elegans (ELL-eh-ganz) Elegant
Zinnias really are easy to grow and they make nice cut flowers. After trying a few different kinds I now only grow Benary's Giant Series, sometimes called BluePoint strain. They are quite mildew resistant have the largest flowers. My zinnias are not necessarily all that large because they grow best with good fertility and plenty of water and I can't always provide those conditions at the farm.
Zinnias can be started ahead and transplanted quickly before becoming pot bound but that doesn't seem to work much better than just direct sowing them. They cannot tolerate any frost so they shouldn't be sown until all danger of frost has passed, usually around June 1st here in SE Michigan. I usually plant mine about 6 inches apart in rows a foot apart but that is probably a little too close.
You can find seed for Benary's Giants at Johnny's, Stokes and other mail order outfits but I have never seen them in retail seed racks. They come in 13 different colors including three different reds (Scarlet, Crimson and Deep Red). The other colors are Bright Pink, Lilac, Salmon Rose, Carmine Rose, Yellow, Orange, Coral, White, Purple and Lime Green. I usually grow White rather than Lime Green because the White is quite greenish itself and is more robust than the Lime Green. I also really like Orange, Salmon Rose, Purple, Crimson and Scarlet. I probably should just buy packets of mixed colors but am always thinking I want more of one color or another.
The flowers should be cut when the center petals are still unfolding and before the yellow stamens appear in the center. The first flowers are on fairly short stems but the plants will re-bloom repeatedly throught the summer with longer stems. Some growers succession sow zinnias. I have done this a few times but have not noticed that the flower quality for the later sowings is much better than the re-bloom on the first sowings.
Just because they are cheap and easy to grow does not mean zinnias are not impressive, people are always asking me what they are.