What Are the Different Types of Zinnia Flowers?

Zinnias are truly marvelous flowers, spectacularly colorful annuals that are incredibly easy to grow.

And they come in a dizzying array of colors, shapes, and styles that the butterflies will love nearly as much as you do!

A vertical image of different colored zinnias growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

Not sure where to begin, or how to decide which ones to select? Read on for our guide to choosing between different zinnia species and bloom types.

There are over 20 zinnia species in the wild. Only a few of these species are commonly grown in gardens, though due to the incredible popularity of these flowers, they have been bred into hundreds of different cultivars and hybrids.

A close up horizontal image of different types of zinnia flowers growing in the garden.

This means you can find a zinnia in pretty much any color scheme you desire, with different patterns, shapes, and sizes ranging from a few inches to several feet tall.

Want to learn more about growing these magnificent annuals? Check out our full guide to growing zinnias.

Cultivated Species

The majority of cultivars originate from the species Zinnia elegans. Native to Mexico, the wild plant produces single flower heads about two inches in length, with purple petals surrounding black and yellow central discs.

The true species is not easy to find, however, since it has interbred with escaped cultivated varieties that have naturalized around the world.

Other cultivated varieties originate from the narrow leafed zinnia, Z. angustifolia. It has single white, yellow, and orange flowers that are a bit smaller in size, an inch or two across, on plants eight to 18 inches tall.

A horizontal image of orange and white zinnia flowers pictured in evening sunshine.

This species is fairly heat and drought resistant, so it’s a good option if you are gardening in a warm climate, or in locations that tend to retain heat like planting areas along city sidewalks.

Z. haageana, also known as Mexican zinnia, tends to be more disease resistant than other species, and features single or double petaled blooms that are red, yellow, or orange in color. Plants grow about 15 inches in height.

A close up horizontal image of a red and white Mexican zinnia flower growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Both Z. angustifolia and Z. haageana have been crossed with Z. elegans to create even more varieties.

The choices do indeed seem endless!

Flower Shapes

When selecting types to grow in your garden, it is useful to note that depending on the cultivar, zinnias can have single, semi-double, or fully double flowers, as well as dahlia, globe, and cactus flower forms.

Single petaled varieties contain a solitary row of petals that leave the center of the flower visible. Single flowers are great for attracting pollinators since the pollen is easily accessible by butterflies, hummingbirds, and insects.

A close up horizontal image of a bright pink z. elegans flower pictured on a soft focus background.

Doubles, by contrast, have several rows of petals and no visible center. These outstanding blooms can be several inches wide.

A close up horizontal image of pink double petalled zinnia flowers pictured on a soft focus background.

Semi-doubles give you a bit of both. They have a visible central disc as well as two or more rows of petals.

A close up horizontal image of a bright pink semi double flower growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Cactus types have narrow semi double or double quilled petals that twist and curl towards their undersides. These cheerful flowers come in a wide variety of colors and can be up to five inches across.

Their impressive size and uniquely shaped petals make them stunning cut flowers!

A close up horizontal image of a bright red cactus flowered zinnia growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Globe types are named for their spherical flower heads, which are usually a couple of inches in size or more. They can be single or double blossomed. A round, mounded growth habit also makes them a great choice for growing in containers.

A close up horizontal image of a pink double petaled flower pictured on a dark soft focus background.

And dahlia zinnias are semi double to double, rounded, dahlia-like flowers with wide, flat petals. These large dramatic blooms typically grow on long stems, and can be up to six inches in diameter.

A close up horizontal image of two dahlia flowered zinnia flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

There are also crested or scabiosa flowered zinnias, which have tufted double, semi-double, or single flowers in all sorts of colors, typically with a distinct dark eye.

A cultivar of Z. elegans, these frilly eye-catching blooms are named for their resemblance to scabiosa or pincushion flowers, and can also sometimes be found under the name “Zinerellas.”

Size and Color

Full-sized cultivars can grow up to four feet tall with a spread of several feet, while some dwarf varieties reach only six inches tall and wide.

If you are looking for something to plant in containers or along a border, a compact variety would likely be best.

A close up horizontal image of bright yellow zinnia flowers growing in pots.

The full-size flowers are spectacular when featured in mixed garden beds, or planted en masse.

A horizontal image of a garden scene of a swath of zinnia flowers growing in a border.

Want to plant a butterfly garden? Full-sized varieties with large flowers, especially those with single or semi-double blooms, are wonderful for attracting pollinators like hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.

And of course, there are so many different colors and patterns to choose from! You can find these magnificent flowers in almost any color of the rainbow.

A horizontal image of a swath of zinnia flowers growing in a garden border pictured in bright sunshine.

Check out this roundup for some of our favorite zinnia cultivars to grow at home.

Hard to Go Wrong

While it may seem overwhelming, honestly, you can’t really go wrong when selecting zinnia cultivars. I have yet to grow a variety I didn’t love!

A close up horizontal image of brightly colored zinnia flowers in a bouquet.

What types of zinnias do you love to grow at home? Please share your favorites in the comments below.

Want to add even more colorful flowers to your garden? Check out these articles next for more great ideas:

Photo of author
Heather Buckner hails from amongst the glistening lakes of Minnesota, and now lives with her family on a beautiful homestead in the Vermont Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science degree in environmental science from Tufts University, and has traveled and worked in many roles in conservation and environmental advocacy, including creating and managing programs based around resource conservation, organic gardening, food security, and building leadership skills. Heather is a certified permaculture designer and student herbalist. She is also a fanatical gardener, and enjoys spending as much time covered in dirt as possible!

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Vatina Pulliam
Vatina Pulliam (@guest_14053)
2 years ago

Do you have any zinnia seeds that you can send me?

Penny Renee Benton
Penny Renee Benton (@guest_16330)
Reply to  Vatina Pulliam
2 years ago

You can purchase seed packets at Dollar stores, Walmart, Lowes…I’ve had success with every type. Save those seeds too. Best growing wishes

Margie Cole
Margie Cole (@guest_18296)
1 year ago

My preference is the double, dahlia type blooms with no visible disks. Can you suggest any specific varieties of this type?

Clare Groom
Clare Groom(@clareg)
Reply to  Margie Cole
1 year ago

Hi Margie, I agree, I love the dahlia types too!
Our guide to 15 of the best zinnia varieties can provide some suggestions. Also, Eden Brothers has a large selection of different cultivars, including my personal favorite, ‘Benary Giant Wine.’ Let us know which you choose!

Dawn (@guest_30791)
9 months ago

How do I keep my zinnias from getting brown spots on the leaves? I live in Florida.

Rose Kennedy
Rose Kennedy(@rosekennedy)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  Dawn
9 months ago

Hello Dawn. The best way to prevent those leaf spots is to only plant zinnias in the same spot once every three years, to deter the fungus that causes them. It can live on in the soil or plant debris from the year before and attack your new zinnias. Also, be sure to give the plants at least a foot or two of space. That kind of air circulation will prevent the wet leaves that encourages fungal diseases. Be sure to buy seeds or starts from a reputable source: Infected seeds can also result in leaf spot. And if you’ve… Read more »