Zinnias: The Flowers That Are Out Of This World

It is disrespectfully hot outside. So hot that I find it offensive. All of my plants are unhappy. Even the sunflowers are drooping under the sun’s oppressive glare. There is one plant that is cheerfully withstanding the assault, however. The zinnias. They are unphased.

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My white zinnia

Plant Info

Common name: Zinnia

Scientific name: Zinnia 

Family: Asteraceae

Zinnias are colorful, fast growing, heat and drought tolerant flowering plants native to North and South America. In really warm, arid climates they can be perennial. But, they are grown as warm season annuals everywhere else. They tend to range in size from 6”- 4’ tall. Some have a narrow, upright growth habit and others are bushier and more sprawling. 

Zinnia colors range through the whole spectrum, with the exception of blue. They reseed readily and require very little babying. In fact, they are so adaptable that a zinnia was the first flower grown in the International Space Station!

Growing Requirements

Photo by Amber Malquist on Unsplash

To grow zinnias, direct sow their seeds after the last frost. They need full sun, well draining soil, and to be spaced 6”-12” apart. Deadhead often to promote blooming. These tough little beauties do not require much feeding to thrive. Water them deeply when the soil is totally dry, but be careful not to get their leaves wet. They are prone to moisture borne diseases. 

I highly recommend them for newbie gardeners. In fact, they are my go-to plant when I teach kids about gardening. Since they are so easy to grow and have such show-stopping flowers, kids LOVE them.  They really encourage little ones to get out there and develop a love of plants and nature.


Zinnias have long been considered to be primarily ornamental flowers for warm climate gardens. They are great at it. Because of how easy and fast they grow, they work great to fill gaps in the landscape. Also, they definitely make an impact with their big, brightly colored flowers. 

Those beautiful, vibrant blossoms are why zinnias are a huge favorite with pollinators. Hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, and hoverflies go nuts for them. They are so pretty that the tall, upright varieties make great cut flowers.  I love them in arrangements with cosmos and dahlias. 

What is less widely known is that zinnias are edible! I will warn you that the leaves and petals have a bitter aftertaste. I usually add them to a salad, a smoothie, or something like that. They are reputed to contain compounds that make them antioxidant, antifungal, and antimalarial. Studies are being conducted to test these claims and some have already shown promising results regarding their antioxidant properties.


In the language of flowers, zinnias represent affection for absent friends. They are connected to thoughtfulness. Send a bouquet of zinnias to show someone that you miss them. The petals can be dried and added to candles and crafts. Also, you can wear or hold onto them when you are looking for something that is lost. 


Zinnias are beautiful, tough, easy to grow flowers that make a dramatic impact on garden landscapes. They are great for pollinator, desert, and beginner gardens. Also, they are edible and possibly medicinal. They make great cut flowers and could help you tell a friend that you miss them. Zinnias have even traveled to space! 

Photo by Hal Moran: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-hummingbird-on-a-common-zinnia-15424205/


Definitely check out these resources for more information.

Zaworski, Karen. “Zinnias: The Hardest-Working Flower in the Summer Garden”. Chicago Botanic Garden, https://www.chicagobotanic.org/plantinfo/smart_gardener/zinnias_hardest_working_flower_summer_garden.

Boeckmann, Catherine. “Flower Meanings: The Language of Flowers.” The Farmer’s Almanac, www.almanac.com/flower-meanings-language-flowers.

Engels, Jonathan. “A Permaculture Take on Why to Grow Zinnias”. Permaculture Research Institute, 17 Sept, 2020, https://www.permaculturenews.org/2020/09/17/a-permaculture-take-on-why-to-grow-zinnias/.

“First Flower Grown in Space Station’s Veggie Facility”. NASA, 19 Jan, 2016, https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/first-flower-grown-in-space-stations-veggie-facility.

Burlec AF, Pecio Ł, Mircea C, Cioancă O, Corciovă A, Nicolescu A, Oleszek W, Hăncianu M. Chemical Profile and Antioxidant Activity of Zinnia elegans Jacq. Fractions. Molecules. 2019 Aug 13;24(16):2934. doi: 10.3390/molecules24162934. PMID: 31412649; PMCID: PMC6720917.


Pankau, Ryan. “The Garden Scoop Zinnias”. College of Agricultural, Consumer & Environmental Sciences Illinois Extension, 24 July, 2021, https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/garden-scoop/2021-07-24-zinnias.

Roth, Susan A. Better Homes and Gardens New Complete Guide to Gardening. Meredith Corporation, 1997, P 379.

Pleasant, Barbara. Easy Garden Projects For All Seasons. Taylor Publishing Company, P 85-86.

Tamed Wild. Book of Flowers. Tamed Wild, P 63.

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