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Zinnia Flower Growing Guide

By: Jim Childs
Zinnias are the most cheerful flowers you can plant — plus they're fast-growing, easy-care and add lots of color to the garden.

Zinnia flowers planted in mass in garden border: Zinnias provide colorful flowers all summer, but are also outstanding in combination will fall-blooming perennials such as the goldenrod and garden mums here.

How to grow zinnia flowers

It used to be that most of us grew zinnias in rows. You still can, but why not toss a few seeds around in your border, like the gardener did in the photo above? Since zinnias are so easy to grow from seed, that's a colorful, and economical, way to fill out a flower bed. Butterflies like the vivid, easy-to-spot colors and will be drawn to your garden. Plus, just imagine how many bouquets you could pick from this border!

Get your zinnias off to a good start, whether you plant seed or starter plants, by giving them the right growing conditions with these growing tips.

Choose the right spot

Choose a location with good air circulation and full sun — zinnias will be floppy and sickly in shade. And while these annuals tolerate a wide range of soil types, they’ll bloom best in a moist, well-drained soil that has lots of compost worked into it.

Plant when it is warm

Sow the seeds directly on tilled soil and lightly cover them, or set out seedlings you buy in cell packs when the soil is thoroughly warm (about the same time you’d put out tomato plants). Zinnias will languish in cold weather — they really do like the heat.

Don't overwater

Dry conditions translate to healthier zinnias. If you have to water, apply it only at the base of the plant or use a soaker hose so the foliage stays dry — keep moisture off their leaves to prevent powdery mildew from developing. Add a couple of inches of organic mulch, such as compost, around the plants to keep the soil moist and you won’t have to do as much watering.

Don't overfertilize

In good soil there’s really no need for extra fertilizer, but if you want, a light sprinkling of a low-nitrogen, slow-release food will keep them blooming all summer.

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How to care for zinnia flowers

Zinnias are easy to grow. But like most plants, an extra bit of care will yield more, and healthier, flowers.

Zinnia staking illustration Garden Gate Magazine:  Weave twine between several stakes, angling the stakes out a bit so the clump has a more relaxed, natural look as it grows up through the twine net.

Growing straight stems

Most of the short zinnia cultivars do fine on their own, but tall, traditional types can be top heavy. A “corset” of stakes and twine is ideal. Put it in place while the seedlings are only a few inches tall, as in the illustration above. Zinnia foliage is raspy and rough, so even if you don’t weave twine across the circle, the plants will grasp each other and help hold up their neighbors.

Deadheading

One of the best things you can do to keep more flowers coming is to deadhead. But why wait for the flowers to fade or turn brown? Pick lots of bouquets, cutting just above a set of healthy leaves. In a week or two, you’ll find two new stems sprouting from that spot — and that means more flowers!

Profusion Zinnias in a garden border: 'Profusion’ series zinnias are extremely disease resistant. No worries about powdery mildew ruining the foliage in this tightly packed combo.

Grow zinnia flowers in a garden border

The photo above is a great example of how to use smaller and densely branched cultivars. They’re perfect for landscaping because they don’t need staking or even deadheading to look stunning. Plus, zinnias can take the heat, especially along a south-facing sidewalk like this one.

Products You Might Like for Growing Zinnias:
Grow-through Grid Support Ring
Slow-release Plant Fertilizer
Flower Snips

Zinnias around a seating area in containers and in the ground: Surround yourself with colorful zinnias in the garden beds, and in containers, too.

Add zinnias to containers

Zinnias make excellent container plants, growing best in full sun and tolerating the sometimes dry conditions that can happen if you forget to water on a hot day. Go ahead and crowd zinnias in containers. With old cultivars, this would have meant a bad case of powdery mildew on the foliage. But newer hybrids are extremely resistant to foliage disease. And their compact form means they’re easy to take care of, too. You don’t have to worry about pinching to keep their size in bounds. If some of the flowers start to look tired, snip them off and you’re done — except for watering, of course.

