Zinnias, those brightly-colored annuals you love for their cheerful blooms, are also a boon to gardeners looking to attract pollinators. The flowers come in a wide range of colors and shapes, making them ideal for any garden or landscape.
Zinnias are a great source of nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. The colorful blooms are easy to access, and they bloom in abundance from summer through fall. Plant a range of zinnia varieties to extend the bloom season and provide a continuous food source for pollinators.
Zinnias are also excellent cut flowers that bloom all summer, so you can harvest handfuls of flowers regularly and still have plenty to share with your local pollinator population.
Keep reading to understand what makes zinnias so special for the flower garden and some of the best varieties to choose from.
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Are zinnias good for butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects?
Aside from being pretty in the garden and excellent for fresh bouquets, zinnias have several qualities that make growing them beneficial for pollinators.
- Large, colorful flowers draw in pollinators
- The flowers provide multiple types of food
- A range of colors appeals to a variety of pollinators
Large, colorful flowers draw in bees, butterflies, and other pollinators
Zinnia flowers will probably get some of the most insect traffic in your garden.
The blooms are easy for bees and butterflies to spot and land on. Their size and color make them stand out, and they provide a landing spot that’s big enough for these flying pollinators.
Zinnia plants produce a multitude of blooms, making it easy for pollinators to flit from flower to flower. And, with a long blooming season, zinnias provide a dependable source of nectar and pollen from summer until fall.
Zinnia flowers come in a range of varieties with single, semi-double, or double blooms. Single blooms have one row of petals, which is ideal for easy access to pollen and nectar at the center of the flower.
Semi-double and double blooms have multiple rows of petals, giving them a puffy or ball-shaped appearance. Even though these varieties are beautiful, they can be difficult for pollinators to take advantage of when the petals obscure the center of the flower.
Although double blooms are more showy and beautiful for bouquets, if your main goal is to attract and nourish bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, include at least some zinnia flowers with single blooms.
Zinnia flowers provide multiple types of food
Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to zinnias because they provide nectar. Nectar is a sugary liquid that bees collect to make honey, and it gives butterflies and hummingbirds the energy they need to fly.
The nectar in zinnia flowers is located at the bloom’s center, inside a long tube called the corolla. Bees and butterflies insert their long tongues into the corolla to access the sweet nectar.
As bees and butterflies drink the nectar, they also collect pollen on their bodies. Pollen is a powdery substance that contains the male reproductive cells of plants.
When bees and butterflies visit other flowers, they transfer the pollen to the female reproductive parts of the flower, which helps the plant create seeds. Bonus, zinnia seeds are easy to save at the end of the summer!
You can even count the leaves as a food source when beneficial insects lay their eggs on the undersides of the zinnia leaves. As the larvae hatch, they’ll turn to any harmful pests on your plants and help clean up your zinnias.
A range of colors appeals to a variety of pollinators
Zinnias come in a rainbow of colors, from yellow to red to purple and more. This range allows you to create a color scheme in your garden that is appealing to you and the pollinators.
My personal favorites are Queen Lime Red, Benary’s Giant Salmon, and Oklahoma Salmon because I love the peachy color of all three varieties. Peach isn’t the favorite color of any particular pollinator, so I make sure to include some of their preferred shades, as well.
Here’s an overview of which colors do the best at attracting specific pollinators:
Butterflies: Red, orange, pink, and purple are a butterfly’s preferred colors. Pink zinnias are very popular and easy to find, so you’ll have plenty of choices for butterflies, such as Zinderella Lilac.
Bees: Purple, white, and yellow flowers are especially attractive to bees. Fortunately, it’s easy to find these colors in many different zinnia varieties, such as the Benary’s Giant Yellow or Purple Prince.
Hummingbird: Red is the iconic color of hummingbird feeders. A living alternative is the Benary’s Giant Scarlett to bring in these tiny birds. You can also find shades of orange, wine red, and fuchsia pink to draw them in.
Zinnias are easy to grow and excellent companion plants
It’s hard to justify planting a flower in your garden if it’s fussy to grow or needs special care. Fortunately, zinnias are very easy to grow, even for new gardeners.
Zinnias are annual flowers that are easy to grow from seed. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and will bloom as a reliable food source from summer to fall.
You can plant them in a wide range of soil types, and with consistent watering, they’ll grow lush and tall.
Direct sow zinnias in your garden or start them indoors, whichever method is most manageable for you. Most zinnias will germinate in just a week and start blooming in 2-3 months.
Best of all, zinnias make great companion plants. Put those pollinators to work on your veggies and get the best harvest yet.
Best zinnias for pollinators
While almost any zinnias variety will be attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, some might bring in even more pollinators than others. My favorite source for zinnias is Swallowtail Garden Seeds, which have a whopping 121 different varieties for sale.
Benary’s Giant Mix
The go-to zinnia variety for cut flowers, landscape plants, and pollinator gardens, Benary’s Giants will grow tall and produce a literal rainbow of colors, including red, orange, yellow, green, purple, lilac, pink, salmon, and white. Whew! Any mix is guaranteed to have a variety of colors sure to impress any pollinator who flies by.
These are also known as scabiosa-type zinnias, whose flowers have a domed top surrounded by a fringe of petals. Some gardeners report that most of the flowers bloom as singles rather than reliably as the crested type.
While that can be disappointing for you, the gardener, for pollinators, it’s not a bad thing because single flowers are the easiest for them to access. And if you get a few crested flowers in the mix, you get the best of both worlds!
I have Zinderella Peach seeds to try out this year, which are new to me, and I can’t wait.
Giant Cactus Pinca Mix
These unusual zinnias have quilled, or rolled, petals, giving them a cactus look. Far more inviting than an actual cactus, this variety trends towards shades of red, orange, pink, and a fascinating lime-peach combination.
This variety is disease resistant, so it’ll be easy to have a long season of flowers for bees and other pollinators.
This season, make sure to include a few zinnia varieties for pollinators.
- Include single and semi-double varieties to allow easy access to the flower’s center.
- Plant a variety of colors to pull in an assortment of pollinators.
- Start zinnias easily from seed to get your flowers growing strong.
If you need a few more resources for growing zinnias, be sure to check out these articles: