Creeping Zinnia Ground Cover: Growing Creeping Zinnia Plants


By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Gardeners delight in easy to care for and beautiful ground covers that they can just plug in and let go. Creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens) is one of these garden favorites that, once planted, provides a feast of color all season long. This low-growing beauty has a dainty trailing habit, which makes it perfect for hanging baskets and container arrangements as well. Keep reading to learn more about creeping zinnia ground cover plants.

Growing Creeping Zinnia Plants

Use creeping zinnia in the garden if you have a sunny spot with well-drained soil that needs some color. Where summers are mild, this Mexican native will spread up to 18 inches (45 cm.) and bear beautiful little orange or yellow sunflower-like flowers from summer through fall.

Creeping zinnia ground cover does best when sown in a sunny garden spot in early spring. Use light, loamy potting soil with plenty of drainage if using the plant in a container garden. Many people start creeping zinnia ground cover seeds in hanging baskets or containers indoors, about four to six weeks before spring, to get a jump-start on the season.

Sow seeds on top of a prepared planting surface and cover lightly with peat moss for best results. Keep seeds evenly moist until you see sprouts emerge, which should be sometime within a couple weeks.

Creeping Zinnia Care

Once creeping zinnia in the garden is well established, their care is minimal. Fertilize growing creeping zinnia plants monthly during the growing season with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Creeping zinnias are drought, humidity and heat tolerant and should not be overwatered. If you are using creeping zinnias in a container or hanging basket, be sure to provide a little extra water, as needed since pots tend to dry out quickly.

There are no major pests associated with growing creeping zinnia plants.

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Proven Winners
Sunbini® Creeping Zinnia

  • Height 6-12 Inches
  • Width 12-18 Inches
  • Use as a filler when using in containers
  • Reblooming groundcover!

What a fun little full sun annual! Bright yellow zinnia-like flowers cover the creeping foliage, spreading out to share its bright sunny blooms with you. This zinnia wannabe is actually in the aster family. The procumbens portion of its name describes how the stems creep along the ground but do not take root. This habit creates a mound of foliage and flowers, effectively choking out weeds.

Native to Mexico, Guatemala and the SW United States, Zone 9a through 11b, this bright yellow button-like flower is an annual in Zones 2-8. Set it out in full sun after the danger of the last frost has passed. It is a continuous bloomer, giving you months of color well into October in some warmer regions of the country. The leaves are a dark green which perfectly compliment the bright yellow flowers with yellow/green centers.


Creeping Zinnia

Sanvitalia procumbens. If you love Sunflowers but don't have the room to grow the fields of them that you crave, try this lookalike groundcover! Direct-sow seeds after the last spring frost date, by pressing the seeds lightly into the soil as light aids germination, or raise as transplants 6 to 8 weeks in advance. Deer resistant. Annual. Early summer- to fall-flowering. Height: 4" to 8".

Average seed life: 2 to 3 years.

  • Creeping Zinnia Sowing Instructions
    Planting Depth
    :0”
    Seed Spacing:1”-2”
    Plant Spacing:5”-6”
    Days to Germination:10-15 days
    Germination Temperature:55°-60°F

Sanvitalia procumbens. Easy to grow: Direct-sow seeds in full to partial sunlight after the last frost date, just pressing the seeds lightly into the soil, as light is needed for germination, or raise as transplants 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting out after threat of frost has passed. Provide even moisture and strong light. Harden off the seedlings by gradually acclimating them outside over 1 to 2 weeks before transplanting out. Once seedlings are 2" tall, thin or transplant 5" to 6" apart. This mat-forming miniature sunflower look-a-like thrives in heat and humidity. A great annual groundcover, it’s also a wonderful plant for containers. Early summer- to fall-flowering. Height: 4" to 8".

Sanvitalia procumbens. If you love Sunflowers but don't have the room to grow the fields of them that you crave, try this lookalike groundcover! Direct-sow seeds after the last spring frost date, by pressing the seeds lightly into the soil as light aids germination, or raise as transplants 6 to 8 weeks in advance. Deer resistant. Annual. Early summer- to fall-flowering. Height: 4" to 8".

Average seed life: 2 to 3 years.

  • Creeping Zinnia Sowing Instructions
    Planting Depth
    :0”
    Seed Spacing:1”-2”
    Plant Spacing:5”-6”
    Days to Germination:10-15 days
    Germination Temperature:55°-60°F

Sanvitalia procumbens. Easy to grow: Direct-sow seeds in full to partial sunlight after the last frost date, just pressing the seeds lightly into the soil, as light is needed for germination, or raise as transplants 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting out after threat of frost has passed. Provide even moisture and strong light. Harden off the seedlings by gradually acclimating them outside over 1 to 2 weeks before transplanting out. Once seedlings are 2" tall, thin or transplant 5" to 6" apart. This mat-forming miniature sunflower look-a-like thrives in heat and humidity. A great annual groundcover, it’s also a wonderful plant for containers. Early summer- to fall-flowering. Height: 4" to 8".


