Available in more than a dozen species, zinnias are one of the most popular garden plants. They are an easy to grow annual flower that comes in a wide range of colors, from flaming reds and oranges to pastel pinks and greens. Many types are available in nurseries as plants, and even more are available as seed.
The National Garden Bureau celebrated The Year of the Zinnia in 2011, and plant breeders have been coming out with new colors and cultivars every year since. Many of the zinnia varieties featured in this list have won All-America Selection awards for their ease of growing and pest resistance. All bloom profusely and make wonderful accents in borders and containers as well as perfect cut flowers. The more you cut them, the more they will bloom.
Zinnias are fast growers. You can direct sow in the spring, after all danger of frost has passed, and can sow a second batch in mid-summer to have fresh plants blooming into the fall. Whether an old or new variety, all zinnias prefer a site with full sun and well-draining soil.
If you need a temporary filler in a perennial cutting garden while you wait for the bed to become established, zinnias could fit the bill.
Top-Performing Zinnia Flowers and Tips for Growing Them
Single to fluffy double flowers top "Royal Purple's" tall (36 to 40 inches) plants. This zinnia blooms in shades from lilac to a deep, dark purple, changing shades slightly as it ages. These are quick growers, flowering within a couple of months from seed. When growing most zinnias, some pinching while young will keep the plants stocky and full although perhaps a little shorter. Keep them deadheaded for flowering all season.
Zinnia 'Old Mexico'
"Old Mexico" is an old zinnia, but it has lost none of its charms. This zinnia species (Zinnia haageana) is a compact grower. The plants are about one to one and a half feet tall, but they hold up double and semi-double flowers that are up to two and a half inches across.
These are the traditional zinnia colors of gold and mahogany, with a rusty center cone that elongates as the flowers age. "Old Mexico" was the 1962 All-America Selection and is considered an heirloom flower. It is an excellent choice to grow from seed, indoors or out.
"Thumbelina" is billed as a dwarf zinnia that is supposed to grow only to 6 inches tall, but many gardeners report it tops out at a good three feet. This is probably because breeders have been "improving" the seed over the years. Whatever the height, the button-sized flowers (one and a half inches across) bloom in a multitude of bright, charming colors including red, yellow, orange, white, lavender, salmon, and rosy pink. The flowers persist for a long time, but deadheading or even shearing will keep them in bloom all summer.
Zinnia 'Peter Pan Cream'
The "Peter Pan" series of zinnias is one of the fastest to start blooming, often only six weeks from seed. This 1978 All-America Selection comes in lots of cheery, bright colors as well as this gentle cream. "Cream" varies in shade from milky white to buff. The flowers are double to semi-double and about three to three and a half inches across, and the compact plants only reach a height of about 1 foot tall.
Zinnia 'Yellow Ruffles'
The "Ruffles" series is known for its glowing shades of soft colors and fluffy double petals that look, well, ruffled. Besides this bright, buttery yellow, there are "Ruffles" in pink, white, and peach.
Zinnia 'Red Sun'
It can be hard to track down seed of "Red Sun," a 1978 All-America Selection, but it's worth looking for. The flowers are huge pompoms, fully double and four to five inches across. The glowing red color stays bright as the flowers age, but keep deadheading it for season-long bloom. The plants reach two to three feet tall, but a little pinching back keeps them from getting top heavy, flopping, and needing staking.
Zinnia 'Peter Pan Flame'
Zinnia "Peter Pan Flame" was a 1980 All-America Selection. It shares the features of Peter Pan "Cream" and is an excellent example of the brilliant colors zinnias are capable of delivering. "Flame" looks a bit like a strawflower, but the petals are not dry and stiff. However, it does make an excellent, long-lasting cut flower.
Zinnia 'Giant Double Mixed'
The "giant" in "Giant Double" refers to the size of the flowers, which can be four to five inches across. You will generally find these sold in a mix of colors, all with dahlia-like blossoms. The plants grow to about 2 feet tall and benefit from both pinching and deadheading. This is an older series of zinnia and can be prone to powdery mildew.
