Pink and red zinnia flowers and a monarch butterfly in mid air.Pink and red zinnia flowers and a monarch butterfly in mid air.

Planting Zinnias For Butterflies

As soon as summer hits, Zinnias start to open up and show off their bright, bold colors. With them comes a steady stream of butterflies: Swallowtails, Monarchs, Painted Ladies, and many more. Zinnias are one of the easiest annual wildflowers to grow from seed, and one of our favorite plants for attracting butterflies to any garden, big or small.

The Best Zinnia Varieties For Butterflies

Many butterflies are attracted to Zinnias' colorful blooms and will feed on the easy-to-access nectar. What to look for: Butterflies are most drawn to taller Zinnia varieties with a clear yellow center, which is the source of nectar that feeds pollinators like butterflies and bees. Some of the double varieties (although spectacular) hide this disk floret, and butterflies may skip over that plant because it's harder for them to find the food as quickly. If you’re looking to plant the best Zinnias to attract these winged beauties, these are our top 5 picks: 

  1. Classic Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) 24-36" tall, mixed colors.

  2. Zinnia Purple Prince 30-40" tall, deep pink/purple blooms.

  3. Zinnia Cut And Come Again Mix 18-24" tall, mixed colors.

  4. Zinnia Mardi Gras Mix 18-24" tall, purple, gold, and white blooms.

  5. Zinnia Lava Lamp Mix 18-24" tall, red, orange, and yellow blooms.

One of the best things about Zinnias? They're easy to grow! For helpful tips, see our guide: How To Grow Zinnias

Have Your Camera Ready!

Come summer, make sure to have your camera ready when you head out to your Zinnia patch. You’ll have plenty of gorgeous shots to post on social media, but photos are also a great way to track the different butterfly species coming to and from your Zinnias. Also, take note of which varieties seem to be attracting more butterflies than others, and add more of those to your planting next season!

Have you been snapping photos of butterflies on your Zinnias? Tag #americanmeadows on Instagram to be featured!

Zinnias & More Keep The Nectar Coming

One of the main reasons why Zinnias play such an important role in the butterfly garden, besides their easily-accessible nectar, is the fact that they bloom from summer all the way through frost.

To help Zinnias put out new blooms all the way through fall, deadhead spent flowers as they turn brown. This keeps the plant from using its energy to go to seed, and helps it direct energy into producing more flowers! (Effective dead-heading means that the annuals will be less likely to reseed to grow the next year.)

While nectar-rich perennials are staples of low-maintenance pollinator gardens, adding long-blooming annuals to your garden each season will ensure a supply of food to nourish pollinators. Annual flowers fill in with color and nectar, as perennials tend to specific bloom times and will fade after flowering.

Zinnias are an important late-season nectar source for many butterflies — especially Monarchs on their migration journey. To help provide plenty of nectar for pollinators in the fall garden, plant Zinnias with these late-blooming perennials:

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