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How to Grow Zinnias for a Quick, Colourful Garden

If you’re looking for a vibrant, beginner-friendly addition to your garden, zinnias are an excellent choice. With large blooms and a variety of colour and size options, these beautiful flowers are easy to grow and harvest. They’ll look beautiful in your garden and in a vase! If you’re ready to get planting, here is everything you need to know about how to grow zinnias.

pink zinnia

If you’ve ever taken a stroll through a flower garden or even the floral department at your local grocery store, you’re likely familiar with zinnias. Known for their vibrant colours, these flowers are a popular choice for gardeners and florists alike.

Not only do zinnias come in a variety of colours and sizes, but they are also known for producing multiple blooms. West Coast Seeds recently sent me some zinnia seeds, so you can bet I’m going to be on a zinnia kick here soon.

So, if you’re like me and want to adorn your dining room table with freshly cut flowers, these plants can provide a magnificent addition to your arrangement all summer long. If you prefer to leave your petals outside, you can even grow zinnias in pots. 

These hearty, low-maintenance plants are perfect for newcomers looking to grow something beautiful and an old standby for more experienced gardeners. 

red zinnia flowers
Zinnia flowers come in all kinds of colours and combinations.

Meet the Zinnia 

Zinnias are recognizable by their full, round blooms that come in just about every colour under the sun. It was these bright hues that earned them their original Aztec name, which translates to “plants that are hard on the eyes.” Native to Mexico and Central America, the flowers got the name zinnia from German botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn, who brought the plant to Europe in the 1700s. 

Now, the zinnia is popular for many reasons. Their colour and size varieties make them a versatile medium for florists and the perfect aesthetic choice for gardeners looking to curate their flowerbeds. They can also help improve the overall health of your garden as they attract pollinators, such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. 

If you’re looking to take advantage of this easy-to-grow flower, there are many zinnia varieties to choose from. One of my personal favourites is the Oklahoma Salmon Variety. As the name suggests, these zinnias boast muted pink and peach hues, which make a lovely, warm addition to any garden or bouquet.

If you’re looking for a more vibrant flower, the Yellow Flame zinnia might be for you. Its gradient of yellow, orange, and magenta evokes a fiery sunset. The Queeny Series is another popular family of zinnias, available in striking green, red, and purple varieties. 

how to grow zinnias
Zinnias are annuals, but grow into large plants quick.

How to Grow Zinnias

Zinnias are known for being the intro to cut flowers, as they’re quite simple to grow and hardy to cutting. If you’re foraying into growing a cut flower garden, then this is the perfect place to start.

When and Where to Plant Zinnias

If you live in a warm climate, you can plant zinnia seeds directly in the ground as long as you wait at least two weeks after the last frost. Here in Canada, I prefer to start my zinnias inside.  When the sprouts are 3-5 inches, they can be planted outside. 

I found that my zinnia seeds sprouted QUICK. They should be moved outside within three weeks maximum after germinating, as otherwise, they can get leggy. Zinnias tend to be one of my last flowers to sow indoors.

They are heat and sun lovers, so you don’t want to get them in the ground until things are starting to warm up.

Whether you start them indoors or plant them straight in the ground, your soil should be well-drained and have a neutral pH. Place your zinnia seeds a few inches apart and press them about ¼ inches into the soil. 

If you want true-to-seed zinnias, you’ll have to buy them rather than save them.


Zinnias require full sunlight, so be sure to place them in a bright location in your garden or yard. They require at least 8 hours of daylight, but more is even better for these light-loving plants.

I’ve planted them in an area with partial shade before, and the slugs were quick to start munching.


While established zinnias can survive mild drought, hydrated plants produce the most impressive blooms. Once zinnias are planted in the ground, they can be watered deeply once a week.

If you choose to leave them potted, give them a drink when you notice the top inch of soil has dried out. 

pink zinnia flowers
Zinnias are pretty low maintenance in terms of cut flowers.


Pruning is key when learning how to grow zinnias as they are considered a cut and come back flower. This means the more you prune, the more opportunity they have to grow and produce more flowers.

