A mainstay of the flower garden, the zinnia is a great way to fill your garden with long lasting color. Popular for their large, colorful blooms, the zinnia is one of the easiest flowers to grow. When planted in favorable conditions the plants produce masses of attractive, long lasting, bright blooms. Easy to grow from seed, you can also find young transplants in the garden center.
Popular with gardeners and pollinators alike, if you want to know more about zinnia plants, including some of the best types of zinnias for your garden, this article is for you.
The zinnia is an easy to grow, colorful flower.
What is a Zinnia?
Members of the Asteraceae family, the zinnia is a close relative of the daisy. Known for their bright colors and easy growth habit, all types of zinnias are grown as annuals. Flowering in a range of colors, from rich reds and deep purples to pale corals and white. As well as large flowering varieties, dwarf cultivars are also available.
Native to Mexico, certain varieties have also been found growing in the wilds of Guatemala and Colorado. After being introduced to Europe in the 16th century, the zinnia was slowly bred and cultivated into the large, bright flowers that we know today.
Today these large, bright plants are a reliable inclusion in the summer flower garden. Easy to grow in a range of situations, there are over 20 classified varieties of zinnias, including Z. elegans, Z. Haageana and Z. angustifolia. Many of the more popular types of zinnias, including most of the commonly grown garden plants, are cultivars of the Zinnia elegans variety.
Colorful and long lasting, the zinnia is a popular member of the summer flower garden.
Classifying Types of Zinnias
There are 4 commonly grown zinnia varieties. These can be classified depending on the arrangement of the petals. They are:
- Single Flowers, these have a single row of petals and an open center,
- Semi-Double Flowers can have several rows of petals, again the center is open and visible,
- Fully Double Flowers, like semi-double varieties, have several rows of petals. Unlike Semi-Doubles, the center of a Fully Double is hidden by the petals,
- Cactus Flower varieties produce blooms with long petals that curve or twist.
Types of zinnias can also be classified depending on their spread and size. These can range from small compact cultivars to large, tall or cut flowers.
Different varieties are classified by the shape, spacing and size of the petals.
Garden Zinnia (Z. elegans)
Prone to disease, these are attractive plants that are prized for their large flowers. Ranging in height from 6 to 60 inches, popular Garden varieties include:
- Thumbelina Mix,
- Lilliput Mix,
- Ruffles Series,
- Giant Flowered Mix.
Spreading Zinnia (Z. angustifolia)
Heat and drought tolerant, these types of zinnias are also resistant to many common diseases such as powdery mildew. Smaller than Garden varieties, Z. angustifolia plants range from 8 to 18 inches tall and around 2 inches wide. The flowers, typically yellow or orange in color with dark centers have slim, lance shaped petals. Ideal for ground cover or planting in hanging baskets.
Popular Spreading types of zinnias include:
- Star Orange,
- Crystal White
- Star Gold.
Sometimes termed interspecific crosses, Hybrids are created by crossing Garden and Spreading zinnia plants. Typically, hybrids have the floral appeal of the Garden Zinnia and the resilience of the Spreading Zinnia. They are pleasingly low maintenance. The Pinwheel series and the Profusion series are both reliable hybrid cultivars.
Now that we have discussed how zinnias can be classified, it is time to look at some of the most popular types of zinnias. The varieties listed below are largely easy to grow and suitable for a range of planting schemes and uses.
1 Big Red
Producing large, eye-catching dahlia-like flowers, these are one of the most stand out types of zinnias. The scarlet red flowers typically measure 6 inches wide and sit on stems up to 36 inches tall. In ideal conditions mature plants can spread up to 12 inches.
A Zinnia elegans cultivar, this is a fast growing plant, flowering within 5 weeks of germination in ideal conditions. Further adding to the attraction, as the flowers age they fade from bright red to deep orange.
Red flowering varieties are particularly attractive.
Zinderella types of zinnias are prized for their fluffy, pom pom-like flowers. Reaching 25 to 30 inches high with a spread of 18 to 20 inches, the flowers are around 2.5 inches in diameter. Most varieties flower for about 12 weeks in favorable conditions, from June until late September. An attractive annual, Zinderella is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10.
