Gold on Blue – not your typical zinnia

Zinnia grandiflora Gold on Blue Plant Select“What? No, that’s not a zinnia. My grandma grew zinnias in her garden for cut flowers, and I never saw that plant in her garden.”

It’s true.  Most gardeners would never guess this prairie beauty to be a zinnia. This tough little wildflower is full of surprises. Just when the summer heat has driven most other flowering plants out-of-bloom, Gold on Blue bursts into flower in mid-summer, covering itself for several months with hundreds of bright golden-yellow flowers.

Gold on Blue has been propagated from a single original plant found about 30 miles north of Trinidad, CO. It is the perfect match for Colorado, Intermountain and Great Plains garden conditions, thriving in our blazing higher elevation sun and growing well in most any dry soil type including clay.

Gold on Blue is a particularly vigorous selection of this species that suckers readily to form low growing blue-green patches of fine textured foliage which makes it invaluable as a tidy, wide spreading groundcover. It is especially useful on harsh sites like slopes, along driveways and in meadows. Yet it’s also at home in more gentle growing conditions where it is a superb companion plant for ornamental grasses and other summer/fall blooming perennials.

For native plant lovers, Gold on Blue is spectacular with summer bloomers like Echinacea (Purple Coneflower), Solidago (Golden Rod), Liatris (Gayfeather), Mirablis (Wild Four O’Clock), Schizachyrium (Little Bluestem grass), ‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue grama grass  and many, many others.

The plant has excellent resistance to browsing deer and rabbits and is exceedingly long lived when happy. It has become a permanent resident in my xeriscape where it thrives with minimal attention. Just cut it to the ground in late fall or mid-spring and fertilize it minimally in the fall.

View the plant profile here. Or see the video here.

Zinnia grandiflora ‘Gold on Blue’
Height: 8-10″”
Width: 18”+
Blooms: Mid-summer into early fall
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to xeric
Hardiness: USDA zones 4-8 (up to 7,000 ft elevation)
Culture: This native plant is a warm season grower, best planted from late spring into early summer. Zinnia benefits when it can grow and establish over the long, hot summer months. This ensures that it gets well rooted and grows a strong crown to take it through the first winter’s cold. Plant Gold on Blue in a “lean”, well drained soil and water regularly (1 to 3 times per week) the first growing season to get it well established.

Thanks to David Salman, Waterwise Gardening, LLC, for writing this piece.

8 responses to “Gold on Blue – not your typical zinnia”

  1. Gold and blue looks like an interesting ground cover. Sounds like it needs full sun. I am looking for a Xeric/low water groundcover that will spread aggressively and thrive in part sun part shade. The sun is afternoon sun facing west in a side yard. Evergreen, winter interest, long flowering Are all pluses. For zone five in Longmont Colorado. Would appreciate any suggestions at all!

    • Ross Shrigley says:

      If the location gets hot western sun for half the day this plant will work. You might also try Panchio manzanita for winter interest, but be sure to water it for 3-4 years until it is established.

  2. Sarah Liora says:

    I got 3 plants in 2021 from HCG and planted them in different places in a well tended sunny rock garden alongside lavender. Scree mulch and irrigation for lavender’s needs. Thought it would be ideal. Not a single bloom last year. One plant died and remaining two show no sign of growing much or blooming. I see them in other gardens and they grow like a weed. What’s the secret to their success?

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      These require full sun all year and good drainage. Too much moisture in the winter and using wood mulch around this plant can also be issues. Try pea gravel or squeegee mulch.

  3. Cindy Haney says:

    Hello Plant Select,

    Please recommend a local nursery where I can source multiples of the Prairie Zinnia Gold on Blue. I garden in Colorado Springs area; I plan to grow these xeric plants near my Blonde Ambition grasses on a slope in full sun. Thank you in advance!

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      One of these places in the CO springs area should have this now or next spring.
      Good Earth Garden Center, LLC
      Harding Nursery
      Heidrich’s Colorado Tree Farm Nursery
      Phelan Gardens
      Rick’s Garden Center
      Spencer’s Gardens
      Summerland Gardens
      Sunset Greenhouse

  4. Cynthia Grover says:

    Would this be a good groundcover to choke out Kochia seedlings? I have a swath of clay desert along the back of my lot, no irrigation, but accessible for hand watering to establish plants. I live in Fruita, CO. Temps now are upper 90s-low 100s. Can I still plant this this year?

    • Ross Shrigley-Plant Select says:

      Yes, you can plant this year if you do it soon. It won’t really choke out seedlings. It may prevent more from taking root there in the future, but it won’t extinguish the seed back that is already there. Great plant!

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