When the stems reach about 10 inches you can start to pinch the tops of them. Harvesting your zinnias is also a great way to encourage growth. If you prefer to leave the flowers, remove the blooms once they start to droop or dry out.

zinnia assortment of colours
Deadheading will encourage more blooms to grow.

Common Pests and Diseases

Zinnias are fairly resistant to pests, but common insects such as aphids and spider mites can occasionally cause damage. Lighter-coloured varieties are more susceptible to pests, so you may want to harvest these flowers earlier in the season to help avoid damage.

A more common problem with zinnias is powdery mildew, especially in hot and humid areas. Leaving extra space between your seeds can help avoid this problem by providing more airflow. If your zinnias are affected by powdery mildew, baking soda and vinegar solutions can provide a simple and natural remedy. 

butterfly on zinnia
Zinnias attract pollinators.

How to Grow Zinnias in Containers

If you have limited outdoor space or just prefer to do your gardening in planters, growing zinnias in pots is a great option. Start by selecting a suitable pot. I recommend one that’s at least 12 inches to accommodate the growth of your zinnias. Make sure it has drainage holes.

Fill your chosen container with potting soil, making sure to dampen it before adding the seeds. Zinnia seeds should be placed a few inches apart and gently pressed into the soil. In two days to a week, your seeds will begin to sprout.

After 4-6 weeks, you can place your pot in a sunny spot on your porch, garden, or yard, adding water when the first inch of soil is dry.

how to grow zinnias in containers
Make sure to thin out your seedlings if growing in a pot.

How to Cut Zinnias

You can check if your zinnias are ready to be cut by paying attention to the stem. Carefully shake the stem, holding it about 8 inches below the flower. If it bends, your flowers aren’t quite ready to be cut. If the stem is firm and stays upright, cut from the base of the stem.

When cutting, carry a bucket of water with you so you can place them right in water when harvesting the flowers. Cut in the morning, as this is when the plant is the most hydrated.

Zinnias are considered a “dirty” flower, so adding a drop or two of bleach to the water can help to keep it clean.

Once you place them in a vase, your zinnias will provide a beautiful floral arrangement for 7-10 days.

fresh cut flowers from the garden
Refresh your cut flower water every other day to keep them fresh.

FAQs About Growing Zinnia Flowers

Do zinnias come back every year?

Zinnias are annuals, so you’ll need to plant new seeds each spring. Luckily, they’re easy to take care of once you learn how to grow zinnias, and the vibrant blossoms are worth replanting.

You can also save the seeds from your previous zinnias, and it’s quite easy to do so. After the flower head has almost dried on the stem, cut it and allow it to dry completely on a counter. Separate the papery seeds from the flower head and petals and store them in a cool, dry place for next spring.

How do I keep zinnias blooming all summer?

If you want zinnia blooms all summer, I recommend succession planting. During the early summer, plant a new crop every 2 or 3 weeks. This will give you zinnias steadily throughout the season. Also, make sure to stay on top of deadheading to encourage the plant to produce new flowers.  

How do you keep zinnias short and bushy?

Pruning is key to caring for zinnias, and it can help achieve the look you’re going for. Once your zinnias grow to about 10 inches, you can pinch the tips of the stems. This will help achieve the bushy look you’re going for.

Though it might seem counterintuitive, cutting back your zinnia will help encourage growth, so make sure to thin out the plant once it starts blooming. If you’re not planning to cut the flowers for an arrangement, remove dried-up flowers regularly.

Will rabbits eat zinnias?

Rabbits do not typically eat these flowers, especially the Zinnia elegans and Z. augustofolio varieties. In fact, zinnias are known to deter rabbits, so if you have a problem with bunnies snacking on your garden, planting Zinnias could be a helpful solution. 

how to grow zinnias

Zinnias truly are one of the best cutting flowers to grow, being so easy yet so prolific. If you have any more questions about how to grow zinnias, leave them in the comments below.

More Cutting Flowers to Add to Your Garden!

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