This year I have planted more zinnias than in previous years. I saved seed from selected plants and will grow many of these out to reveal their qualities. My plants last year were from seed I had saved many years prior and were of the tetraploid variety “State Fair”. I was surprised with the bi-color pattern to many of them and the wide variety of subtle colors revealed. This year’s planting should expand upon that.
The seed I planted last year was originally from three individually saved flowers and planted in separate rows. Seed from one of these lines germinated with several plants showing yellow cotelydons. The zinnias emerging this year from that line are also showing this characteristic. These young plants start out vigorously, but fail to develop true leaves due to their inability to carry out photosynthesis. Here is what they look like:
Zinnia cotelydons of "State Fair" heritage
After observing my Zinnia violacea Whirligigs and reading that the color traits that I admire in them probably came from Zinnia haageana genes introduced in its past, I decided that I needed to see these Z. haageana flowers first hand. Persian Carpet mix seemed like a logical start as the pictures published showed a large variation in color patterns. Little did I know that there would be variation in flower form as well. I’ve created a Gallery of Persian Carpet Flowers that shows some of this variation.
As I study the Persian Carpet flowers, I notice that some of them change over time. Most do get larger from the time I first recognize them as flowers insead of buds, many change form as they add whirls of ray florets (petals) and some dramatically change color. The change in color seems to occur with the red pigments and is most noticeable at the tips of the ray florets. Those flowers that demonstrate this often have no red pigment at the tips of the ray florets when they first open up and then as the flower matures the pigments reveals itself, first lightly, then in some cases developing into a dark color which depends upon the underlying carotinoid pigments. This is an example which has a very dramatic change in color resulting in a unique pattern.
This is the flower soon after it initially opens.
Base color is darkening from a dusting of red pigment.
Darker coloration now beginning to show up on the petal tips.
The petal tips are now darker than the base color.
About one week later and the tips are definitely darker than the base. The base color has begun to fade.
Many of these pictures are of the same flower. The other pictures are flowers from the same plant, but at different stages of development.
I am growing Zinnia plants from seed saved from 3 separate State Fair flower heads in 2006. I have been so impressed with the spectrum of colors I am seeing that it has motivated me to learn more about tetraploid Zinnia violacea (elegans). It seems that there are very few tetraploid strains commercially available at this time. One of the first tetraploid Z. violacea was developed by Mr Gordon Morrison of the Ferry Morse Seed Company and reported in the literature in 1938. This led to the release of the State Fair Giants strain in the 1950’s by Ferry Morse. It is still available today. I also found mention in the literature of a tetraploid “cultivar” called Jungle. The only other commercially available tetrapolid Z. violacea that I have been able to find is the Burpee Big Tetra Mix. Both are described as “Dahlia flowered” strains and would seem to be somewhat limited in variability of other flower types . Because of the huge potential of the tetraploid genetics, I am motivated to see if one can develop the other zinnia flower forms from this genepool.
The predominant petal form found in these growouts is somewhat cupped upward and can be described as spoon like. The traditional dahlia flower is made up of petals of this configuration. I’ve been searching for deviations from this and have found a few that may have possibilities.
This first is a small white flower that has the petal tips tightly curled under into a roll. I’m not sure how this exagerated form will look in a double flower, but I do know that it needs longer petals to give it some room.
The other petal form I’ve found in these plants is what I would call the foundation for the cactus type flower. These petals are rolled under on their lognitudinal axis with downward curled tips. I have two flowers found in the descendants of one seed lot that have this character. The first is a semi-double purple flower that has a more formal form.
The second flower is less formal looking and has more tightly rolled and downward sloping petals. It is a bicolor of bright coral/salmon with a violet base. The violet does not show up well in the photo and looks like a light pink.
All of these selections should give something to work with. They are all quite small, though there are a few 4 inch flowers as siblings. Since I’ve started down this path, I’ve ordered seed for the Big Tetra mix as well. Perhaps other variations will be discovered.
I have shared previously that I’m growing zinnias seriously for the first time this year. In 2006 I grew some zinnias as butterfly attractors. I did not dead head the plants and as I cleaned up in the late summer I clipped off the flower heads and put them in paper bags. I knew there had to be seed in there somewhere! As I separated the seed a month or two later, I saved each flower’s seed separately thinking I may want to explore the consistency / variability from an individual flower’s seed. If there was any color left on the petals I noted it. I also noted whether the flower was double, semi-double or single.
This year I am growing a couple of the seed lots. I am very much attracted to the various colors I am seeing in the siblings of one lot in particular. This lot was from the tetraploid Zinnia violacea State Fair Giants, labeled “482 purple semi-double” and is producing a very nice pallette of colors in what I call a violet cranberry series. The flower form is not spectacular but the colors tends to initially make up for the lack of form. I would love to improve and standardize the form and maintain the color series…..
This is one of the newly opened singles with especially nice color. I’ve created a gallery to show the spectrum of color I am finding.