Zinderella Lilac produces purple and pastel pink double or semi-double flowers. Often with a dark center, which adds to the visual appeal, Zinderella plants are an attractive inclusion in cut flower gardens.
For something a little different, Zinderella Peach produces similar fluffy flowers which are pale pink or peach colored.
Pink flowers help to soften planting schemes.
3 Swizzle Series
A dwarf variety belonging to the Z. elegans cultivar, the Swizzle series is known for its large four inch wide semi-double flowers. Reaching 10 to 12 inches in height and spreading around 7 inches, these are ideal for container gardens and adding color to porches or patios.
The bicolored cherry red and white and ivory white flowers are particularly eye-catching. Cultivars which flower in yellow and scarlet are also available. While the plants of the Swizzle series are hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 11, they are susceptible to powdery mildew. If you are growing in a cool or damp area, these types of zinnias are best avoided.
Many varieties are popular with pollinators.
4 Zowie Yellow Flame
Producing semi-double flowers, the petals of which are scarlet at the base and orange at the tip, this is one of the most eye-catching types of zinnias currently available. Another Z. elegans cultivar, these reliable flowers change color, becoming more golden as they age. A compact, mounding plant, Zowie flowers can reach up to 2 ft, sitting on elegant stems above rich green foliage. Like many other types of zinnias they are ideal for mixed flower beds and container gardens.
A full sun loving variety, these types of zinnias do best in moist soil. When in flower the plants will draw scores of pollinators, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.
Bright yellow blooms add color and interest.
5 Color Crackle
One of the most reliable types of zinnias, Color Crackle plants are both drought and mildew resistant. A relatively compact plant, rarely spreading more than 14 inches, the stems reach a height of between 16 and 24 inches and support unique burgundy and white bicolored double flowers.
Bicolored blooms are particularly eye-catching.
6 Crystal White
One of the more understated types of zinnias, Crystal White produces single, daisy-like white flowers with yellow centers. Popular with pollinators as well as gardeners, orange and yellow colored flowering cultivars are also available.
- angustifolia cultivars, the plants rarely exceed 10 inches tall and can spread between 9 and 12 inches. This makes them ideal for growing in pots, hanging baskets and planters. One of the more resilient varieties, Crystal White plants are tolerant of most pests and common diseases such as powdery mildew. If you are growing in containers you can also cultivate them as houseplants.
Crystal White flowers resemble the daisy.
7 Cactus Flowered Mix
If you want something a little different, Cactus Flowered types of zinnias are ideal. Producing flowers in shades of pink, scarlet, orange, white and yellow, the flowers have narrow quill-like petals with a slight curve. Belonging to the Z. elegans cultivar the plants typically reach 30 inches tall and 18 inches wide. One of the more long lasting varieties, in favorable conditions the flowers can last for around 10 weeks.
Colorful flowers, the shape and spacing of the petals add further interest.
8 California Giant Mix
One of the most standout types of zinnias, California Giant Mix is a large cultivar which can reach up to 4 ft tall in good soil. Ideal for the back of a flower bed, these sunflower-like blooms can emerge in shades of red, orange, yellow and pink. One of the slower growing types of zinnias it can take up to 90 days after germination for the flowers to open. While they may be slow to develop, the floral display that they put on makes it more than worth the wait.
Many varieties are popular for their large, long lasting flowers.
9 Dahlia Flowered Mix
An elegant flower, the Dahlia Mix is also quite high maintenance. If you want a flower with all the attraction of the dahlia but without the workload, these types of zinnias are for you.
A heirloom cultivar, belonging to the Z. elegans variety, gardeners have been growing these attractive flowers for around 100 years. Dahlia Flowered plants produce flowers in shades of yellow, red, orange, pink and white. These attractive blooms, with their slightly curving petals, sit on stems around 40 inches long, above rich green foliage.
The Dahlia Mix provides the attraction of the dahlia’s flower with the low maintenance nature of the zinnia.