Zinnia 'Magellan Coral'
This 2005 All-America Selection grows in a compact clump that reaches a height of about one to one and a half feet tall. Zinnia "Magellan Coral" is covered with dahlia-like pompom flowers in a dusky coral. Although deadheading will keep new buds forming, it isn't really necessary. New foliage is continually emerging, keeping the plant's tidy habit and prolonging the bloom period. This plant is a perk to have in the flower garden.
Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime'
An occasional single bloom might find its way into the semi- to fully double flowers of "Queen Red Lime" (Zinnia elegans), making the mix of colors even more interesting. The outer petals are a soft maroon, and they get paler and paler as they move toward the lime-colored center petals. The flowers look almost papery and somewhat Victorian. Most Zinnia elegans varieties are tall plants, and "Queen Red Lime" is no exception, topping out at 40 to 50 inches.
Zinnia 'Crystal White'
Zinnia "Crystal White" helped put zinnias back on the gardening map. "Crystal White" was a 1997 All-America Selection for its gentle color and eruption of blooms. Being in the Zinnia haageana species, it has a compact habit and small, half-inch blooms—but many, many of them. "Crystal White" will happily bloom all summer, but it benefits from a midseason shearing to freshen the whole plant. Don't worry, it will recover within days.
"Chrystal White" grows into dense plants that grow to about 1 foot tall and exhibit excellent powdery mildew resistance.
The "Profusion" series was an instant hit in the gardening world. These were the first zinnias to truly resist powdery mildew. The flowers are delicate, only 1 inch or so across, but as the name hints, there are many of them. Actually, the whole plant is delicate looking, but don't be deceived. These plants will bloom nonstop all summer. They benefit from a midseason shearing to refresh the whole plant because deadheading so many small flowers becomes impractical.
"Profusion" zinnias are an excellent choice for containers, as they are both compact and drought tolerant. But they are just as happy spilling over in a border.
Zinnia 'Profusion Yellow'
"Profusion Yellow" has the clean, green foliage you expect from the "Profusion" series of zinnias. The golden yellow flowers almost look like coreopsis. The blooms are about 2 inches across and cover the bushy, stocky plants. The plants themselves reach only about 12 inches high and make a good choice for the front of a border or a bright addition to containers.
Zinnia 'Zowie Yellow Flame'
That's quite the name, no? "Zowie Yellow Flame," the All-America Selection in 2006, lives up to expectations. The flowers are bold in what first appear to be old-fashioned zinnia colors, starting off a kind of magenta-pink. They darken as they age to a ruby-rose only to end their time on the plant as yellow and red. Zowie!
The flowers are about 3 inches across, blooming on plants about 2 feet tall. Minimal pinching is needed to keep the plants full, but deadheading will keep them producing flowers.
Zinnia 'Zahara Raspberry Lemonade Mix'
The "Zahara" series is the biggest thing to happen in zinnia breeding since "Profusion." They offer powdery mildew resistance, drought tolerance, profuse blooming, and even larger flowers than "Profusion" zinnias. This is a wonderful series of plants for growing in any climate. "Raspberry Lemonade" is a yummy mixture of lemon yellow and berry pink flowers with some "Starlight Rose" mixed in.
Zinnia 'Zahara Starlight Rose'
The 2010 All-America Selection "Starlight Rose" is the first bicolor rose-and-white zinnia. It looks a bit like a coreopsis flower, but the larger flowers (2.5 inches across) give it away as a zinnia. As with all the "Zahara" series, "Starlight Rose" is powdery mildew resistant. They grow 12–18 inches high.
Zinnia 'Double Zahara Cherry' and 'Double Zahara Fire'
Two more 2010 All-America Selections from the "Zahara" zinnia series really show off the vividness of the colors. Just imagine a mass planting of "Double Zahara Cherry" and "Double Zahara Fire." You could see it for miles. It would probably glow at night.
If you love cut flowers, the "Zahara" zinnias are an excellent choice, blooming repeatedly and holding their color as they age.
Zinnia Zahara 'White'
If you love zinnia "Profusion White," take a look at "Zahara White." "Zahara" is a recently introduced zinnia series and, like the "Profusion" zinnias, it is powdery mildew resistant and a profuse bloomer. Plus "Zahara" zinnia flowers are about 20 percent larger than the "Profusion" series. The petals of "White" are a clear and glowing white surrounding the flower's familiar gold center.