The original zinnias were found in the early 1500s in the wilds of Mexico. The zinnia was sometimes referred to as the Mexican Marigold, although zinnias are actually members of the sunflower family.
However, the originals zinnias were so dull and unattractive that the Aztec name for them meant "eyesore." When they were introduced in Europe, they were just as disdained and referred to as "everybody's flower" and "poorhouse flower." The zinnia was named for Dr. Gottfried Zinn, a German whose hobby was breeding wildflowers.
The common name, garden Cinderella, indicates the level of the zinnia's later transformation. In the late 1800s a French botanist produced the first double zinnias with bright colors. Victorian gardeners grew at least nine or ten varieties of zinnia, but the one preferred above all others was scarlet-rayed zinnia.
In the early 20th century, Luther Burbank created the first dahlia-like zinnia. Today the number of colors and flower forms available is astonishing. Wild zinnias still grow in desert areas and are usually yellow or white with fewer petals than the cultivated varieties. The symbolic meanings associated with zinnias are thoughts of absent friends, lasting affection, constancy, goodness and daily remembrance. Zinnias are the state flower of Indiana.
Zinnias thrive in hot climates and will not grow in cool weather. The seeds need to be sown in mid-April, but not earlier. Zinnias should not be over watered and do not like mildew. A wonderful feature of zinnias is that the flowers that open first stay fresh as new flowers open and begin to bloom.