Want to grow gorgeous zinnias and enjoy a healthy, thriving garden? Companion planting is the key! This guide spills the secrets to natural pest control as well as the best flowers to grow that look amazing with zinnias!

Zinnias, with their vibrant blooms and easy-going nature, are a favorite among flower enthusiasts. But did you know you can elevate your zinnia patch to a whole new level by incorporating companion planting for both aesthetic and natural pest control?

This practice involves strategically placing specific plants near each other to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Not only can companion planting improve the health and beauty of your zinnias, but it can also attract helpful insects and deter pesky pests too.

Here are 10 easy companion planting ideas for zinnias!

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Best Beneficial Insect-Attracting Plants for Zinnias: Companion Planting Guide

Zinnias aren’t just beautiful; they’re also a magnet for beneficial insects. To attract more of these helpful garden allies, consider planting herbs like dill, fennel, parsley, and thyme. The fragrant foliage of these plants attracts hoverflies, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps, all of which help keep pest populations in check.

Flowers like cosmos and alyssum also make excellent companions. Their cheerful blooms not only add visual interest to your zinnia bed, but they also attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. These busy insects flit from flower to flower, inadvertently helping to control pest populations while ensuring good pollination for your zinnias.

zinias and rudbeckia in the cottage garden in fall
Vibrant pink Zinnias and rudbeckia in the flower garden

Natural Pest Control: Companion Plants for Zinnias

Certain companion plants act as natural deterrents to common garden pests. Marigolds, with their strong scent, are renowned for repelling nematodes, whiteflies, and some beetles. Nasturtiums and calendula (pot marigold) can act as a trap crop, attracting aphids away from your beloved zinnias, essentially sacrificing themselves for the greater good!

Last year, my calendula and borage served as amazing companion plantings for my cut flower garden as they lured all the aphids away from my dahlias, zinnias, strawflowers, and other cutting flowers.

Pre-Bloom Companions to Enhance Your Zinnia Garden

Since I garden in zone 6b and start my zinnias from seed, they don’t generally bloom until July making my flower garden look pretty boring until they do. Because of this, it’s a great idea to have other flowering annuals and perennials planted around them to add more color to your borders as they mature.

Consider some of the following ideas as base plants for your zinnia flowers that will add both color and interest to flower beds.

sedum autumn joy superbells supertunias and zinnias in the front yard cottage garden by the porch
Sedum autumn joy, superbells, supertunias, and zinnias in small cottage garden

10 Essential Companion Plants for Thriving Zinnias

While choosing companion plants for your zinnias, remember to consider plant height and sun requirements. Taller companions like sunflowers can provide vertical interest and keep your zinnia blooms more upright when planted near them, but you’ve got to make sure they don’t cast excessive shade on your sun-loving zinnias. Similarly, choosing plants with similar sunlight and soil needs ensures both companions thrive.

Here are 10 perfect plant partners that will help your zinnia garden thrive.

Dill (Foeniculum vulgare)

Dill plant thrives in full sun and appreciates well-drained, fertile soil. This feathery herb isn’t just for cooking as it attracts hoverflies, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps – nature’s pest control team – keeping your zinnias safe from bad insects like aphids.

Its delicate foliage adds a textural contrast to the bolder blooms of zinnias, creating a visually interesting bed. In my garden, I allow my dill to go to seed every year because it looks pretty and helps attract the beneficials and pollinators, including butterfly caterpillars.

dill that has gone to seed
Dill that has gone to seed and flowered
caterpillar on dill plant in potager garden
Caterpillar on dill plant

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is a multi-tasking marvel in the garden. Not only can you harvest its fragrant leaves for culinary delights, but it also makes a fantastic companion plant for zinnias. This herb tolerates both full sun and partial shade, but thrives in moist, well-drained soil. Similar to dill, parsley attracts hoverflies and parasitic wasps, nature’s pest control team, keeping your zinnias safe from harmful insects.

Beyond its practical benefits, parsley offers a touch of visual interest. Its green foliage provides a nice contrast to the vibrant blooms of zinnias, adding another layer of beauty to your garden.

While it may attract some butterfly caterpillars, rest assured that these are unlikely to cause significant damage to your parsley plants, and their presence can actually be an indicator of a healthy ecosystem in your garden.

caterpillar on parsley plant
caterpillar on parsley plant

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Calendula brings sunshine and a helping hand to your zinnia bed. This cheerful bloomer thrives in full sun with well-drained soil. But calendula’s benefits extend beyond its sunny disposition. It attracts ladybugs, hoverflies, and other beneficial predators, creating a natural pest patrol that keeps unwanted visitors away from your zinnias.

Calendula is super easy to start from seed too! Choose from winter sowing methods or simply sow them directly outdoors once all danger of frost has passed.

Their bright blooms not only add pops of color and interest around your zinnias, but also extend the blooming season, offering a vibrant display from summer well into fall.

close up of calendula in the cut flower garden
Calendula flowers

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Cosmos bring a touch of whimsy to your zinnia bed, perfectly complementing the bolder blooms with their airy grace. These sun worshippers (full sun is best) thrive in well-drained soil. Beyond their appearance, cosmos acts as a magnet for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

This ensures optimal pollination for your zinnias, guaranteeing bountiful blooms throughout the season. And for those who appreciate visual interest, the light and airy foliage of cosmos adds a touch of texture to zinnia borders, creating a truly stunning combination.

Double Click Snow Puff cosmos
Cosmos with light pink flowers

Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

Marigold thrives in full sun and prefers well-drained soil while boasting vibrant blooms that create a captivating color combination alongside your zinnias. But marigolds offer more than just visual appeal; their strong scent acts as a natural pest deterrent, repelling nematodes, whiteflies, and some beetles, keeping your zinnias safe from harm.

