Planting Zinnias For Butterflies


planting zinnias for butterflies - swallowtail

Customer photo of a Swallowtail Butterfly on a Zinnia.

As soon as summer hits, Zinnias start to open up and show off their bright, bold colors. And 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. Best of all, planting Zinnias for butterflies is easy!

The Best Zinnia Varieties For Butterflies

Many butterflies are attracted to Zinnias' colorful blooms, and will feed on the easy-to-access nectar. Most Zinnias are attractive to butterflies, but 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.

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.

  • planting zinnias for butterflies - monarch
  • Customer photo of a Monarch Butterfly on a Zinnia.
  • Long-Lasting Blooms Attract Butterflies All Season

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:

planting zinnias for butterflies - monarch

swallowtail on zinnia

planting zinnias for butterflies

Zinnias Are A Breeze To Grow

We love Zinnias not only because they bring a parade of butterflies to the garden, but also because they are so easy to grow! This makes them a perfect candidate for a child’s first garden; your little one will appreciate how quickly the seeds germinate, grow, and bloom, and will also have fun watching and tracking the different butterflies.

To grow Zinnias, make sure to plant them in an area that gets full sun (at least six hours per day). Although they prefer well-draining soil, they’ll grow almost anywhere as long as they have plenty of sun. They don’t need a lot of supplemental water in the summer months, which makes them a great candidate for hard-to-reach areas or for gardeners who are trying to conserve water. 

zinnias for butterflies - swallowtail

Customer photo

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 Zinnia? Tag @americanmeadows on Instagram to be featured!

Shop Zinnia Seeds

  1. South Of The Border Zinnia Seed

    ‘South of the Border’ Zinnia Mix is a bright, bold mix of yellow, red, and bicolor flowers. As the name hints, these flowers originated in warm, sunny Mexico, and are native to t...

    Learn More
    South Of The Border Zinnia Seed Mix South Of The Border Zinnia Mix Zinnia elegans South Of The Border Mix
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    ‘South of the Border’ Zinnia Mix is a bright, bold mix of yellow, red, and bicolor flowers. As the name hints, these flowers originated in warm, sunny Mexico, and are native to the Southwestern US as well. Count on Zinnias to attract butterflies and beneficial pollinators from summer right up until frost and provide plenty of excellent cut flowers. Zinnias are easy to grow and deer resistant. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Annual.
    Learn More
  2. Under The Sea Zinnia Seed Mix

    ‘Under The Sea’ Zinnia Mix includes three colors that will remind you of the tropics! Nectar-rich berry purple, white sand, and coral pink flowers blooms all summer. Long-bloomin...

    Learn More
    Under The Sea Zinnia Seed Mix Under The Sea Zinnia Mix Zinnia elegans Under The Sea Mix
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    ‘Under The Sea’ Zinnia Mix includes three colors that will remind you of the tropics! Nectar-rich berry purple, white sand, and coral pink flowers blooms all summer. Long-blooming flowers have rich colors and will attract butterflies and pollinators. Plant these easy-to-grow and deer resistant seeds in full sun – make sure to plant enough for cut flower bouquets! Annual. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
    Learn More
  3. Coral Zinnia Seeds

    Coral Zinnia, in the 2019 Pantone Color of The Year, is a beautiful warm pink flower to include in your garden. Brightly colored flowers on long, sturdy stems are offset nicely by de...

    Learn More
    Coral Zinnia Seeds Coral Zinnia Zinnia elegans Coral
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Coral Zinnia, in the 2019 Pantone Color of The Year, is a beautiful warm pink flower to include in your garden. Brightly colored flowers on long, sturdy stems are offset nicely by deep green foliage. Zinnias attract butterflies and beneficial pollinators from summer to frost. These easy to grow flowers will provide plenty of cut flowers. Zinnias are deer resistant, too! All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Annual.
    Learn More
  4. Fruity Beauty Zinnia Seed Mix

    ‘Fruity Beauty’ Zinnia Mix includes three candy-colored Zinnia varieties. Saturated coral, yellow, and orange flowers provide instant cheer with ruffled blooms all summer! Long-b...

    Learn More
    Fruity Beauty Zinnia Seed Mix Fruity Beauty Zinnia Mix Zinnia elegans Fruity Beauty Mix
    As low as $10.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    ‘Fruity Beauty’ Zinnia Mix includes three candy-colored Zinnia varieties. Saturated coral, yellow, and orange flowers provide instant cheer with ruffled blooms all summer! Long-blooming annual flowers are nectar rich,and will attract plenty of pollinators. Zinnias are easy to grow, deer resistant, and will make beautiful, bright cut flowers. Annual. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
    Learn More
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