even sub-zero temperatures.
Transplantation of Zinnia and Carnation in our garden
For a successful transplant of both plants in our garden, the soil should be warm enough, with a temperature of 21-26 ° C (69.8-78.8 degrees Fahrenheit). We avoid transplanting them either too early in the spring or too late. Otherwise, the plants will suffer. The flowering season of Zinnia and Carnation begins in the second half of spring. It is best to choose a sunny spot in our garden, as both of these plants need at least 6 hours of sunshine a day to produce good quality flowers. Zinnias and carnations prefer to grow in large flower beds or flower boxes.
Nutrient requirements and fertilization of Zinnia and Carnation plants
The general rule in these two flowers is to add any fertilizer needed about a month after transplanting them. Then we have two options. The first is to add a few granules of fertilizer 15-15-15, preferably of slow-release. To release the nutrients from this type of fertilizer, we need to water immediately after the application. The second option is to add liquid fertilizer in these proportions (or lower, eg 5-10-10). From this point on, we can add the same fertilizer once a month.
The more we prune, the more our plants will grow and regenerate. We can remove the stem above the first true leaves so that the plant does not waste its energy to produce new plant material that we will remove. We can cut the stem with special scissors (secateurs).
Each plant has as a life purpose to reproduce, usually through the formation of seeds. Similarly, zinnia and carnation plants are genetically programmed to produce seeds at a particular stage of their biological cycle. However, if we allow the flowers to produce seeds, the plants will devote all their energy to the seed production process and thus will stop blooming. Therefore, if we want to extend the flowering period of plants, we must remove any part of the plant that contains immature seeds. This process is called pinching, and most gardeners perform both procedures (pinching and deadheading) at once. The pruning shears we will use during the deadheading must be of high quality and accompanied by the corresponding certificates.
In case we grow a perennial variety of carnation, we need to remove the dried flowers and leaves after the first low temperature significantly during autumn and wait for the winter to pass. When it has not rained for more than two weeks, we water our plants. Next spring, we remove once again any dried plant material, dig the soil around the root and add extra soil if needed.
Besides that, whenever we see a withered flower, we must remove it to enhance the plant’s blooming
Most zinnia plants are originated from Ecuador, so some varieties are more drought tolerant. No matter how well they perform in dry soils, they can always benefit from watering, producing more flowers. Generally, we can water zinnia 2-3 times a week during spring, as soon as we notice that the soil is dry. Carnation has similar needs. When the plants have access to sunlight 6 hours a day, as a general rule, we would say that they may need watering 2 to 3 times a week in late spring and daily during summer.
For both plants, we need to pay attention not to wet their leaves. In this way, we keep the foliage dry and reduce the risk of a disease outbreak. Most gardeners water zinnia and carnation early in the morning. If we water them at night and accidentally wet the foliage, it will remain moist and, as a result, more vulnerable to phytopathogenic fungal infections. When zinnias have reached a height of 15-20 cm (0.65 feet), we can add an 8 cm (0.26 feet) thick mulch layer around their stem base to control water evaporation. A soil cover also helps retain soil moisture and prevents unwanted weeds that compete with zinnia for water, sunlight, and nutrients from growing.
Pests threatening zinnia and carnation plants
Insect infestation can cause extensive problems in zinnia and carnation plants. Aphids, thrips, and whiteflies are the most common enemies of zinnia, while spider mites and thrips are for carnation. If we see white spots or eggs, it is most likely that aphids or mealybugs have infected our plants. The best pest control method in all cases is prevention. If this proves to be insufficient, then we can make a homemade “natural insecticide” by mixing 35 gr (0.08 pounds) of liquid dish soap with 10 gr (0.02 pounds) of alcohol in 1 liter of water. We can use the solution to spray our plants in the morning, where you see signs of aphids, thrips, and whiteflies. We can repeat this treatment daily for 5-8 days.
The key to having healthy zinnia and carnation plants is to avoid creating favorable conditions for the pests. It is important to grow our plants in the sun, water regularly, but keep the soil well-drained. We can apply mulch to keep the plants healthy and vigorous and remove any dead leaves or flowers and unwanted weeds that can attract various plant pests. If all the above measures don’t work, we can seek the advice of an agronomist.
The most common plant diseases infecting zinnia and carnation
Fungal infections of zinnia and carnation are generally more common than insect infestations. The major problem in these two plants is mildew. Among the symptoms of powdery mildew infection is the white to gray powdery growth (mycelium growth) on the surface of the old and new foliage or flower. Infected leaves senescence earlier than healthy ones.
Personal safety during gardening
Gardening may seem like a harmless hobby, but it involves-hide risks that a novice grower may not have imagined. Besides our lovely carnation and zinnia, our garden may also host some unwanted visitors looking for food, such as snakes or mice. As a result, to stay protected and walk around safely and comfortably, we need to buy wellies (rubber boots) of good quality.