Look no further than the zinnia if you’re looking for a beautiful flower to add to your garden. Zinnias come in various colors, shapes, and sizes, making them perfect for any sunny spot in your garden. And while they’re all beautiful, some are better suited for cutting than others.
Here are five of the most common types of zinnias, along with recommendations of some of the best varieties to get your cutting garden started.
Common Types of Zinnias for Your Garden
Native to Mexico, Central America, and the southwestern US, zinnias are part of the Asteraceae family, which also includes daisies, sunflowers, and black eyed Susans. Within the zinnia genus are many species, and then, of course, each species has different varieties with different heights, growth habits, and flower types. Whew, science lesson over!
There are about 20 different species of zinnias, many of which look nothing like the ones you find in nurseries and seed catalogs. The most common zinnia varieties are hybrids that have been bred for specific qualities such as height, color, or bloom type.
No matter which type of zinnia you decide to grow in your garden, remember to keep them deadheaded for maximum bloom production. Zinnias are also known as cut and come again flowers, so between deadheading and cutting for bouquets, you’ll have a sea of blooms from early summer to frost.
Here are just five of the almost 20 zinnia species, each with its own unique characteristics. Three of the species mentioned here are the most popular for cutting, and you’ll see a few of the top varieties to grow for each.
1. Zinnia elegans
This is the most commonly grown type of zinnia, and it’s probably the flower you think of when you hear the word “zinnia.” Also known as garden zinnia, varieties reach between two and four feet tall and produce beautiful flowers of all colors and bloom shapes (more on that in a moment).
Flower farmers and florists often work with this zinnia species, as the plants produce long stems and long-lasting flowers that can stand on their own as an arrangement or act as a filler flower, complimenting the focal flowers.
Best zinnia elegans varieties for cutting:
Benary’s Giant: The go-to variety for flower farmers, Benary’s Giant produces large, double blooms that can reach up to four inches wide. The huge flowers are all solid colors in shades of red, yellow, orange, white, pink, and even purple and they make an excellent cut flower.
Queen series: The Queen series is another favorite for flower farmers and home flower gardeners. The blooms are about three inches wide with long stems. The series has five different colors in shades of rust, orange, rose, lime, and blush, though many flowers have a blend of multiple colors.
Oklahoma series: The Oklahoma series produces medium-sized blooms on sturdy stems that are perfect for complimenting larger flowers in the vase. They are available in a wide range of colors from orange, white, pink, and more. This year, I’m growing the salmon color in my garden, which blends beautifully with flowers from the Queen series.
State Fair Mix: This long-standing variety will shower you with large, open double and semi-double blooms all summer. The blooms reach 3-5 inches wide in shades of pink, red, orange, and more. This classic cutting variety should be in every garden, not only for its blooms but also because it’s more disease resistant to fungal diseases like powdery mildew, the bane of any zinnia grower.
2. Zinnia haageana
This small-bloomed, fast-growing type of zinnia is also known as Mexican zinnia. This type is a prolific bloomer, producing dozens of stems that feature small, one-inch blooms in reds, oranges, and yellows. Some blooms are even variegated, showing two colors on each petal.
Most varieties of zinnia haageana grow to a maximum of 24 inches in height, though some will be shorter at about 16 inches. They’re easy to grow and low-maintenance, making them a great option for beginner gardeners or those new to zinnias. They also make excellent cut flowers, and their diminutive size makes them a stellar filler flower, adding volume and color to any bouquet or flower arrangement.
Best zinnia haageana varieties for cutting:
Jazzy Mix: This mix produces an abundance of small, one-inch blooms in shades of burgundy, gold, yellow, and cream. Many flowers have bicolor petals, giving the flower a zig-zag look.
Aztec Sunset: Like Jazzy Mix, Aztec Sunset develops smaller, bicolor blooms. The colors trend toward burgundy, purple, and pink, giving them a completely different look with unique shades. They look fantastic with larger, solid-colored Benary’s giant blooms.
3. Zinnia peruviana
Peruvian zinnia is a heat- and drought-tolerant type perfect for hot, dry climates such as its native South American region. The flowers are on the smaller side at only one to two inches in diameter.
Most flowers are a scarlet red color with a brown center, and they do an excellent job of attracting pollinators to your garden. The plants reach about two feet, so you won’t be lacking blooms all summer with a few Peruvian zinnias in your yard.
The flowers are excellent for cutting, lasting a long time in the vase, and adding an orange-red background to your other cut flowers.
Best zinnia peruviana varieties for cutting:
Peruvian zinnia: I’ve only found one variety of Peruvian zinnia seeds online, such as this one from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I suspect that because it’s not a well-known species of zinnia, less time has been spent developing new varieties. This one has small, red flowers with dark centers.
4. Zinnia augustifolia
This summertime favorite is also known as narrowleaf zinnia, and it’s a great option for when you need a ground cover or a spreading flower to fill in space. The plant only reaches heights between six and 12 inches tall, but it can spread up to three feet.
This species’ small, daisy-like flowers are most often seen in shades of yellow, orange, and red, although some white varieties exist. The dainty blooms top out at 1-2 inches across.
Its growth habit makes them a perfect option for planting near paths or borders. They are also an ideal candidate for hanging baskets since they will spill over the edges of the container.
This zinnia species doesn’t typically make a good cut flower since the stems are quite short, but don’t let that stop you from growing them in the garden. They make a beautiful landscape plant, and the flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies.
5. Zinnia grandiflora
This tough species is also known as prairie or wild zinnia. It’s a heat- and drought-tolerant perennial species, meaning it comes back year after year, unlike the more commonly annual zinnias, which die after one season. You can read more about the growing habits of zinnias in this article, Are Zinnias A Perennial or An Annual Flower?
Zinnia grandiflora produces short, compact plants, growing to only 6-8 inches tall with woody stems and narrow leaves. The single flowers are yellow with an orange-yellow center, and they form in clusters across the shrubby plant.
The short, woody stems don’t make this species a good candidate for cutting, but if you’re looking for a hardy perennial in water-efficient gardens, this one will do the trick!
Not only are there different species of zinnias, such as the four mentioned above, but you can also find different bloom types in each species. Here are the five types you can easily find for your flower garden across various species:
Single flowers have one row of petals around the center of the flower.
Semi-double flowers have two or three rows of petals around the center of the flower, but it still has a visible center.
Double flowers have multiple rows of petals around the center, completely hiding the center from view.
Cactus zinnias have petals that are rolled, or quilled. This gives the appearance of tubular, spiky petals, hence the “cactus” name.
Dahlia-type zinnias have double blooms with a domed bloom shape, resembling the form of some dahlia flowers.
Pick up some zinnia seeds and get started with your favorite type
With such a wide range of flowers to choose from, hopefully one has jumped out at you as the special one to try. Whether you like the spiky cactus bloom shape or you prefer a smattering of smaller Mexican zinnias, you’ll find dozens of different flowers to try. I recommend Johnny’s Seeds or Swallowtail Garden Seeds for an excellent selection. You can read more about these companies in this article, 10 Best Places To Buy Quality Flower Seeds Online.