Are Zinnias Perennial Or Annual Flowers?

pink zinnia plants

Zinnias are workhorses in the flower garden, and I include them in my garden every season. They also earn a place in bouquets with tall, straight stems and beautiful blooms. I don’t even mind that I need to replant them every year.

Zinnias are annual flowers, meaning that they only live one growing season instead of returning year after year, as perennial flowers do. Zinnias may self-sow in some climates, meaning they drop seeds in the fall that sprout in the spring, which creates a perennial-like effect for this annual flower.

No matter what color or shape you want to include in your garden, there’s an option for you. Plus, they’re easy to grow, and your zinnias will last for months in the garden and bloom repeatedly.

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What’s the difference between annual and perennial flowers?

Annual flowers are those that complete their life cycle in one growing season. This means that they will flower, produce seeds, and then die, all within the span of a few months. 

Annuals are typically planted in the spring, and they will bloom throughout the summer and into the fall. 

Perennial flowers, on the other hand, live for two or more years. The plants will flower each year, but they will also continue to grow and spread during the non-blooming seasons. Perennials are typically planted in the fall or early spring and bloom the following season once they’ve established a strong root system. 

Annuals may require more frequent replanting, but they can also be easier to care for than perennials. Perennials, on the other hand, may take longer to establish themselves, but they will often require less maintenance once they are established.

3 qualities that make zinnias valuable annuals in the garden

If you aren’t convinced that zinnias are worth the effort despite being a short-lived annual, here are three solid reasons you should try them in your garden.

1. You can plant a new zinnia variety every year

No matter what color scheme you have in your flower garden, there’s a zinnia to match it. From bright red to cool cream, zinnias run the rainbow. Even better, they are available in a variety of shapes, too. Shaggy, furled blooms and puffy ball-shaped blooms provide diversity and interest both in the garden and the vase.

With such variety to choose from, zinnias are a valuable annual for the flower garden. If you’ve tried a few varieties in the past, how about expanding your color palette and trying something new? Or if zinnias are totally new to you, jump in with confidence that you’ll find a style that you like.

This mixed bouquet of zinnias is just a small sample of the available colors and shapes.

2. Zinnias are a low-maintenance annual from seed to bloom

Some annual flowers are finicky to grow from seed, having tiny, hard-to-handle seeds or special requirements for germination. Not so zinnias! Zinnia seeds are large and easy to sow. They only need the basic requirements of soil, water, and time before they sprout.

You can sow zinnia seeds in the spring as soon as the soil warms and all danger of frost has passed. If you aren’t sure when the risk of frost in your area will be over, check out the Farmer’s Almanac to look up that date using your zip code. For most growing zones in the US, that date will be sometime in April or May.

Once you know when to start planting, sow your seeds directly in the garden bed and keep them watered until they germinate in 5-7 days. Once sprouted, zinnias will grow quickly, with most varieties blooming in just 75 days.

The plants don’t need much attention during the growing season, either. As long as they get regular water and a basic fertilizer once or twice during the growing season, they will stay healthy and produce loads of blooms.

It sounds too simple, but that’s really all a zinnia needs, making them worth planting each year.

3. Zinnias have continuous blooms all season

One final quality makes zinnias worth replanting every year. Zinnias are called cut and come again flowers, meaning that the plant grows more stems and produces more buds each time you harvest flowers.

Because a zinnia is an annual, the goal of the plant is to produce flowers that go to seed in one year. If you remove the flowers before they can turn to seed, the plant will make another attempt at producing seeds, which turns into another bloom that you can pick for your bouquet.

dried zinnia flower in garden
If left in place, this old zinnia flower will drop seeds that may sprout as volunteer plants.

Hence the name, cut and come again. It’s a great return on your investment of one zinnia seed for dozens of summer flowers.

Many annual flowers will produce blooms repeatedly over the summer, giving you a big bang for your buck. If you need some ideas for your garden, check out some recommendations in this post, Cut And Come Again Flowers: What Are They And Which Should You Grow?

Let some zinnias self-seed in the garden for next year

Many flowers will self-sow if you let them go to seed in the garden. The spent blooms drop their seeds on the ground and sprout when conditions are right. It’s a great way to get new flowers in the garden without any effort.

Zinnias will typically reseed in the garden, growing new plants from the dropped seeds each year. This makes zinnias a great choice for anyone who wants to enjoy low-maintenance flowers every season. If this isn’t your goal, be sure to deadhead spent flowers throughout the season to avoid reseeding.

Zinnias can self-sow in the summer from early spring plantings if the spent blooms are left on the plant. For example, say you sow zinnia seeds in May, and you leave a few blooms on the plant to go to seed. Those seeds will likely germinate in the same summer, giving you new plants that will bloom until the end of the season.

It’s possible that some leftover seeds will wait dormant in the soil until conditions are right in the spring for them to germinate, essentially acting like a perennial and coming back year after year. If the winter season is very rainy, some seeds may rot in the ground, whereas in milder climates, they could very well survive.

The only way to know if it will work in your climate is to try it!

Learn more

There’s plenty to learn about packing your garden full of zinnias. Here are some of my top resources:

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