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All About Zinnnias

all about zinnias banner

By Charlie Nardozzi, Garden expert, radio host and author.

Zinnias have a rich history to match their rich colors

Zinnias are native to Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs originally called them “plants that are hard on the eyes” because of their colorful flowers. Zinnia is named after Johann Gottfried Zinn, a German botany professor who discovered these plants and brought them back to Europe in the 1700s. The original plants have expanded in flower colors and plant shapes and sizes due to their popularity with breeders. You can now buy zinnia seeds or plants that range from 6 inches tall to almost 4 feet tall. There are varieties with single or double petaled flowers in almost all the colors of the rainbow.

Zinnias are great beginning gardener flowers. The seeds are large enough to place individually in holes and germinate quickly in warm soils with plants that grow fast to the flowering stage. Once flowering, even if you don't deadhead the spent blooms, zinnias, especially newer hybrids, will continue to produce more flower until frost.

zinnias in bloom
Zinnias are one of the most reliable blooms for attracting pollinators - plant them near the veggie garden to increase yields.

When choosing to grow zinnias, start with your purpose for this colorful flower. If you want zinnias in a low-growing flower border or in front of a bed, try the Thumbelina Mix, which features many colors of short-stemmed, pom-pom shaped zinnias. These stay at 6" tall and are also good additions to containers.

If you're growing zinnias to mix and match in a flower garden at various heights, the number of varieties is vast. Many of these are also good choices for the cutting garden. Dahlia-Flowered zinnias sport large blooms and reach heights of 30-40" tall, while Cut and Come Again Mix showcases a rainbow of colors on slightly shorter plants. Another great choice is the colorful, pom-pom shaped blooms of the Lilliput Mix, growing to 18-24" tall. The popular 'Persian Carpet' mix features multi-colored, 1 to 2 inch diameter flowers on 2 foot tall plants.

Likewise, there are many choices of single-colored species that can wow in the garden. For bold reds look to the classic, 30-40" tall 'Cherry Queen' or the slightly shorter 'Will Roger' or the big, double blooms of 'Super Yoga', which grow on bushy plants. Purple fans will love 'Purple Prince', while 'Luminosa' and 'Illumination' both produce charming shades of pink. Yellows, whites, oranges and even green fill out the selection. For speckled and striped blooms, look to 'Peppermint Stick', with its enormous dahlia-like flowers.

Zinnia Seeds

  • Zinnia Seeds

    Starting at $9.95

    Per 1/4 Pound

  • Zinnia Seed Mix

    Starting at $12.95

    Per 1/4 Pound

  • Zinnia Seeds Cut and Come Again Mix

    Starting at $9.95

    Per 1/4 Pound

  • Zinnia Seeds Dahlia Flowered

    Starting at $9.95

    Per 1/4 Pound


When working your zinnias into the flower garden, certain combinations stand out. Remember zinnias flower mid to late in the season, so they can be used to brighten up a flower garden that might be looking a little tired that time of year. They also make nice companions for a number of different flowers. Some good companions for zinnias, depending on the variety, include the purple flowered Verbena bonariensis with tall colorful zinnias, purple fountain grass and hardy hibiscus with medium-sized varieties, as well as Black Eyed Susans, Four O’ clocks, and Sedums with lower-growing types such as Persian Carpet. Broadcast zinnia seeds over the perennial garden to add color to beds as you wait for plants to mature and fill in space on their own.

bee on zinnia
Nectar-rich zinnias feed many bees.
hummingbird on zinnia
A hummingbird visits a zinnia bloom.

Not only are zinnias bright and beautiful, they are useful plants in the garden for attracting hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. The large-flowered varieties provide pollen and nectar in late summer when native sources are running low. Plant zinnias in a butterfly garden located where you can enjoy seeing the butterflies from indoors or on a porch or patio.

Zinnia Arrangement

Using Zinnias in Flower Arrangements

When cutting zinnias for flower arrangements, pick the flowers in the morning when they're fully open. Unlike other cut flowers, zinnias will not continue to open once cut and brought indoors. Bring a pail of water into the garden when cutting and drop the stems into the water immediately after cutting. Be careful not to crush the hollow zinnia stems or water will not freely flow up the stem to support the flower and the flower will wilt earlier. Cut zinnias right above a set of leaves. This will stimulate new branches to form and potentially more flowers to grow.

Once indoors, strip all but the top leaves off the stem, recut the stems to the proper height for the vase. Try to recut the stem bottom at a 45 degree angle under water to prevent air bubbles from entering the stem and blocking the flow of water. Use a floral preservative in the vase water and change the water every few days. When changing the water, recut the stem bottoms. Your zinnias should stay fresh for up to a week, especially if the air is cool. When arranging colors, look to complement pale-colored varieties of white, pale yellow and green with bright red, orange and golden colored flowers. Many zinnia varieties have bold colored flowers, so it helps to mute them a bit with the softer pastels. While a vase of all zinnias is stunning, adding a few to a bouquet of other cut flowers is a good way to add pop to the arrangement.


About the Author: Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden speaker, author, consultant, radio and TV show host. He delights in making gardening information simple, easy, fun and accessible to everyone. Visit his website, GardeningwithCharlie.com for how-to gardening information, and for more about Charlie.

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