10 Double Zahara Yellow
Prized for their sunny double, globe-type bright yellow flowers this hybrid variety, a cross between Z. elegans and Z. angustifolia, is a disease resistant, drought tolerant cultivar.
One of the many types of zinnias that also make reliable cut flowers, the bright yellow blooms sit on stems roughly 20 inches tall. The plant has a similar spread. Most of the Zahara series are hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 11. Also in the Zahara series are red, orange, salmon and white flowering cultivars.
Yellow blooms add pops of color to the garden.
These types of zinnias are unusual in that they produce green flowers. A heirloom variety belonging to the Z. elegans class, these bright green flowers have attractive yellow centers. Envy grows to a height of 30 to 40 inches, and has a spread of around 12 inches. A deciduous variety, Envy is a perennial in USDA Zones 9 to 11.
Pale and green flowering varieties add contrast to the most brightly colored varieties.
12 State Fair Mix
State Fair Mix produces attractive, double flowers. Belonging to the Z. elegans cultivar, these impressively large flowers are available in shades of red, lavender, gold, orange, purple, yellow and rose. Typically 5 to 7 inches wide, the flowers sit on stems that can stretch over 3 ft above the plant’s rich green foliage. Pleasingly resilient, these are one of the many types of zinnias that are disease resistant. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10, if you are growing from seed the plants typically flower 60 to 80 days after germinating.
Large flowers, in a range of colors, are a great way to fill a flower bed.
Where to Plant
While most types of zinnias are low maintenance, planting in favorable positions helps to keep your plants healthy and prolong flowering. In addition to planting in the right spot, there are some other things that you can do to ensure a good floral display.
Most types of zinnias are hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 10, but this can vary depending on the cultivar.
If you are growing from seed, wait until the last frost has passed and the soil has warmed up. Cold weather can kill zinnia plants. To get a head start on the growing season start the seeds undercover in biodegradable pots such as these Plantation Jiffy-Pots. The advantage of using peat pots is that you can simply place seedling, still in its pot, directly into the soil. This helps the seedlings to settle quickly, reducing the risk of transplant shock. As the seedling grows, the pot breaks down, enabling the root system to spread.
Germination typically occurs within a week of sowing. Once the seedlings are 3 inches tall they can be thinned out to a spacing of 6 to 18 inches.
Allow the seedlings to develop before hardening off and planting in the prepared flower bed or pot once the last frost date has passed and the soil has warmed up.
Whatever types of zinnias you are growing, they should be planted in a sunny spot. The surrounding daytime temperatures should average between 74 and 85 ℉. Avoid planting in overly alkaline soils. The soil should be either neutral or slightly acidic. It should also be rich and well draining. If you are planting in a container, use fresh, general purpose potting soil. If you are planting in the ground, before planting, enrich the soil with compost.
When planting or transplanting space each plant 6 to 24 inches apart. The exact spacing depends on the types of zinnias you are growing. Check the plant label or seed packet for the exact spacing information.
General Care Tips
All types of zinnias are fast growing, low maintenance plants. If growth appears slow or the leaves appear pale, apply a low nitrogen fertilizer. A slow release fertilizer provides a steady dose of enrichment over a prolonged period.
If you are growing the plants as part of a cut flower garden, harvest the flowers when they are fresh and mature, or when pollen begins to form. Typically cut flowers last for around a week.
Powdery mildew can be problematic. Correctly spacing out the plants and watering the soil, keeping the foliage as dry as possible helps to prevent this. Our guide to powdery mildew contains tips on how to both prevent and treat the disease.
If you want to learn more about growing zinnia plants, why not check out our detailed growing and care guide?.
Bright, colorful and easy to grow, the flowers of the zinnia are popular with pollinators, drawing many beneficial insects to the garden. They are also reliable companion plants. Dwarf beans, zucchini and chard all benefit from growing in close proximity to many types of zinnias.
Low maintenance, drought resistant and colorful, the zinnia is the ideal summer plant. Whatever type or types of zinnias you decide to grow, these plants are a great way to fill your garden with color.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.