How to Grow Colorful Zinnia Plants

Fresh Pink Flowers Blooming In Field
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    Zinnia "Royal Purple"

    Zinnia "Royal Purple"
    Zinnia "Royal Purple" 1942 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    Zinnias are one of the most popular garden plants for gardens. They are an easy growing annual flower that comes in a wide range of colors, from flaming reds and oranges to pastel pinks and greens. There are more than a dozen species of zinnias. Many 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 here 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 great cut flowers.

    Top Performing Zinnia Flowers and Tips for Growing Them

    Single to fluffy double flowers top "Royal Purple's" tall (36 - 40 inch) 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.

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  • 02 of 18

    Zinnia "Old Mexico"

    Zinnia "Old Mexico"
    Zinnia "Old Mexico" 1962 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    Zinnia '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 1 - 1 1/2 ft. tall, but they hold up double and semi-double flowers that are up to 2 1/2 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 American Selection and is considered an heirloom flower. It is an excellent choice to grow from seed, indoors or out. Whether an old or new variety, all zinnias prefer a site with full sun and well-draining soil.

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    Zinnia "Thumbelina"

    Bright red flowers atop green leaves and stems
    Barry Winiker / Getty Images

    "Thumbelina" is billed as a dwarf zinnia that is only supposed to grow to 6 inches tall, but many gardeners report it tops out at a good 3 feet. This is probably because breeders have been "improving" the seed over the years. Whatever the height, the button-sized flowers (1 1/2 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.

    The full, bushy plants can be prone to aphids, so be sure to plant them in an open spot, with lots of air circulation.

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    Zinnia "Peter Pan Cream"

    Zinnia "Peter Pan Cream"
    Zinnia "Peter Pan Cream" 1978 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    The "Peter Pan" series of zinnias is one of the fastest to start blooming, often only 6 weeks from seed. This 1978 All American 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 3 - 3 1/2 inches across and the compact plants only reach a height of about 1 foot tall.

    Zinnias make great cut flowers and the more you cut them, the more they will bloom.

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    Zinnia "Yellow Ruffles"

    Zinnia "Yellow Ruffles"
    Zinnia "Yellow Ruffles" 1978 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    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.

    Zinnias are fast growers. You can direct sow in the spring, after all danger of frost, and can sow a second batch in mid-summer, to have fresh new plants blooming into the fall.

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    Zinnia "Red Sun"

    Zinnia "Red Sun"
    Zinnia "Red Sun" 1978 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    t can be hard to track down seed of this 1978 All America Selection, but it's worth looking for. The flowers are huge pom-poms; fully double and 4 -5 inches across. The glowing red color stays bright, as the flowers age, but keep deadheading for season-long bloom. The plants reach a height of 2 - 3 ft. tall, but a little pinching back will keep them from getting top heavy and flopping and needing staking.

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  • 07 of 18

    Zinnia "Peter Pan Flame"

    "Peter Pan Flame"
    "Peter Pan Flame" 1980 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    Zinnia "Peter Pan Flame" was a 1980 All American Selection. It shares all the great features of Peter Pan "Cream" and is a great 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.

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  • 08 of 18

    Zinnia Giant Double Mix

    Zinnia "Giant Double" Mix
    Zinnia "Giant Double" Mix. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    he Giant in "Giant Double" refers to the size of the flowers, which can be 4 - 5 inches across. You will generally find these in a mix of colors, all with dahlia-like blossoms. The plants grow to about 2 ft. tall and will benefit from both pinching and deadheading. This is an older series of zinnia and can be prone to powdery mildew. However, as with all zinnias, these giants make wonderful options for a cutting garden.

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  • 09 of 18

    Zinnia "Magellan Coral"

    This 2005 All American Selection grows in a compact clump that reaches a height of about 1 - 1 1/2 feet tall. Zinnia "Magellan Coral" is covered with dahlia-like pom-pom 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. A serious perk in the flower garden.


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    Zinnia "Queen Red Lime"

    Zinnia "Queen Red Lime"
    Zinnia "Queen Red Lime". Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    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 time colored center petals. It looks almost papery and somewhat Victorian. Most Zinnia elegans varieties are tall plants and "Queen Red Lime" is no exception, topping out at 40 - 50 inches.

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    Zinnia "Crystal White"

    Zinnia "Crystal White"
    Zinnia "Crystal White" 1997 AAS Winner. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    Zinnia "Crystal White" helped put zinnias back on the gardening map. "Crystal White" was a 1997 All American 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 mid-season shearing, to freshen the whole plant. Don't worry, it will recover within days.

    'Chrystal White' grows into dense plants that grow to about one ft. tall and exhibit excellent powdery mildew resistance.

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    Profusion Zinnias

    Zinnia "Profusion"
    Zinnia "Profusion" 5 Color Mix. Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    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 an 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 non-stop all summer. They will benefit from a mid-season shearing, to refresh the whole plant, since deadheading so many small flowers become impractical.

    As you can see, Profusion zinnias are an excellent choice for containers. They are both compact and drought tolerant. But they are just as happy spilling over in a border.

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    Zinnia "Profusion Yellow"

    "Profusion Yellow" has the clean, green foliage you expect from the Profusion series. The golden yellow flowers almost look like a coreopsis. The blooms are about 2 inches across and cover the bushy, stocky plants. The plants themselves only get about 12 inches high and make a great front of border choice or a nice addition to containers.

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    Zinnia "Zowie Yellow Flame" AAS Winner 2006

    That's quite the name, no? "Zowie Yellow Flame" lives up to expectations. The flowers are bold in what first appear to be old-fashioned zinnia colors. The flowers actually start off a kind of magenta-pink and darken as they age to a ruby-rose, only to end their time on the plant yellow and red. Zowie!

    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 more and more flowers.


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    Zinnia Zahara "Raspberry Lemonade"

    Zinnia Zahara "Raspberry Lemonade"
    Zinnia Zahara "Raspberry Lemonade". Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    The Zahara series is the biggest thing to happen in zinnia breeding since Profusion. They offer powdery mildew resistant, drought tolerant, profuse blooming and even larger flowers than Profusion zinnias. This is a great series of plants for growing in any climate. 'Raspberry Lemonade' is a yummy mix of lemon yellow and berry pink with some 'Starlight Rose' mixed in.

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    Zinnia Zahara "Starlight Rose"

    We just saw the Zahara "Raspberry Lemonade" mix. Well, here's the 2010 All America Selection "Starlight Rose", on its own. This is the first bicolor rose and white zinnia. It looks a bit like a coreopsis flower, but the larger flowers (2 1/2 inches across) give it away as a zinnia.

    As with all the Zahara series, "Starlight Rose" is extremely powdery mildew resistant.

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    Zinnia "Double Zahara Cherry" and "Double Zahara Fire"

    Two more 2010 All America Sections from the Zahara zinnia series really point out the vividness of the colors. Can you 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.

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    Zinnia Zahara 'White'

    Zinnia "Zahara White"
    Zinnia "Zahara White". Photo Provided by The National Garden Bureau

    If you loved 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 an extremely profuse bloomer. Plus Zahara zinnia flowers are about 20% larger than the Profusion series. The petals of "White" are a clear and glowing white surrounding the familiar gold center.