Growing Zinnia Flowers: Easy Plants for Your Landscape and Containers

Updated on October 25, 2017

The Colorful, Friendly Zinnia Flower

Looking for an easy to grow and maintain landscaping flower?

Have you considered the zinnia? Its one of the most versatile and colorful annual plants you can choose for your garden, window box or container pots. The species has been developed over many years to become a show-stopper in the garden. Yet, when Spanish settlers first saw the zinnia in Mexico, they thought the flowers were so unattractive they called them mal de ojos, or "sickness of the eye."

Today, zinnias come in a full rainbow of colors. In fact, the only naturally occurring hue you won't find is blue! There is also a range of sizes, from low-growing, plants the size of marigolds, to giant, towering zinnias that can match the height of dahlias.

Perhaps the best feature of zinnia flowers is that you can practically plant and forget them. Water as needed, dead-head them infrequently, and enjoy the showcase of dazzling colors throughout your landscape or in your container gardens.

Zinnias make great cut flowers, too. Think bouquets are too expensive? Grow your own with a zinnia garden!

Beautiful zinnia blooms
Beautiful zinnia blooms | Source

2011 Was the Year of the Zinnia

Perhaps to celebrate its modest beauty, or its amazing versatility, the National Garden Bureau announced that 2011 was the Year of the Zinnia (its also the Year of the Tomato) when it heralded its All-America Selections.

According to the NGB's official website:

"Each year representatives of the professional horticulture industry select one flower and one vegetable to be showcased. In 2012, we'll add a perennial to these selections. These crops are chosen because they are popular, easy-to-grow, widely adaptable, genetically diverse, and versatile."

So, let's learn more about the celebrated zinnia - how to grow them, where to plant them and special tips for enjoying the colorful blooms.

How to Grow Zinnias

History and Types of Zinnias Found in Gardens

While botanists will tell you there are over a dozen zinnias species, not many of them are found in residential landscapes. Zinnias are part of the Asteraceae (or Compositae) family of flowers. Asteraceae is one of the largest families, with 1100 genera and 25,000 species, found with the greatest diversity in semi-arid regions.

You are probably most familiar with Zinnia elegans (syn. Z. violacea ), also known as the common zinnia. Although they might appear to be several different species, in fact the same species is represented in tall, medium-sized and dwarf varieties.

The history of zinnias, named for Dr. Johann Gottfried Zinn, goes back several hundred years to 18th century Europe. From 1 1/2 inch bright "Lilliput" zinnias developed in France in the 1880s, to double flowers that emerged in the early 20th century which eventually morphed into "Pumila" or "Cut-and-come-again" zinnias, eventually larger zinnias were developed, including the "Giant Mammoth." By the 1920s, Bodger Seeds introduced the "Giant Dahlia" zinnia which won a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society of England. The range of sizes, heights and colors continued to expand from there.

While the giant blooms of dahlia-like zinnias are impressive, many gardeners prefer compact zinnia flowers for small spaces and container gardening. Among the most popular include dwarf versions of Zinnia haageana , specifically "Persian Carpet" and "Old Mexico" and the 8-15-inch Z. angustifolia "Crystal White." In the past 25 years, Z. angustifolia and Z. elegans , were successfully bred to create "Profusion," "Cherry" and "Orange" zinnias that offer the best of all worlds when it comes to easy to care for plants: tolerance of heat and humidity, resistance to disease, no deadheading, compact growth and impressive 2-3 inch single flowers.

No matter what genus or type of zinnia flowers you select, you might just want to pick between those with single flowers, double flowers, or semi-double. With a rainbow of colors available, there are also solid hues and flower petals that have contrasting tips.

Growing Zinnia Flowers from Seed

Don't have a particularly green thumb? That's OK. Zinnias are so easy to grow from seed, whether you start them in a greenhouse, in your kitchen, or outdoors. In fact, planting the seeds is a perfect project to do with your children. Not only are they easy to start, but zinnias are fast-growing, as well (quick results are important for short attention spans). In about a month, your flowers will be ready to plant in the garden.

