My new favorite plant does not act alone. In fact, it comes in a series of great zinnias with amazing colors of orange, white and red. It’s Profusion Zinnia, and I love it.

Profusion Zinnias

The bright colors of Profusion Zinnias work well in summer and fall gardens.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mississippi State University

Profusion zinnias in planting bed

Orange Profusion Zinnias help liven up combination plantings.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mississippi State University

But it’s not just the brilliant colors that caught my eye when I first spotted these fantastic flowers this past summer; it’s the downright toughness of the little plants.

For those who don’t keep up with The Weather Channel, we had a pretty rough Summer 2011 in the Southwest – Texas included. In my north Texas area, we’ve been in an extraordinary drought over the past 18 months, and to make matters worse, we suffered a summer with scorching heat – with more than 40 days of 100-degree temperatures.

So you can image what our flower beds looked like. We began the summer with our usual marigolds, bachelor’s buttons, begonias, petunias and impatiensannuals that usually last until our first frost, sometime in November. Even our usually dependable lantanas were showing the effects of the long, hot summer. By the first of August, these plants all looked like they had caught on fire. (Actually, in a way they had.)

Then along came these small, brightly colored zinnias in orange, white and cherry red. Landscape professionals and homeowners began replacing washed-out, burned-up begonias with this amazing annual flower that withstood the harshest summer we’ve had in many years.

But these plants aren’t just great for summer – they’re great for fall, too! If you plant Profusion Zinnias in autumn, you should have color in your fall garden that lasts until frost.

These versatile annuals look great in containers, as well as in the ground, and they can really liven up a back yard. (What’s more, they make great cutflowers, too!) They grow 12-18 inches tall and bloom early (as soon as warm weather appears), remaining until frost – or until gardeners dispose of them. Zinnias have a remarkable tolerance to diseases, rarely succumbing to powdery mildew and leaf spot, and they’re highly attractive to bees and butterflies.

The best way to plant zinnias late in the season is from plants in “six-packs” or “cells” (small plastic containers). Don’t try to germinate seed in fall – it’ll be too late in the growing season.

If you like containers and are looking to add a little color to your porch or patio, plant these flowers in a well-drained container mix, purchased from your local garden center. If you prefer blooms in your planting beds, consider amending the soil with organic matter and mounding it for good drainage. (Soils can be slightly acid to slightly basic. Organic matter will take care of your pH problems.)

The trick is not to overwater zinnias – they don’t do well with “wet feet.” Stick your finger down to the root zone of the soil; if it’s slightly moist, don’t water. But don’t let newly planted zinnias get completely dry, either – especially before their roots have had time to spread in the soil. (Reminder: Plants that are wilted either have too much or too little moisture, a good indicator of how frequently you should water them.)

Enjoy your summer yard and fall garden with these colorful annuals. Try them – you’ll like them!