Marigolds are also fantastic for filling in around the base of your zinnia plants while they’re still maturing seedlings. This adds a pop of color to your flower bed early in the season, creating a visually stunning display from the very beginning.

yellow and orange marigolds

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtiums bring a unique twist to your zinnia bed. Adaptable to both full sun and partial shade, they thrive in well-drained soil. These versatile plants play a heroic role in the garden by acting as a trap crop, attracting aphids away from your precious zinnias. This selfless sacrifice protects your zinnias while adding a touch of the unexpected with their vibrant edible flowers and leaves.

They’re incredibly easy to start from seed, even for beginners. Simply wait until all danger of frost has passed, then sow the seeds directly into your raised beds. Germination is quick, and nasturtiums thrive with direct sowing, eliminating the need for starting them indoors.

close up of nasturtium flower

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflowers are powerhouses for attracting pollinators! Bees and butterflies flock to these cheerful giants, benefiting your zinnias in turn. Sunflowers thrive in sunny locations with well-drained soil. However, their impressive height can be a double-edged sword.

While dwarf varieties are ideal for companion planting, taller sunflowers can actually provide support for your zinnias, helping them stand tall. The key is strategic placement: ensure the sunflowers don’t cast excessive shade on your zinnias, allowing them to bask in the full sun they crave.

Sunflower close up with bee - makes a great companion plant

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Borage is a multi-talented companion plant for zinnias, offering a visual treat and a helping hand. This beautiful annual tolerates both full sun and partial shade, while thriving in well-drained soil. Borage attracts pollinators like bees, ensuring a continuous stream of visitors to your zinnias throughout the summer.

But its benefits don’t stop there; borage also improves soil fertility, creating a win-win situation for your zinnias. Last year, my borage was planted immediately next to zinnias and they helped draw aphids away from the blooms.

Imagine a stunning display of vibrant zinnia blooms set against the beautiful blue edible flowers of borage. This charming combination adds a touch of elegance to your garden and creates a captivating contrast of colors.

borage flowers in the potager garden as a companion plant idea for the vegetable garden
Borage flowers in potager garden

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritime)

Sweet Alyssum is a low-growing annual thrives in full sun with well-drained soil and loves to fill in those empty spots around the base of your taller zinnias. But its benefits go beyond aesthetics.

Sweet alyssum attracts hoverflies and other beneficial insects, adding another layer of protection for your zinnias from harmful pests.

Plus, its sweet fragrance and cascading habit create a delightful addition to your flower bed. Imagine a soft, fragrant cloud concealing the base of your zinnias while adding a burst of color, especially during those early stages when seedlings are still maturing. Sweet alyssum effectively bridges the gap, ensuring a visually stunning display from the very beginning of the season.

If I were growing zinnias in pots, I would make them the thriller plant and surround them with sweet alyssum so they add color to the base of plants and spill over the edges of the containers.

close up of sweet alyssum

Petunias (Petunia x hybrida)

With varieties tolerating both full sun and partial shade, petunias can fill in gaps while adapting to your garden’s layout. Moist, well-drained soil is ideal. These long-blooming companions are more than just beautiful additions; they attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to your zinnias throughout the summer.

The vibrant colors of petunias create a visually stunning display alongside your zinnias, especially during the early stages when zinnia seedlings are still maturing. Petunias effectively bridge the gap with their established blooms, creating a captivating flower bed from the very beginning of the season.

Supertunia mini vista petunias

Effective Companion Plants to Deter Deer from Zinnias

If deer are a problem around your flower beds, there are a few companion planting ideas you can try to help keep them away and will look pretty around your zinnias too. Here are a few deer resistant flowers that can help deter deer.

close up of monarch on a zinnia flower in the garden

Key Tips for Successful Blooming in Companion Planting with Zinnias

For a flourishing zinnia companion planting experience, here are some helpful tips:

  1. Plan your garden layout beforehand. Sketch out your design, considering plant heights and spacing needs. Think taller plants in the back and shorter plants in the front.
  2. Research planting times for each companion. Some plants may need to be started indoors before transplanting outdoors with your zinnias. Adding summer flowering annuals will add lots of color around the base of zinnias from the outset until the first frost.
  3. Maintain proper spacing between plants. Overcrowding can stifle growth and hinder air circulation causing powdery mildew and other problems with your zinnias and other flowers.
  4. Water and fertilize according to individual plant needs. Different plants have varying water and nutrient requirements. Plant like plants together so they are grouped based on light and soil needs.

Maximizing Your Garden’s Potential with Companion Planting for Zinnias

Companion planting with zinnias can create a thriving ecosystem in your garden. By attracting beneficial insects, deterring pests, and promoting healthy growth, you’ll be rewarded with stunning blooms and a vibrant, healthy garden. So, experiment, have fun, and unleash the full potential of your zinnias!

Achillea coneflowers and zinnia in the front porch cottage garden
Achillea, coneflowers, and zinnias

More About Complimenting Zinnias in Your Flower Garden

I’d love to hear about your favorite zinnia companion plant combinations. Share your tips and tricks in the comments section below. And stay tuned for future blog posts where we’ll delve deeper into the world of zinnia care and explore other creative garden design ideas.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

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Cottage garden in fall with vibrant gomphrena, celosia, zinnias, and rudbeckia
My cottage garden in fall 2023

Garden Supplies I Use with Zinnias

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!

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Vibrant Yellow flowers of rudbeckia (black eyed susans)

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden

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  1. Stacy, I noticed the sticks w/ small clay pots around your beds. Are these to deter the deer?
    Do they work?

    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Mildred! They are there so I can see the stakes when I’m working in the garden, help collect earwigs to keep them from chewing my plants, and look cute!