Gold on Blue – not your typical zinnia
“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’
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.