To start zinnia flowers from seed indoors, simple fill a flat shallow container or individual pots with a soil mixture recommended for commercial seed-starting. Gently moisten with water and allow to drain. Sow seeds in rows and cover with about 1/4 inch of mix, then spray with a water bottle. Cover with clear plastic wrap to trap moisture and keep warm at a temperature of 75-80 degrees F. Set in a bright, sunny window. Once the seedlings sprout, remove the plastic cover. Water to keep moist, but be careful not to over water. You can transplant to individual pots once they sprout a few leaves.

After the danger of frost has passed, take your zinnia seedlings outdoors and enjoy them in your garden!

If you live in a temperate climate, or if its late enough in the year that the air and soil are already warm, you can grow zinnia flowers from seed right in your backyard or outdoor containers. Mix in compost to amend the soil beforehand and sow the seeds in rows, then cover with 1/4 inch of soil and water gently.

Zinnia Flowers are Easy to Grow

How to Care for Zinnia Flowers

You don't have to grow your own zinnias. In fact, plant nurseries often carry the brightly colored plants. They are annuals, which mean that they do not winter over. You'll have to replant (or sow new seeds) each year.

Zinnias prefer full sun (6 hours or more) and moist but well-drained soil. My in-laws always say that you should put a $5 plant in a $50 hole, rather than a $50 plant in a $5 hole. This means that, if you prepare your soil properly, you are much more likely to have gardening success! So, invest a bit more in soil amendments, then enjoy sowing the relatively inexpensive zinnia seeds, or planting seedling starts without worry.

As with other plants, you'll want to pick an overcast, cooler day to do your planting so as not to stress the flowers.  Space the zinnias several inches apart to allow circulation and avoid disease.

Once your zinnias are planted, they really do need little care.  Water as needed, but not too much to drown them.  In the garden, you should fertilize twice during the growing season, using a 20-20-20 water-soluble mix.  Alternatively, you can go with a slow-release or organic fertilizer mixed into the soil.  This is also recommended for container gardening.

Lovely red zinnia bloom
Lovely red zinnia bloom | Source

Growing Zinnia Flowers from Seeds

Gorgeous pink zinnia bloom
Gorgeous pink zinnia bloom | Source

Enjoy Zinnia Flowers Outdoors and Inside!

Other than the ease of caring for zinnias in your garden or containers, the best feature of these colorful, friendly blooms is how simple it is to cut them for arrangements. Unlike roses or other flowers that take a while to re-grow, zinnias reproduce new blooms within days of being cut, provided you trim the bloom above a pair of leaves.

Cut zinnias will last up to a week in a vase, if you handle them properly. Take cuttings in the morning before the warm sun dries or wilts the blooms. Pick buds that are partially, but not yet fully opened to lengthen their life indoors. Re-cut the stems under running water and remove any leaves that would end up under water in the vase.

Personally, I'm not much of a "dried flower" arrangement person, but many people enjoy drying zinnias and have good success in doing so.

Whether you love working in the garden (or perhaps particularly if you don't) growing zinnia flowers is an easy way to add a splash of color and personality to your landscape.  Enjoy the bright blooms without concerns of frequent deadheading and disease.  Cut flowers for enjoyment indoors with the satisfaction of knowing that the buds will quickly be replaced.  What more could you want in an annual flowering plant?

Zinnias attract butterflies
Zinnias attract butterflies

© 2011 Stephanie Hicks


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    • profile image

      Starters 16 months ago

      May I ask you something? How long will the zinnias flowers took to grow? 3 days or less?

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      Some of my favorites. I have a whole yard full of them...all sizes and colors. You've given a lot of really interesting information on these perfect flowers! Great hub! Sharing and voting!

    • profile image

      zinnaluvr 4 years ago

      Thanks for all of the information, but I was trying to find out how often to "dead head" these flowers? Also, sometimes mine seem to get shorter and shorter as the summer goes on, what am I doing wrong?


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you Crissy!

    • crissytsu profile image

      crissytsu 5 years ago from Texas

      This is one of the best guides for Zinnias I've found, nice job.

