Zinnia Breeding – Hand Pollination to Create Hybrid Zinnias

Sharing is caring!

My longtime home gardening dream continues to be zinnia breeding from my homegrown flowers. I love the magical work of the bees and pollinators, but I truly desire the creative freedom of hand pollination to make my own hybrid zinnias.

Raspberry dark pink and orange color-changing zinnia set for cross pollination to create hybrids
This is my Raspberry and Orange Color-Changing Zinnia set for cross pollination in 2022 to create hybrids. #NOFILTER

I’ve followed along the adventures of ZenMan in breeding zinnias for quite some time. He’s one of the most knowledgeable sources I’ve found for getting started in creating zinnia hybrids.

In fact, he even says he grew a baby blue zinnia once! (I am going to have to reach out to him about that!)

Until recently, I just let the bees do their thing. With two young daughters, a dog, a house, endless errands, and my own business, who has time?!

Coral orange zinnia bloom with tons of petals for use in breeding zinnias project
Look at all the luscious petals on this coral orange zinnia! I’d love to force this trait in my flower breeding project. 🙂

But then I remember the kindest, calming, and most helpful message I recently received from a compassionate stranger while I was rushing through a store – Slow Down. To this day I still think it was an angel experience, but I’ll never know for sure.

Anyway, I’m always in Energizer Bunny mode, so now I am going to slow down. I will do the things that matter. I am stopping to hand pollinate the flowers!! 🙂

And you can, too!

I’ll track my zinnia breeding efforts here in a journal or plant log type format. I hope it helps inspire you to learn how to breed zinnias in your own garden as well!

Hot Pink Cactus Zinnia
Hot Pink Cactus Zinnia in our 2022 garden – I will attempt to breed this zinnia. The birds unfortunately already stole some petals / seeds!

Getting Started: How to Breed Zinnias

First things first, find your favorite zinnias! You can give cross pollination a whirl once you select parent plants.

Blush pink cactus zinnia for breeding hybrids with dark pink cactus zinnia below
This blush pink cactus zinnia grew from the same plant as a dark pink cactus zinnia just below it!
I chose this plant to use for my zinnia breeding project in 2022.

Isolate Zinnia Breeding Specimens

While we love the bees, you need to isolate the blossoms intended for hand pollination.

  1. Find your specimens for the breeding project. Go through your garden and identify zinnias you would hope to grow again.
  2. Take a photo of desired bloom before you bag the new buds. This will help you track your flower breeding efforts.

    Double bloom purple zinnia with tons of petals ready for breeding
  3. Bag new buds that haven’t opened yet. Choose ones that you hope will be as beautiful as those that already opened.

    White organza drawstring bag over zinnia bud intended for cross pollination
    • Use little organza drawstring bags and cinch them closed with the buds inside.  
  4. Wait for the buds to bloom. Once the flowers open, you can gather pollen to hand pollinate the desired specimens

Hand Pollinating Zinnias

Once the bagged blossoms open, you can start hand pollinating zinnias for breeding purposes.

Orange and pink zinnias bagged for breeding hybrids and some out in the open
Here’s my zinnia breeding project underway with some bagged blooms and some out for open pollination by the bees.

Follow these simple steps to hand pollinate your favorite zinnias.

  1. Remove the drawstring bag. It is safe to take off the cover over your zinnias while you’ll be there pollinating by hand.
  2. Transfer pollen to hand pollinate zinnias. After choosing parent plants, use a paintbrush or Q-tip to take pollen from the florets and paint it onto the stigmas of your desired plants.
  3. Replace the organza bag to protect the bloom. Do this to prevent open pollination by bees, ensuring the integrity of your hand-pollination.
  4. Take photos of both parent zinnias. Indicate which plant was the male and female for your own future reference.
  5. Tag the hand-pollinated zinnias for tracking. You can use landscaping tags to color code or track plant IDs.
  6. Record your efforts in a zinnia breeding log if desired. You may find it helpful to track your combinations in creating zinnia hybrids. This can become a life-long hobby if you enjoy it!
  7. Continue to water and care for your zinnias. Keep the plants happy so the resulting seeds will develop as strong and healthy as intended.
Zinnia with white and red striping for breeding project
Zinnia with white and red striping and lots of petals for breeding project – This is from the candy cane zinnias collection.

Desirable Traits in Breeding Zinnias – 2022

For me personally, it’s so much fun to choose my favorite zinnias and combine them to see what magic results.

Some of the traits I’m hoping to force:

  • Heart-Shaped Petals
  • Color-Changing Zinnias
  • Ombre Coloring
  • Very Full Petals / Double Blooms and Beyond

I am really looking forward to seeing if I can force the heart-shaped zinnia petals in some future hybrids.

