By: Tonya Barnett, (Author of FRESHCUTKY)
Zinnia flowers are a long-time garden favorite for a variety of reasons. While many gardeners have fond memories of these plants, zinnias are once again gaining popularity among a new generation of home growers. Easy to grow and a perfect candidate for growth by first time flower growers, zinnia flower varieties come in a wide range of colors, sizes, and shapes.
Direct sown after all chance of frost has passed in the spring, zinnias thrive with little attention or care. Gardens which receive ample sunlight and warmth throughout the growing season will enjoy a colorful display of bright, vibrant blooms. With the introduction of new hybrids and specifically bred, open pollinated varieties of zinnias, these plants offer an option for nearly any landscape application.
Here are some popular zinnia flower varieties for the garden:
Dwarf Zinnias– Dwarf zinnias are most commonly planted in flower borders and reach around 10 inches (25 cm.) in height at maturity. Noted for their small size, these short plants grow well when interplanted with other annual and perennial flowers and shrubs. While the plants remain small throughout the growing season, this is not indicative of potential bloom size. Flower size will vary depending upon the zinnia variety which is being grown. Popular dwarf zinnias include:
Landscape Zinnias– Much like dwarf zinnias, these zinnia plant cultivars are commonly used in landscaping and in flower borders. Growing somewhat taller, usually to about 20 inches (50 cm.), these zinnia flowers bloom continuously throughout the growing season, creating a profusion of color. Here you’ll find the following zinnias:
Tall and Cut Flower Zinnias– Though cultivated in the same manner as other kinds of zinnias, some zinnia varieties are specifically suited for use in cut flower gardens. These stunning, tall plants make a huge visual impact in the garden landscape, as well as attract multitudes of pollinators. Reaching heights of over 4 feet (1 m.) tall at maturity, zinnia plants used in the cutting garden will continue blooming throughout the summer, even as the blooms are removed for use in flower arrangements and bouquets. These include:
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Zinnias are one of the most popular and easiest flowers you can grow. Zinnias lovers are in luck, as there are many varieties of this showy flower, that blooms in a wide range of colors and sizes, from Summer thru Fall.. Zinnia plants are easy to grow and start. Most home gardeners grow several varieties from seed. You can either sow Zinnia seeds directly into your flower garden, or start plants indoors.
Here are some of the most popular varieties:
Canary Bird - Place this tall, bright yellow bloomer almost anywhere. Use it as a wildflower, for the back of the border in a flower bed, or in containers. It looks great in cut flower arrangements and in bouquets. Canary Bird Zinnia grows 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall.
Candy Stripe White - A big, vibrant bloomer with white stripes and splashes of red. Candy Stripe White grows 26" - 36".
Carousel Mix - This is a bi-color bloomer in shades of pink, yellow, orange, red, purple, and white. When in bloom it puts on a stunning display. Plant Height: 20".
Cherry Queen - This variety is a must grow, producing elegant, bright red, double blooms on a tall plant. It grows 36" tall.
Envy - This zinnia is an eye-catcher. Other gardeners will be envious! Grow this unique, light green, 3 to 4 inch diameter bloomer, and passersby will take notice. Grows about 3 feet.
Giant Cactus Double - This is one of the most popular of all varieties of zinnias. The plant grows 2 to 3 feet tall, and produces huge 4 to 5 inch blooms in a variety of colors and hues. Don't miss growing this Zinnia!
Lilliput - Lush and perky poms of color makes this one of the more popular miniature varieties. Grow Lilliput in the flower bed, along walkways, in rock gardens, and in containers on your patio or deck. Grows 12" - 18".
Luminosa Pink - This beauty is a true garden favorite. They are beautiful and long-lasting in flower arrangements and bouquets. Luminosa Pink Zinnias grow 2 feet.
Oriole - Expect compliments! Big, bright orange and gold blooms scream "look at me!". Use Oriole Zinnias as a centerpiece in your flower garden, in flower arrangements and bouquets. Plant grows 24" - 30".
Persian Carpet - What this variety lacks in size, it makes up in splendor. Double blooms are a blend of truly exceptional colors. Plant grows 12" - 18".
Purple Prince - Its intense purple color and stately height, makes this a very stunning, royal zinnia. Grows 3 to 4 feet.
Red Spider - This exquisite, compact plant puts on a summer and fall show, with masses of striking red, spider-like flowers. Blooms are 1 inch in diameter. Plant grows 24" - 30".
State Fair - This zinnia takes the prize! Large blooms on a tall plant, in a wide variety of colors, will grace anywhere they are grown. State Fair Zinnias are one of the most popular varieties. Grows 3 to 4 feet.
Thumbelina - This cute miniature variety grows just 6 to 8 inches tall. What it lacks in size, it makes up for in charm and has a wide variety of colors. Thumbelina is an outstanding container plant. It shows off as a cut flower in small vases and decorative containers.
I’ve noticed a lot of people asking recently about the best or favorite zinnias to grow.
Zinnias are kind of a hot-button topic for most people - even if you hate zinnias and won’t grow them, you’ll have a very definitive reason as to why - but most people, especially flower farmers love zinnias and grow boatloads of them all season long.
However, not all zinnias are created equal (in my opinion at least)
The most popular zinnias for flower farmers seem to be the following:
Benary Giant (or Blue Point) series
Queen (Queen Red Lime, Queen Lime, Queen Lime with Blush, Queen Lime with Orange, Queen Lime MIx) series
There are far more zinnias including the hageeana types (like Aztec and Jazzy) as well as the weird and wacky ones like Peppermint Stick and Senorita that are just as wonderful, but the ones above are the most commonly grown and used.
But what if you could only grow one?
Suspend your belief for a second and think - if you only had space or ability to grow one zinnia variety, what would it be?
Personally, my pick is the Oklahoma zinnia series.
First of all, seed for the Oklahoma series is pretty economical - far cheaper than some of the fancier varieties. This may seem like a very small thing, but when you’re buying a large quantity of zinnia seeds it does start to add up.
Secondly, the Oklahoma series is very consistent when it comes to its form. While some varieties like the Benary Giants or the Zinderella series are not reliably double, the Oklahoma series is a well-bred variety that consistently gives big, fluffy, perfect blooms. I’ve been somewhat disappointed by both the Benary Giant Salmon and Zinderella varieties as far as form and coloration since they are good colors, but I find them to be more single form than not.
Zinnia ‘Oklahoma Salmon’ on the right, Zinnia ‘Benary Giant Salmon’ on the lef
There’s also the fact that the Oklahoma series are incredibly prolific. I’ve harvested as many as a dozen blooms at a time off a single plant, each one perfectly formed and on long strong stems, and they quickly fill up a bucket. And it seems like as soon as you cut one, they send up another two in its place - a great plant to have for when you’re needing volume!There’s a reason why the Oklahoma zinnias fill up our florist buckets, mixed bouquets, mason jar arrangements and wedding design pieces.
In addition, the smaller size of the Oklahoma zinnias really allow for you to work them into designs in away that you can’t with the larger zinnias like the Benary Giants and Uproar Rose varieties. Smaller is usually better when it comes to doing wedding work especially, and although not quite as impressive as either larger variety, they tend to play better with others.
The double shape and form of the Oklahoma zinnias are also wonderful because they have a fairly long vase life (double or super fluffy flowers always have a longer vase life than single flowers). When properly conditioned and kept in clean water, I’ve had them last well over a week. Like dahlias - where pompon and ball-shaped dahlias last far longer than dinnerplate and collarette shapes - so do the fluffy Oklahomas last longer than the larger varieties (beautiful as they are).
The Oklahoma zinnias also don’t look like your garden variety zinnias to the average viewer. Although they definitely are zinnias and give that flower-farm vibe, they look different than the random mixes that can be planted from a packet of seeds. They are more full, more robust, more intense in coloration and more uniform in size and shape and color.
To help differentiate your flowers from the flowers that people just grow on their own as a hobbyist, it does help that your flowers look like they are intentionally selected for flower farming - and the Oklahoma series does just that.
Really, the Oklahoma zinnia series is just so likeable and versatile and reliable that it’s hard to come up with an excuse not to grow them - no matter if you’re growing for market, for florists or for your own design work or even just for you own personal enjoyment in the garden.
Although it’s too late to sow zinnias in all but the warmest places of the continental US right now, you can start planning for next year! Here are some great sources for the Oklahoma series.
If you’re new to growing flowers and you’re interested in learning about growing zinnias, check out our guide for growing gorgeous zinnias here!