Annuals For Your Garden: Festive Zinnias

Ilona Erwin

New World natives, these plants are bold, strong, and a joy to behold.

Zinnias Like It Hot

With their hot colors, love of high temperatures, and named varieties, I love them! I’ve always had a special liking for this easy flower. It is one I remember from the time I helped in my mother’s garden, to my first little plot, and ever since.
Burpee Selections
Zinnia marylandica

Zinnia marylandica was bred for superior disease and drought tolerance.

There is nothing better than Zinnias for cut flower bouquets that sing “Summertime”.
The colors are myriad, the forms full and interesting, and they come in different sizes. For some reason they are just a fun flower to cheer up any vase and any space.

Zinnias are a genus of related plants… which give rise to a kaleidoscope of colors and various forms. They are native from the southwestern USA through South America, but we mainly consider those grown in our gardens to be originally Mexican.



Important Things To Know About Growing Zinnias

  1. Warm season annual
  2. Best fertilized, or grown in soil with lots of humus with compost added.
  3. Full Sun, Well drained soil
  4. Best sown directly in the garden; generous blooming and fast growing.

Some favorite types of these flowers create a splash in flower beds, containers, and in the cutting garden, Zinnia grandiflora, Z. angustifolia, and Z. elegans. They come in three forms: dwarf, mid-size, and giant.

Z. haageana is an “Old Mexico” heirloom type, look for ‘Persian Carpet’.

Native to the New World, Central and South America.

Warm Season Annuals


Description of the Plant

Plants can look a bit ungainly

Plants can look a bit ungainly

The overall look is coarse with hairy mid green stems and rough leaves of a lance shape.

They grow fairly tall as a rule (unless of a dwarf type, of course). While the heights vary, the fact is that they all have a less than elegant general appearance.

Sometimes the foliage is prone to mildew, as well. It is the fabulous bloom that makes up for the rest of the plant.

The Flowers


iconYou can see why they are such wonderful cut flowers. I am using some Burpee photos because I’m an affiliate- and it was hard to pick just a few, when there are so many wonderful varieties.

The flowers have multicolor or single hues, double, semi-double, and single blooms, can be huge or diminutive.

Types Of Zinnia Flower Forms

  • Dahlia flowered
  • Cactus flowered
  • Button flowered
  • Beehive shaped
  • Single
  • Double
  • Semi-double

Dwarf types often have single flowers and are more resistant to mildew than the taller garden variety which derive mainly from Z. elegans. Old favorites examples of the giant kind are ‘State Fair Series’, and tried and true ‘Thumbelina’ are fairly tall but with smaller sized double flowers. If you wish to have dwarf plants with mildew resistance try Z. angustifolia and the ‘Zahara’ series.

How Zinnias Are Grown

[Garden Guide]

Used as a companion plant to protect against whiteflies, try intercropping in the veggie garden.

Good growing practices:

  • Always position in a sunny spot
  • Native to Mexico, not hardy
  • Deadhead to prolong flowering
  • Average moisture, good drainage
  • Water regularly
Warm Weather Tender

Plant after all danger of frost is past, when soils are warmed



After all frost danger is past and the soil temperatures are warm, press the large seeds into cultivated ground 1/4-inch deep and 4 to 24 inches apart (check the variety seed packet). Keep moist until seedlings sprout.



Germinates in 4 to 7 days.

Zinnias don’t like transplanting – a good reason to plant by seed.

How To Grow Indoors From Seed

  • Use a seed-starting mix to fill containers.
  • Moisten, let drain,sow with two to three seeds.
  • Lightly cover seeds and moisten just slightly. I like to use clear plastic wrap like Saran Wrap while seeds are germinating.
  • Place under growlights, or a bright south or east window.
  • They like heat, and a heat mat is a good idea for this kind of seedling.
  • After a week the sprouts should show. Try to keep watered from the bottom of the flat, keep moist, but not soggy, and take off any wrap or cover.
  • If they are started indoors, transplant after at least two sets of true leaves have grown.
  • Pinch off an inch from the tips of young plants to encourage bushier growth. You may need to stake taller types.

Besides potential problems with mildew in cool and moist environments, Japanese beetles might prove a pest for them.


Buy Seeds On Amazon

Grow In Full Sun

Garden Styles

Accent Color

The large-flowered, solid color brights of giant Zinnias make a splash near a mailbox or in a driveway flower bed. The low growing types trim edges very well and constantly flower.

Cottage Look

I like them grown in a cottage style, along a fence, and in the vegetable patch. Their coarse foliage and flowers make them a more casual flower, with a definite “country cousin” look to them. Even the dwarf type have this feeling to them, but you can try them in your formal plantings if you wish. I think there are better choices for that situation, though. Keep it casual for Zinnias to look their best.

Cutting Garden

They are excellent cut flower plants and mixed with other brightly colored annuals they provide cheerful color in containers or anywhere out in the open where their need for full sun is met.

Plant Trivia

Fun Facts

The Spanish didn’t like them at first sight and called them “mal de ojos”… they made their eyes “sick” to look at them, presumably.

Truthfully, before “Bodger Seeds Ltd.” got a hold of them they weren’t much to look at, but they introduced the giant dahlia form in the nineteenth century.

Great to include in Wildlife areas because both birds and butterflies benefit.

butterflies love zinnias

Butterflies love Zinnias

Good companion plant, they act as an attraction for beneficial insects and hummingbirds which, in turn, help deplete the whitefly population.

One of the easiest annuals to grow, this is an ideal seed to grow in a children’s garden.

Named after 18th-century German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn.

Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida | Order: Asterales | Family: Asteraceae | Genus: Zinnia
Zinnias are related to Sunflowers.

Zinnia Plant Information
Medium height flowers




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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.