Here’s where current state is for the plants we’re growing in our 2022 garden.

Heart-shaped petals on pink zinnias and a bagged bud that hasn't opened yet, flower breeding
Heart-shaped petals on pink zinnias – one of the first inspirations for our 2022 zinnia hybrid project.

Also, this year I lucked into growing two plants from seed that resulted in color-changing zinnia blossoms.

I truly couldn’t believe my eyes when, even just later in the day, I could tell the color changes were underway.

Color-changing zinnia bloom in raspberry orange colors
Color-changing zinnia bloom in raspberry orange colors, ready for hand pollination
I am so excited about this particular zinnia in our 2022 garden and look forward to breeding and creating hybrids!

I kid you not – these zinnias start out light orange with pink centers and become a deep shade of ombre raspberry orange to deep fuchsia maroon.

At any given time, I could have two totally different color flowers on the same plant!

I love these zinnias so much that I am thinking of digging them up and bringing them indoors before the frost.

If all goes well, I will continue growing them, hybridizing, and saving seeds over the winter.

Favorite color changing zinnia in raspberry and orange hues with bagged blooms below
Favorite color changing zinnia in raspberry and orange hues with bagged blooms below

Preferred Zinnia Color Traits

Breeding hybrid zinnias in my favorite color combinations is one of my biggest goals, along with the traits listed above.

The zinnia colors I liked best so far were:

  • Coral Blends
  • Orange and Pink Zinnias (Blends)
  • Dark Pink to Raspberry Red to Orange Ombre – This one particular bloom color changes!
  • Color-Changing Effects
  • Red and Pink Ombre
  • Cactus Zinnias (with many petals or cool colors)

I will be excited to see what happens regardless, but I can’t wait to try and force these zinnia traits into new seed stock!

Peachy orange zinnia with ombre tones
Peachy orange zinnia with ombre tones, destined for the 2022 breeding project
A little worse for wear with the spent petals and powdery mildew in the background…

Zinnia Breeding Log

Although I decided to start breeding zinnias in the fall of 2022, it’s been a dream of mine for a long time.

I always harvest zinnia seeds from the spent flowers in my garden, and my dad does the same and shares his with me. Then, the next year, my kids and I plant the seeds or scatter them outdoors to direct sow once warm enough.

Zinnias grow pretty quickly, and you can enjoy multiple generations over a typical growing season. (At least where we live!)

And now, I hope to grow some indoors over the winter. I just have to get my grow racks and lights set up in time. 🙂

Hand holding Raspberry orange zinnia
Raspberry orange color-changey zinnias – can you tell they are my favorites?!
::heart eyes::

Okay, onto the logs…

Friday, September 30, 2022

For the first time ever, I went out and bagged the unopened blooms of some of my favorite zinnias in the garden this year.

Zinnia patch with lots of pink and orange blooms, some bagged for breeding
2022 Zinnia patch with lots of pink and orange blooms, some bagged for breeding

I’ll have to go back and count when it stops raining, but I believe I bagged 20 different zinnia buds for breeding.

The pictures used throughout this post are all photos of my 2022 specimens for cross pollination.

Here are a couple more…

King orange double bloom zinnia flower and organza bag for hybridizing
King size orange double bloom zinnia flower and organza bag for hybridizing
Pink orange zinnia breeding stock
I am a sucker for pink and orange! Bagged this beauty for breeding…

Creating Hybrid Zinnias  

I will be sure to come back and update this page regularly so you can follow along on this adventure with me.

Should you decide to try breeding zinnias yourself, I hope you will post a comment or share a photo via email! I always love hearing from you guys.

Pink and orange zinnia getting bagged for breeding and hybridizing
Pink and orange zinnia getting bagged for breeding and hybridizing

I can’t wait until I have something great to share again soon!

In the meantime, feel free to share this post with any other zinnia lovers you know. The world can always use more flowers!

Oh, and if you are like me and you can never have enough zinnia seeds, check out some of my favorites!

Our website features affiliate links to products that we personally believe in. If you make a purchase from a link on our site, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you. This helps our girls chase their garden dreams! Thanks for your support. (View full affiliate disclaimer at the end of the page.)

I hope you will take a few minutes this week to attempt hybridizing zinnias yourself! It only takes a few minutes here and there to complete the steps and try this fun and exciting gardening hobby!

Happy Gardening!

Breeding Zinnia Flower Resources:

If you want to do some more reading on zinnia breeding, check out these awesome resources:

GardenWeb – How to Hybridize Zinnias – It’s Easy

Houzz – The Process for Getting New Zinnias

Garden.org – Zinnias Thread

Dave’s Garden – It Can Be Fun to Breed Your Own Zinnias

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *