Butterflies on .... Zinnias

christie_sw_mo(Z6)December 18, 2010

Going back through all my photos of butterflies on zinnias for the last three summers, I noticed that nearly all that I've taken are on either red or pink zinnias - very few on other colors.

I visited our local seed store last week and bought a couple packs of red 'Scarlet Flame' zinnias to plant again next summer and also ordered some 'Zowie Yellow Flame' zinnias from Swallowtail Seeds. That's a new one for me but someone here mentioned their butterflies liked them. Swallowtail Seeds had Zowie Yellow Flame in their bulk seed section and it was a good price compared to other places I checked. Some catalogs only had 10 seeds per packet and I wanted a bunch.

After going through all my photos, I think I might want to plant a big patch of pink zinnias too.

Also discovered that nearly ALL of my Pipevine Swallowtail photos are on zinnias. Must be their favorite flower in my yard.

Pipevine Swallowtail on unknown pink

Black Swallowtail on Scarlet Flame

Monarch on unknown pink

Painted Lady(?)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail(?)

Gulf Frit on Scarlet Flame

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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Gasp! Every time I see pictures of your zinnias, I'm knocked out, Christie! I've not had much success growing zinnias - they get real tall, and then flop over in a big rain and start growing sideways, which I can't stand.
How tall is that gorgeous scarlet flame, Christie? If it doesn't get too tall, I'd like to plant some seeds of that one!
Here's one zinnia I grew that didn't get too tall, Zowie Yellow Flame -


    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 2:19PM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

Painted Lady

A Tattered Tiger Swallowtail on a Tattered Zinnia

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 4:43PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

Beautiful picture, everyone. Got to get more zinnias planted this spring.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 6:03PM
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Here's one of my favorite pictures I shot of a skipper...not sure of the kind!

Miss Sherry...have you tried any of the Profusion Zinnias? They are smaller & more compact & love the heat! I grew white ones & collected a ton of seeds from them. I love the way they create borders & don't get taller than 8-10". I want to get some of the red ones as well for next season!

    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 7:37PM
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Gorgeous photos!
Misssherry - You asked about the height on Scarlet Flame. They stayed under three feet for me and were doing fine until we got a storm. I had to prop several of them back up but they bloomed well the rest of the summer. They didn't look as neat as they did before the storm though.
I think it would've helped if I'd had even a couple tomato cages or something in the middle to stop the domino effect.

Molanic - do you remember what kind of zinnias you had? Looks very butterfly friendly. Great photos of the Painted Ladies!

Your photo is beautiful too Imabirdnut. Sometimes the sun hits them just right. It looks like it's lit up. I can't remember which profusions I planted, maybe Cherry, but they faded badly to a dirty color and I haven't tried them again.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 9:11AM
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molanic(Zone 5 IL)

I have no idea what kind of zinnias those are. I usually just direct sow an area where I mix up a bunch of taller annuals like zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and tithonia. I don't pay much attention to the varieties of zinnias because I am not able to collect much seed from them before the birds get them. The only zinnias I can readily identify are the lilliput which are cute, but the butterflies don't care for them as much. All the zinnias usually get mildew and end up laying on the ground, but I always sow them anyways.

FYI, I am really loving looking at all these great photos on these threads. I am having zone envy though. There are so many great butterflies in the more southern areas that I will never get to see here. This is my first year really noticing butterflies other than the most common five or so for this area. I was so excited just to see skippers which I never knew about just a year ago. I was really thrilled to see my first buckeye ever, even thought it was pretty ratty looking. I'm trying to add as many host and nectar plants to my yard as possible. But, I know that I will never get as many of these beauties as all you southerners have. I'm green with envy :)

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 11:51AM
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terrene(5b MA)

These are great photos! I love the idea of these threads Christie. I can dream about butterflies even if it's cold and wintry outside and butterfly season is long over. :)

I have direct sowed the tall varieties of Zinnia elegans every year since 2006 because the butterflies love them so much. They usually do well except for one year that had terrible powdery mildew. That year I happened to grow them in the same spot as the previous year - supposedly rotating to new spots each year can reduce the chance of mildew and this seems to have worked for me.

This year I grew Zinnia elegans seeds from Everwilde and some tall red Zinnias from a trade and they grew into a particularly nice patch. I've also grown 'Cut & Come Again', 'California Giants', and 'State Fair Mix' all of which the butterflies have loved. I've grown some of the shorter varieties of Zinnias like Profusion but the butterflies didn't show that much interest in them.

These pics are from this year - Great Spangled Fritillary -

Spicebush Swallowtail -

Monarch -

This pic is an old one from 2006 but it's one of my faves - twin Monarchs on twin Zinnias.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 7:43PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I've never tried the Profusion zinnias, Imabirdnut, but they sound like some I should try. And the height of those Scarlet Flames sounds alright, Christie, although 2' would be better - once they get over about 2' they tend to get blown over or rained down.
I'll definitely do some zinnias next spring.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2010 at 8:06PM
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Very nice photos.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2010 at 7:15AM
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Beautiful pictures! Wow...!

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 8:50PM
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wow just wow! Stunning photos! How on earth do they let you get that close? I can't even open my back door without them flying off.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 9:17PM
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Hi everyone, Christie...I agree with your assessment. almost all my butterfly/zinnia pictures are on red/pink zinnias. They also really enjoyed the zowie zinnias featured in Miss Sherry's picture and most of those have orange/red coloring toward the center.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2012 at 11:49AM
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Christie is quite "famous" for her beautiful Zinnias here on the forum. I don't know how she grows them up so pretty.

Christie, share your Zinnia gardening secret with us, please. Mine always look like they're about to collapse. Do they need lots of water, fertilizer, soil prep?


    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 6:16AM
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Susan - I didn't notice that this thread came back to the top earlier this month, so I missed your question - and somebody calling me "famous". Thank you! : ) lol
I don't really have any secrets to share though. I never fertilize anything, mostly out of laziness, and I think zinnias are one of those things that do better in poor soil anyway. I do think it looks showier and maybe even attracts butterflies better to plant a huge patch of a single color rather than mixing them.
Of the ones I grew last summer, I think Scarlet Flame handled the extreme heat the best. Zowie was my favorite for awhile early in the season but it got some brown leaves late in the summer and struggled. I also grew Violet Queen, Exquisite Pink, and Purple Prince (I think).

It's not likely that it will be as hot as last summer again. I may quit gardening if every summer is going to be like that. I went nuts last summer trying to my plants watered so they wouldn't die. I doubt if anything really got enough including my zinnias. I'm giving Zowie another try and planting seeds a little earlier this year. I just sowed some today. Last year and the year before, I sowed seeds around mid June. I used containers this year though because I lost so many last year from various varmints. I will direct sow some too.

This year I'm only planting Zowie and Scarlet Flame. I have some seeds that I ordered and also some that I collected last summer. I don't know if those will be worth the space but wanted to see what I get especially from Zowie, maybe some bicolors if the seeds are even any good. They were small.

Some zinnias take longer but Zowie and Scarlet Flame started blooming barely over a month from the time I sowed them so it's not too late to plant zinnias for the butterflies folks. : )

    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 2:30PM
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terrene(5b MA)

No it's definitely not too late! I haven't even sowed mine yet and I do a large swath of tall Zinnias every year.

I usually direct sow the Zinnias around June 1st, so I'm feeling a bit of pressure to get them sowed and get all the annual seedlings planted. Although today is rainy and cool and it's supposed to stay that way for most of the week.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 4:30PM
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