Choosing Zinnia Varieties – What Are The Different Kinds Of Zinnia

Orange Red And Pink Zinnia Flowers
(Image credit: GOLFX)

One of the most popular, and easiest, annual flowers to grow is the zinnia. It is no wonder zinnias enjoy such popularity. Native to Mexico, there are 22 accepted species of zinnia comprised of hundreds of zinnia cultivars and hybrids. There is such a dizzying array of zinnia varieties that it’s almost difficult to decide what zinnia to plant. To help you decide, the following article discusses different zinnia plant types and how to incorporate them into the landscape.

Different Types of Zinnia

As mentioned, there are 22 accepted species of zinnia, a genus of plants of the sunflower tribe within the daisy family. The Aztecs called them “plants hard on the eyes” due to their brilliantly colored blooms. These exuberantly colored blooms were named after the German botany professor, Johann Gottfried Zinn, responsible for their discovery and subsequent import to Europe in the 1700s.

The original zinnia has come a long way due to hybridization and selective breeding. Today, zinnia plant types come in not only a wide array of colors, but in sizes from 6 inches (15 cm.) to almost 4 feet (about a meter) in height. Zinnia varieties range in appearance from dahlia-like to cactus flower or beehive shape and may be single or double petaled.

Different Kinds of Zinnia Cultivars

The most commonly grown types of zinnias are Zinnia elegans. These beauties range in size from the diminutive ‘Thumbelina’ to the enormous 4-foot-tall (about a meter) ‘Benary’s Giants.’ All have semi-double to double, dahlia-like flowers or blooms comprised of rolled petals. Other cultivars available include:

  • ‘Dasher’
  • ‘Dreamland’
  • ‘Peter Pan’
  • ‘Pulcino’
  • ‘Short Stuff’
  • ‘Zesty’
  • ‘Lilliput’
  • ‘Oklahoma’
  • ‘Ruffles’
  • ‘State Fair’

Then we have the extremely drought and heat resistant Zinnia angustifolia, also referred to as a narrow-leaf zinnia. This low-growing species comes in hues from golden yellow to white or orange. Of the zinnia plant types, Z. angustifolia is the best choice for problem areas such as parking lots, sidewalks, and roadways. The extreme temperatures radiating from the concrete would kill most plants but not narrow-leaf zinnia.

Common cultivars available include:

  • ‘Gold Star’
  • ‘White Star’
  • ‘Orange Star’
  • ‘Crystal White’
  • ‘Crystal Yellow’

The zinnia ‘Profusion’ is a disease-resistant hybrid that thrives in hot, dry weather. Comprised of the best of Z. angustifolia and Z. elegans, ‘Profusion’ types of zinnia grow to about a foot in height (30.5 cm.) with a naturally branching, neat, clumping habit.

Kinds of ‘Profusion’ zinnias include:

  • ‘Apricot’
  • ‘Cherry’
  • ‘Coral Pink’
  • ‘Double Cherry’
  • ‘Fire’
  • ‘Orange’
  • ‘White’
Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.