Marigolds And Zinnias Good For Late Summer-fall Says LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Allen D. Owings  |  4/19/2005 10:28:29 PM

Marigolds aren’t just for spring. In fact, they perform better in late summer and fall.

News You Can Use For August 2004

We often associate many of our warm-season bedding plants with spring and summer. Often overlooked is the fact that many of these plants may actually do better in our Louisiana landscapes during the mid and late summer through the fall, says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.

Zinnias and marigolds are two excellent examples of warm-season bedding plants to try from August through first killing frost, the horticulturist points out.

"Marigolds are a great fall-blooming plant," Owings says, explaining, "They produce bold colors and striking flowers and are great for fall landscape displays."

Texas A&M University began recommending marigolds for the fall as a replacement for garden mums about 10-15 years ago, and this is now beginning to catch on with landscapers and home gardeners in Louisiana and other southeastern states.

Many marigold plantings in the late summer and fall will actually outperform a spring planting in terms of "lasting in the landscape," Owings says. Most spring-planted marigolds have declined considerably by June because of petal blight, stem lodging and spider mites.

An August planting typically does not experience the flower disease from the drier weather of September and October. Also, spider mite problems are fewer at that time of the year.

Marigolds come in a wide range of varieties. African marigolds are the taller, larger, cut-flower varieties. Typical colors are orange, gold and yellow. Examples include the Inca II, Perfection and Antigua series.

French marigolds are the shorter, smaller-flowered types. They include the Hero, Bolero, Bonanza, Janie and Durango series. Slightly more color variation is available in the French varieties.

Zinnias have a few disease problems – primarily leaf spots, flower blight and powdery mildew. Like marigolds, these problems can be greatly reduced, and plant performance can be improved in a late summer and fall planting compared to a spring planting.

Many zinnia varieties are available. Traditional varieties that we grew up with are the zinnia elegans. Some of these are good for cut flowers, like the Benary Giant series, and others are better as short-growing bedding plants, such as the Dreamland series. A wide range of flower colors are available in these zinnias.

Other popular zinnia groups are the narrowleaf zinnias (Zinnia linearis or Zinnia angustifolia) that include the Crystal and Star series. Flower colors available in these are limited to gold, orange and white.

The newest zinnia group are crosses between the narrowleaf zinnias and the older zinnia varieties. These hybrids include the Profusion series. Available flower colors are white, orange, cherry, fire and apricot. Some of these are all-America Selection winners.

Owings says zinnias and marigolds need less care and provide great satisfaction in the landscape as the long, hot days of summer fade to cooler shorter days of fall.

"Remember that bed preparation is important as it is for all bedding plants," Owing emphasizes, adding "Removal of old flowers by dead-heading as the flowers fade also helps extend the season significantly."

The horticulturist recommends trying zinnias and marigolds this fall. "You will be pleased with the success you can enjoy with this more traditional spring flowering bedding plant."

For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com  Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://www.lsuagcenter.com/
On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org
Source: Allen D. Owings (225) 578-2222, or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu 

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