Zinnias in a pollinator garden: 'Magellan Coral’ zinnia is a colorful choice for this butterfly-attracting combo of purple heliotrope and magenta butterfly bush.

Add zinnias to a pollinator garden

Check out 12- to 14-inch-tall ‘Magellan Coral’ in the photo above. This large flower is the perfect landing pad for butterflies, who find abundant nectar in the tiny yellow florets in the center of the petals. Zinnias with more defined, easier-to-access clusters of the center yellow florets are better pollinator magnets, but you still get lots of bright color with the Magellan series and that will draw in the winged visitors to neighboring flowers.

Great for bouquets

Zinnias make fantastic cut flowers — plant a mass of multi-colored zinnias so you'll have plenty to cut for bouquets. Cutting the blooms will encourage more buds to form, so you'll keep getting more. Harvest a zinnia flower when it can pass a "wiggle test": grab the stem several inches below the flower head and shake it. If the stem is stiff and the flower doesn't droop or bend, it is ready to cut.

Products You Might Also Like:
State Fair Gold Medal Zinnia Seeds
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Floret Farm's Cut Flower Garden book

Find a zinnia for your garden

You're sure to find a zinnia to suit your needs with all the different sizes and forms available. They come in almost any color except blue (often with stripes, splashes or gradations of contrasting colors), with several flower shapes: single, double, button, and cactus-flowered. Let's take a look at a few great zinnia varieties you might like to try!

State Fair Mix zinnia (Zinnia hybrid)

Type Annual Blooms Mix of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, white and bicolor flowers bloom early summer to frost Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 36 to 48 in. tall and 12 to 14 in. wide

'Queen Lime Orange' zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Type Annual Blooms Lime-green-fringed raspberry centers are surrounded by apricot petals that age to orange Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 24 to 40 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide

Zowie! Yellow Flame zinnia (Zinnia hybrid)

Type Annual Blooms Flowers change from yellow-edged magenta-pink to orange-red with yellow edges as they age Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 24 to 30 in. tall and 24 to 28 in. wide

‘Envy’ zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Type Annual Blooms Chartreuse 3- to 4-inch flowers from summer to frost Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 24 to 30 in. tall and 12 to 14 in. wide

Candy Cane Mix zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Type Annual Blooms Flowers are white, pink, yellow or red with contrasting stripes of red, bright pink, or red-orange Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 15 to 18 in. tall and 12 to 14 in. wide

Profusion Orange zinnia (Zinnia hybrida)

Type Annual Blooms Bright orange flowers from late spring to frost, part of a series with many other colors Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide

Zahara® Starlight Rose zinnia (Zinnia marylandica)

Type Annual Blooms Pink-striped white flowers from late spring to frost, part of a series with many other colors Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide

State Fair Mix zinnia (Zinnia hybrid)

Type Annual Blooms Mix of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, white and bicolor flowers bloom early summer to frost Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 36 to 48 in. tall and 12 to 14 in. wide

Candy Cane Mix zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Type Annual Blooms Flowers are white, pink, yellow or red with contrasting stripes of red, bright pink, or red-orange Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 15 to 18 in. tall and 12 to 14 in. wide

'Queen Lime Orange' zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Type Annual Blooms Lime-green-fringed raspberry centers are surrounded by apricot petals that age to orange Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 24 to 40 in. tall, 18 to 24 in. wide

Profusion Orange zinnia (Zinnia hybrida)

Type Annual Blooms Bright orange flowers from late spring to frost, part of a series with many other colors Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide

Zowie! Yellow Flame zinnia (Zinnia hybrid)

Type Annual Blooms Flowers change from yellow-edged magenta-pink to orange-red with yellow edges as they age Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 24 to 30 in. tall and 24 to 28 in. wide

Zahara® Starlight Rose zinnia (Zinnia marylandica)

Type Annual Blooms Pink-striped white flowers from late spring to frost, part of a series with many other colors Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 12 to 18 in. tall and wide

‘Envy’ zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Type Annual Blooms Chartreuse 3- to 4-inch flowers from summer to frost Light Full sun Soil Well-drained Size 24 to 30 in. tall and 12 to 14 in. wide

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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