Zinnias: The Hardest-Working Flower in the Summer Garden

In summer, gardening requires plants with three key qualities: low maintenance (it's hot out there), heat and drought tolerance (ditto), and brilliant color—the brighter the better.

Zinnias fit the bill on all three counts. And more. In fact, they're one of the best flowers that smart gardeners can put to work in their gardens.

If there's an easier flower to grow, we'd like to know about it. Zinnias are annuals, meaning that they go from seed to flower to seed quickly. Zinnias' pointy seeds, shaped like little arrowheads, require only basic garden prep to sprout: sow them in well-drained soil, where there's full sun and lots of summer heat, and you'll have tiny seedlings in days, with flowers powering up in just a few weeks. No perennial can claim that speed!

One gardening friend doesn't even bother to prepare her soil—she simply sprinkles seeds wherever she'd like a few zinnias, waters those spots for a couple of days, and lets zinnias' easy-to-grow nature take its course.

Zinnias work wherever you need color.

'Pop Art'. 'Green Envy'. 'Persian Carpet'. 'Candy Cane'. With variety names like that, you know you're in for color. Zinnias come in a preposterous palette of every bright and pastel (except the blues), plus bi-colors, tri-colors, and crazy-quilt mixes designed for cutting, to attract pollinators, etc.

Aside from fresh color, many new zinnia series offer height and width options, too.

  • While the tall versions of Zinnia elegans remain the classic choice for the back of the border, shorter series now challenge the low ground once ceded to marigolds and petunias. The Magellan Series stay close to knee high at 14 inches, while the Thumbelina Series of dwarf zinnias peak at 6 to 8 inches.
  • Creeping or spreading Zinnia angustifolia, such as the Crystal Series, are a revelation for the front of the border, raised beds, containers, and even ground covers. This Mexican native is the go-to species for hot spots like sidewalk beds or that no-man's-land beside the garage, since it's even more drought tolerant than common zinnias.
  • Zahara™ zinnias top out at just 8 to 12 inches—and are prized for their resistance to powdery mildew and leaf spot (see below). Zahara Yellow is short but sweet—we paired it with petite sunflowers in the entry beds at the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden.

Zinnias work as cut flowers.

Zinnias have style, in addition to long, strong stems, so they are naturally destined for the vase.

Wonderful language gets used when describing zinnia flowers: stars and daisies, dahlias and spiders, buttons and domes, and quill-leaf cactus. Flowers can be "singles," with petals lined up in a row around an open center, or semi-doubles, or doubles. All work marvelously in floral arrangements.

Of course, the tall varieties are the zinnias of choice for cutting: 'Benary's Giant' is famous for its three-foot-tall, sturdy stems and large flowers. Cut zinnia stems at an angle just above a bud joint. Zinnias are typically long-lasting in a vase—strip the stems of all but the most visible leaves before setting them in water.

Zinnias cut your workload.

Zinnias are low maintenance. Since they're fast-growing, they shade out weeds. They don't require much in the way of fertilizing (just an occasional well-balanced mix), and they don't need mulching.

Deadheading helps to produce more flowers. No time to deadhead? The Zaharas mentioned in the sidebard are self-cleaning—a real time saver when it comes to a large bed.

Like Zaharas, the Profusion Series (hybrids between Z. elegans and Z. angustifolia) are resistant to the scourge of zinnias: powdery mildew.

Because zinnias are native to the grasslands of the southwestern states, Mexico, and South America, they know how to handle dry conditions. But wet summers (we've had one so far) can take their toll. And that can lead to powdery mildew and leaf spot. Three suggestions for dealing with wet conditions:

  1. Water only when needed, and then only at the base of the plants. Wet leaves can promote mildew development, and splashing water can transfer fungus from the ground onto zinnia leaves in an instant.
  2. Camouflage tall, more mildew-prone varieties with other plants in the foreground.
  3. Do both #1 and #2 and live with the fact that zinnia leaves (but not flowers) are affected by wet weather—as one horticulturist put it, "Even when zinnias are covered in powdery mildew, they're covered in flowers."

Zinnias work year after year.

It's easy to save zinnia seeds. Simply let the flowers dry fully on the stem, then collect the seedheads and lightly crush them in your hand to release next year's seed crop. Store in a cool, dry place as you do other seeds. (And set some aside in a labeled envelope for our Seed Swap next February!)

One last reason to plant zinnias year after year: they're butterfly magnets. The bigger-flowered varieties act like landing pads for nectar-seeking butterflies. (Same goes for hummingbirds.) Try tall zinnias with red or hot pink flowers to get the biggest draw.