    • profile image

      qandeel zainab 5 years ago

      nice article. it helped me a lot 2 complete my presentation about zinnias. thank you!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you nature's friend! I am with you regarding flowers that attract butterflies. Interesting regarding the Monarchs. Best to you, Steph

    • natures47friend profile image

      natures47friend 6 years ago from Sunny Art Deco Napier, New Zealand.

      Wow...this hub is so colourful and interesting. I love any flower that attracts butterflies. We had people who were tagging Monarchs a while back as there seemed to be a decline in numbers. It was in the news at one stage. Voted you up and 'beautiful'.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks arusho,

      Zinnas are such bright, cheery flowers, aren't they? Best, Steph

    • arusho profile image

      arusho 6 years ago from University Place, Wa.

      great information, I will have to include zinnias in my planters more often!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Vocalcoach, My in-laws have always said the same thing about a $5 plant and $50 hole! And, yes, it did take us years before finally figuring this out. Thanks much for the comment. Cheers, Steph

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Beautiful hub and pictures! I love zinneas. I will always remember to " plant a 5$ plant in a 50$ hole". I have been guilty of just the opposite. Voted UP and thanks so much!

    • GiftedGrandma profile image

      GiftedGrandma 6 years ago from USA

      I love them in different colors. Great hub.

    • RalphGreene profile image

      RalphGreene 6 years ago

      Zinnias are in different colors. They are very lovely.

    • profile image

      Patsy68 6 years ago

      what can i do if some of the leafs of my zinnia's are turning brown and what causes this?

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Great hub, I love zinnias, to celebrate the year of the zinnia I shall plant some this weekend! great hub and photos thank you

    • carolinemoon profile image

      carolinemoon 6 years ago

      Thanks for the advice, Great hub.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Lovely! So glad that this hub helped you plan your flower garden this year, RTalloni! Let me know how your zinnias look and enjoy summer flowers! Best, Steph

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Zinnias! That's it! this weekend I wanted to put out something that would bring some wahoo! color to my summer flowers. So glad I found this.

      I learned more about these delightful flowers and am delighted to find out that this is the year of the zinnia. I think I will celebrate this weekend... :) Thanks!

    • V Kumar profile image

      V Kumar 6 years ago

      Great Hub. Thanks for sharing the info.

    • profile image

      florist 6 years ago

      Zinnia flowers what a nice name, steph you have added something to my dictionary.For indoors and outdoors great.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Zinnias would be a wonderful flower to use for wedding centerpieces! I can just imagine all the beautiful autumn colors in October. Best, Steph

    • ChristineVianello profile image

      ChristineVianello 6 years ago from Philadelphia

      I love those flowers! They are acutally going to be the flowers in my wedding table centerpiece in October.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Alicia, I am so excited to get started on my spring planting. Zinnias are on our list too. Looking forward to Spring! Best, Steph

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Zinnias are on my plantlng list for this season. They have such cheerful flowers with a beautiful range of colors. Thanks for the information and the videos.

    • crystolite profile image

      Emma 6 years ago from Houston TX

      Nice article with very colorful pics of roses,thanks for sharing.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Sherri - at least the fox should leave your zinnias alone, right? LOL! I agree with you that this flower is so fun and versatile, it will definitely be here for good. And yes, genetically diverse! How nice, huh? :)

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 6 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      The year of the zinnia and the tomato? Wow! Zinnia's my choice for taking up real estate in this year's summer garden (I haven't had good luck with tomatoes recently, considering the fox and a few other things).

      Zinnias are such hugely tolerant grand producers. The more you cut them, the more they bloom. And with all the fascinating varieties of this old-fashioned favorite available, it looks like this garden mainstay will be around for a long time.

      "Genetically diverse"...that's such a good thing. (Mild slap here at the concept of GMOs.)

