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. Zinnia Seeds Cut and Come Again Mix, Zinnia elegans

    Blooming in a rainbow of colors, the Cut and Come Again Mixture provides endless Zinnias from mid-summer all the way until frost, giving you plenty of blooms to cut and bring indoors...

    Learn More
    Zinnia Seeds Cut and Come Again Mix Cut and Come Again Zinnia Zinnia elegans
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Blooming in a rainbow of colors, the Cut and Come Again Mixture provides endless Zinnias from mid-summer all the way until frost, giving you plenty of blooms to cut and bring indoors. Like all Zinnia, this mixture is extremely easy to grow, deer resistant and attracts pollinators to the garden. Can be grown in any region. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow. Annual.
    Learn More
  2. Zinnia Seed Mix

    The Zinnia Seed Mix contains four colorful varieties of this long-blooming annual, for a dynamic blend in the garden, meadow or vase. Includes tall, big-blooming California Giants, r...

    Learn More
    Zinnia Seed Mix Zinnia
    As low as $12.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    The Zinnia Seed Mix contains four colorful varieties of this long-blooming annual, for a dynamic blend in the garden, meadow or vase. Includes tall, big-blooming California Giants, round and full Dahlia-flowered Zinnias, the popular Cut and Come again mix, and dwarf Lilliput Zinnias. Easy to grow, nectar-rich and attrcative to pollinators, Zinnias can be planted in any region. All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
    Learn More
  3. Zinnia Seeds, Zinnia elegans

    Blooming from mid-summer until frost, Zinnias are some of the easiest wildflowers to grow, adding their bright, cheerful color to any sunny spot with enthusiasm. These beloved annua...

    Learn More
    Zinnia Seeds Zinnia Zinnia elegans
    As low as $9.95
    Per 1/4 Pound
    Blooming from mid-summer until frost, Zinnias are some of the easiest wildflowers to grow, adding their bright, cheerful color to any sunny spot with enthusiasm. These beloved annuals are deer resistant, long blooming and very prolific - the more you cut for bouquets, the more flowers your plants will produce. Best of all, they are a monarch butterfly magnet! All of the seed we carry at American Meadows is non-GMO, neonicotinoid-free and guaranteed to grow.
    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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