However, not all zinnias are attractive to butterflies:
- Double-bloom varieties make if difficult to access nectar so most butterflies won’t even bother. eg: Peppermint Stick
- Dwarf varieties usually attract less butterflies. Could it be height? Nectar Content? I’ve had success attracting swallowtails and red admirals with one variety I’ll reveal below.
While shorter zinnia species do attract some butterflies, using them as a border for larger zinnias makes more sense than a stand-alone patch.
Most zinnia species come in a wide assortment of colors and can be purchased as a mix or a particular color. Click each orange link below if you’re interested in buying seeds or plants.
Here are five larger species that will keep your garden aflutter with the soothing sounds of butterfly wings:
1. Zowie Yellow Flame Zinnia
Perhaps the ‘beauty queen’ of the group, this zinnia boasts an explosion of yellow, red-orange, and passionate pink toward the middle. This variety is a bit shorter than other tall varieties topping out at around three feet.
This means you’ll likely never have to stake a zowie plant in your butterfly garden.
If you get zowie seeds, buy from reliable seed vendors (and not home gardeners) because this will hybridize with other zinnia varieties.
2. Tall State Fair Zinnia Mix
This should not be confused with the undersized, smaller flowering ‘state fair mix’. The tall variety grows to 4 feet and boasts big 5-6″ blooms. This is our first year getting the ‘tall’ variety and the difference is astonishing.
3. California Giant Zinnias
Large dahlia-like blooms have been the favorite zinnia in our butterfly garden over the past two seasons. I replaced them with the tall state fair blooms this season to see if they can match its butterfly-attracting performance.
4. Benary’s Giant Zinnias
I had never tried these before, because of their “double-bloom” description. A few season’s back, I was amazed by their beauty when I saw them at a church garden. I also saw a painted lady sipping lots of nectar from them. I examined the blooms and saw that the nectar looked accessible. I’ve been growing them ever since, and the butterflies keep coming back for more!
If ‘zowie’ is the beauty queen for color, ‘benary’s’ takes the crown for its flawless form.
5. Cut & Come Again Zinnia
This is another variety I’m taking a break from this season, but it has always been popular with the butterflies. Last season I tried to plant them between the California zinnias, but the drought was not kind to our zinnia patch. I will definitely reintroduce them to a future garden and hope for more agreeable weather.
‘Come & Cut’ has smaller, less showy flowers but they’re still a nice addition to the butterfly garden. If you want something with more curb appeal try one of the other varieties above.
One Little Zinnia?
6. Dwarf Profusion Zinnias
These dwarf zinnias also come in a rainbow of colors. They are adored by swallowtails and red admirals, and they also attract other beneficial pollinators in the garden.
You could try profusion zinnia flowers as a border for larger varieties, but they also work well in containers and raised beds.
Tips for Successfully Growing Zinnias
1. Start seeds indoors 1-2 weeks before avg. final frost date for a longer bloom season and/or to insure seed viability (optional)
2. Loosen the soil and mix in compost if necessary
3. If sowing seeds directly, plant 1/4 deep
4. Most large varieties should be spaced about 2 feet apart
5. Don’t crowd zinnias or the foliage can develop powdery mildew from excess moisture
6. Watering overhead is also discouraged, but if your plants are spaced properly, this is less likely to be an issue
7. A Skim Milk Mixture can be applied as a foliar treatment for powdery mildew. Some also spray it preventatively…
7b. Hydrogen peroxide can be applied as a foliar treatment for powdery mildew. Some also spray it preventatively…
8. Use a slow release fertilizer for more vigorous growth and flowering
9. Got Japanese beetles? Flick them into a bucket filled with soapy water
10. Deadhead spent blooms and you’ll have zinnia flowers until first frost
Which zinnias attract the most butterflies in your garden? Which zinnia flower do you like best? Please share your comments below and help a gardener out!