Gardening Tips and Highlights Waushara County Master Gardeners

Zinnia flowers will attract bees and butterflies

by Christina Yesko


Zinnia flowers are dazzling sights in themselves, but they are simply colorful garden sculptures, their true beauty lies in the attraction of the lively and equally beautiful life forms that visit them.

Zinnia flowers are a must-plant annual for the butterfly garden and a favorite flower of monarchs, swallowtails, and those hyper-winged hummingbirds. Although there are hundreds of zinnia selections in all shapes, sizes, and colors, there is no single answer as to which zinnia is the best for attracting visitors.

Experiments as to the color and size of the flowers were done in many states, and it turns out that the single-flowered zinnias were preferred by bees and butterflies. As to color, white was the most visited. Regardless of how zinnias are arranged or their color, they are all beautiful and use whatever you like.

Honey bees and bumble bees are attracted to zinnia flowers, many kinds of solitary bees are as well. The disk flowers of zinnias are so small, relative to the overall size of the entire flower head, that tiny species of bees may be collecting nectar and pollen but they are easily overlooked. When bees work, they take no interest in their surroundings. Some of the larger forms, such as bumblebees and carpenter bees, are so engrossed in their work you can even pet them. Attempting to pick any bee up, is not recommended, as bees take offense at being handled.

Among birds attracted to zinnias are the humming sort, which feed on nectar, and finches that feed on the dried seed heads. Because little in the way of wildlife actually feeds on zinnia foliage or flowers-grasshoppers beings notable exception-nectar and pollen are their biggest attraction. Although pollinating visitors may, themselves, attract predators such as spiders and praying mantids, in general, zinnias serve as beautiful dinner plates for the birds, bees, and butterflies.


This topic was obtained from Horticulture.