      Super Hub!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Sounds great Paul! Hope your cat doesn't decide to snack on the zinnias! Cheers, Steph

    • Plarson profile image

      Plarson 6 years ago from Alabama

      Steph- Makes me wish I had a yard to grow stuff in. I had never heard of these flowers before now. I might even get brave and try potting a few indoors, wonder how my cat is going to feel about that. lol Ty -Paul

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Dexter, thanks! I agree that zinnias are beautiful, stunning flowers for the garden. Hope you enjoy gardening this spring - cheers, Steph

    • Dexter Yarbrough profile image

      Dexter Yarbrough 6 years ago from United States

      Zinnias are absolutely beautiful. I am looking forward to their beauty in my garden...soon! Great hub (as usual)!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Audrey - you are so funny! I can imagine the exchange between you and Bob... LOL! Zinnias are nice here in the high desert because they are easy to take care of, and growing just about anything here can be tough. Love the vivid colors too - happy gardening ;-)

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Washington

      Great article, Steph - and great flower! Bob has a 'thing' about annuals so I have mostly perennials but I'm always sneaking in some and zinnias are one of my favorites. Then I pretend I didn't know that they were annuals when they don't come back the next year...but you can't beat them for their perkiness and their beautifully vivid colors!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Prasetio, thank you! Zinnias are so easy to care for and give big rewards in the garden. Enjoy, Steph

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I love gardening. But I never knew about Zinnia flowers before. This was so beautiful comparable with nice tips from you. All stunning pictures were so wonderful. Well done, Steph. Vote up. Take care!


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi kashmir,

      I'm with you - bring on spring! We had some nice sunshine this morning, then it clouded up and started snowing lightly. A few more weeks though and we'll be getting past the risk of frost so we can get some zinnias and other flowers in the garden. Cheers to you, Steph

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks for all this great information on these very beautiful flowers and loved all the very beautiful pictures ! All i need now is for spring to bloom here and i could plant some in my yard !

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Fay,

      So glad to hear that I helped you solve your landscaping issues this Spring! ;-) Enjoy your zinnias. Best, Steph

    • profile image

      Fay Paxton 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for posting this hub. I have been fretting over what in the world I would plant this year. Problem solved...I forgot all about Zinnias!

      Up and useful. Bookmarked

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Amy! Aren't those photographs cheery? I am looking out at piles of snow still melting from last week's storm. Really looking forward to spring arriving and getting out to plant zinnias and other flowers. Good luck to you, too! Steph

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 6 years ago from Connecticut

      Pretty hub! It made me long for spring. I try every year to get a beautiful garden far I haven't succeeded. I'll add growing zinnias to this year's attempt. Maybe I'll get lucky! :)

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks much for the comment and vote, Eiddwen. Cheers, Steph

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A great hub which is well presented and balanced with beautiful photos.

      Useful/awesome/up for this one.

      Thanks for sharing

      Take care


    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Fossillady - yes, its definitely the year to try out zinnias. Although we normally purchase the potted plants, we're going to grow our own from seeds (indoors) this year. Best, Steph

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Great hub, very informative. If its the year of the zinnia, I think I'll have to join the crowd and grow some this year! Thanks for sharing!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks katrina, glad you enjoyed reading about zinnas and the photographs, too.

    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 6 years ago

      Very informative hub. The photos are fantastic. I really enjoyed it.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks Bob and dallas - Bob, you're the garden expert. I appreciate the comment. dallas, I appreciate the vote up. Best to you both, Steph

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 6 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      Great pictures and good information. Rated Up!

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick

      Big Zinnia fan, thanks.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi Dirt Farmer - thank you! I love how easy these cheery flowers are to grow. They are a staple in our spring landscaping work. Best to you, Steph

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Hi dablufox - glad you found this hub through the hopper. We always plant zinnias in our outdoor pot containers each spring. We love them and the kids love "picking" them for bouquets. Cheers, Steph

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 6 years ago from United States

      I grew these as a child, and I still do. They're charming--as is your article. Thanks!--DF

    • dablufox profile image

      dablufox 6 years ago from Australia

      I have just been doing some hopping and this hub came up. Outstanding! I have never heard of or seen these flowers before but I find them very interesting after reading your hub, the pictures are beautifully as well.

      Congratulations on an amazing hubpage.