Creeping Zinnia Plant Profile

creeping zinnia

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens) is a cheery annual plant with a spreading nature, ideal as groundcover or for planting in containers. The fine green foliage is unique in itself, but the small yellow blooms steal the show and have been compared in appearance to sunflowers, albeit a miniature version. This might come as a surprise for fans of tall zinnias, who will find that this plant looks quite different in appearance. The creeping zinnia along with other zinnia varieties are part of the Asteracae family, within the Heliantheae tribe.

Native to Mexico and parts of Guatemala, these plants are no stranger to hot, humid weather and thrive in similar climates. While this annual plant only puts on a single season show, its abundant blooms and carefree nature make it worth re-planting year after year.

Botanical Name Sanvitalia procumbens
Common Name Creeping zinnia, Mexican creeping zinnia
Plant Type Annual 
Mature Size 4 to 6 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide
Sun Exposure Full to part sun
Soil Type Well-drained
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 5 to 9 
Native Area Central America (Mexico, Guatemala)
creeping zinnia

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

creeping zinnia

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

closeup of creeping zinnia

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

How to Grow Creeping Zinnia

For both novice gardeners and green thumb experts, creeping zinnia is an easy plant to grow. When planted in full or part sun and with a sufficient supply of water, this plant blooms abundantly in garden beds and containers.

These are warm-weather plants that won't shrivel up even in the face of high temperatures and humidity. They require regular watering but do not tolerate soggy conditions.

Sunlight

To grow creeping zinnia to its maximum potential, this flowering plant thrives in direct, full sun for six to eight hours per day. This amount of sunlight produces the most abundant blooms, however, these plants can also survive when planted in partly sunny conditions. In spots that receive just 4 to 6 hours of sun, these plants will generally fare fine but won’t have the same abundant blooms as those planted in full sun.

Soil

These plants can tolerate a range of soil types, including average to relatively fertile, humus-rich conditions. However, creeping zinnia requires that soil drains well. Otherwise, its roots can become waterlogged and rot.

Water

While creeping zinnia enjoys hot weather and tolerates periods of drought, don’t let this fool you into thinking that this plant won’t need regular watering. It’s important to keep the plant from becoming waterlogged, but it prefers medium-moist soil conditions. For this reason, you might need to water these plants once or twice daily if grown in a container during stretches of dry weather. The soil should not become overly dry and crumbly. Instead aim for moist but well-aerated soil, and let the soil dry in between watering. 

Temperature and Humidity

Hot temperatures and high humidity will make creeping zinnia feel right at home. Native to Central American countries Mexico and Guatemala, these plants thrive when the temperature rises and won’t wilt in an hot climate. On the flip side, they’re only moderately tolerant of cool weather and fade once the average nightly temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Fertilizer

For a healthy, abundantly-blooming plant, provide at least moderately fertile soil conditions. Creeping zinnia doesn’t have overly specific or substantial nutritional needs, but if the soil you plant it in is less than average, you might need to use organic or a balanced conventional fertilizer.

In addition, creeping zinnia planted in containers or pots often benefits from a slow-release fertilizer or a periodic application of liquid fertilizer to support overall growth and health of the plant. 

Propagating Creeping Zinnia

You can propagate this plant using several different methods, including by seed, cuttings, or division. Seed is likely to be the most successful because the plant has a reputation for failing during transplanting.

The seeds are relatively easy to collect from individual spent blooms, though the small size of the flowerheads might make it somewhat tedious work.

You can also divide the plant by cutting the rootball into several separate sections, with its foliage and flowers attached to each section. The individual pieces can be transplanted into new locations, though creeping zinnia does not always accept transplanting.

You can also take plant clippings to propagate this plant.

Growing in Containers

The low growing habit and abundant blooms of creeping zinnia make it a great option in a container garden. These plants will fill the container, window box, or other planter with small, beautiful blooms all summer long.

Keep in mind that to grow these plants successfully in containers, you'll need to ensure that they have adequate drainage. Use a quality loose and lightweight potting mix to ensure the roots don't become saturated with too much water.

You might find it necessary to provide supplemental fertilizer for containers. Time-released or granular fertilizer pellets or a balanced liquid formula will generally give these plants a boost if the creeping zinnia is not blooming as heavily as you expected.

Starting From Seeds

Starting creeping zinnia from seed isn't very complicated, but be aware these plants don't always tolerate being transplanted. For best results, consider direct-sowing seeds in the location where you want to grow them.

it's important to know that these seeds require sunlight to germinate, so don't bury them under a layer of soil. Instead, lightly press them into the soil surface or loosely cover with peat moss. Water them daily and keep the soil moist for the seeds to germinate. It's always best to read the recommendations on the seed packet for specific sowing and care instructions.

Whether you are sowing seeds in a container or in a garden bed, direct-sow the seeds one to two weeks before the last expected frost date. Plants will bloom about 10 weeks after seeds are sown.

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  1. What's Wrong with My Plant? University of Minnesota Extension