Karen Zaworski is a garden writer and photographer who lives and gardens in Oak Park, Illinois.

Zinnias are planted in nearly every one of our 27 display gardens.

One of the best for cut flowers, 'Benary's Giant' (1,000 of them!) makes a big statement in the English Oak Meadow.

Above: Planted in the Enabling Garden, Double Zahara Fire (Zinnia marylandica) is part of the series that is powdery mildew-resistant.

Zahara™ Coral Rose zinnia (Zinnia Marylandica) is an outstanding performer with low water needs for your summer garden.

Zinnias + butterflies = the quintessential summer garden


Varieties

Not all Creeping zinnias are the same: some varieties like ‘Superbini’ grow bushy and upright, others like ‘Starbini’ hang casually over. Sanvitalia procumbens ‘Gold Braid’ has yellow flowers with brown center and grows between 15 and 20 centimeters high. Mandarin’, on the other hand, has bright orange flowers on the edge of the tongue and a brown centre, but is slightly higher at 20 to 30 centimeters. Filled flowering varieties of the hussar button are for example ‘Plena’ and ‘Goldprincess’ which both grow relatively compact. Golden carpet’ is an early flowering, golden yellow variety.


Creeping Zinnia In The Garden - Learn About Creeping Zinnia Care - garden

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia flowers

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia flowers

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia features showy yellow daisy flowers at the ends of the stems from late spring to mid fall. Its tomentose narrow leaves remain dark green in color throughout the season. The fruit is not ornamentally significant.

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia is a dense herbaceous annual with a trailing habit of growth, eventually spilling over the edges of hanging baskets and containers. Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage.

This plant will require occasional maintenance and upkeep, and should not require much pruning, except when necessary, such as to remove dieback. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia is recommended for the following landscape applications

  • Mass Planting
  • Border Edging
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover
  • Container Planting
  • Hanging Baskets

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia will grow to be about 8 inches tall at maturity, with a spread of 18 inches. When grown in masses or used as a bedding plant, individual plants should be spaced approximately 15 inches apart. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense right to the ground. Although it's not a true annual, this fast-growing plant can be expected to behave as an annual in our climate if left outdoors over the winter, usually needing replacement the following year. As such, gardeners should take into consideration that it will perform differently than it would in its native habitat.

This plant should only be grown in full sunlight. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is considered to be drought-tolerant, and thus makes an ideal choice for a low-water garden or xeriscape application. It is not particular as to soil type or pH, and is able to handle environmental salt. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This particular variety is an interspecific hybrid. It can be propagated by cuttings however, as a cultivated variety, be aware that it may be subject to certain restrictions or prohibitions on propagation.

Sunbini Creeping Zinnia is a fine choice for the garden, but it is also a good selection for planting in outdoor containers and hanging baskets. Because of its trailing habit of growth, it is ideally suited for use as a 'spiller' in the 'spiller-thriller-filler' container combination plant it near the edges where it can spill gracefully over the pot. Note that when growing plants in outdoor containers and baskets, they may require more frequent waterings than they would in the yard or garden.


Plants→Sanvitalia→Creeping Zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens Sunbini™)

General Plant Information (Edit)
Plant Habit: Herb/Forb
Life cycle: Perennial
Sun Requirements: Full Sun
Minimum cold hardiness: Zone 9a -6.7 °C (20 °F) to -3.9 °C (25 °F)
Maximum recommended zone: Zone 11
Plant Height : 12-16 inches
Plant Spread : 18-24 inches
Flowers: Showy
Flower Color: Yellow
Bloom Size: 1"-2"
Flower Time: Spring
Late spring or early summer
Summer
Late summer or early fall
Fall
Uses: Suitable as Annual
Propagation: Seeds: Sow in situ
Start indoors
Containers: Suitable in 3 gallon or larger
Suitable for hanging baskets

Labeled as Sanvitalia procumbens 'Sunbini' at the ISU Horticulture Center.

The little 1" blooms of this annual plant look similar to zinnias, though the growth habit is much more low and sprawling. They work well in rock gardens and as a low edging in flower beds or along sidewalks. They also fare well in hanging baskets, as long as they aren't allowed to dry out too much. They bloom right through the hottest parts of the summer without fail, and they offer a nice contrast between the dark green of the foliage and the bright, sunny yellow or orange of the blooms.

Though these are easy to start from seed, they do resent transplanting. If starting indoors, plant in peat pots, or use the "hunk o' seedlings" method of starting a whole thick block of them in a milk carton or box and lifting the whole clump to transplant. This reduces transplant shock. Alternately, seed directly where you'd like them to grow.

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Watch the video: How to Grow Creeping Jenny


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