Brightly colored and brimming with joy, zinnia flowers are like little cultivated suns, our own personal supply of good vibes whether potted, planted in the yard, or received as a bouquet.
Yep, these round-petal plants are stunners alright, but their symbolic meanings run way deeper than mere cheerful aesthetics.
The zinnia has a wide entry in the flower language dictionary, and while it connotes almost entirely positive things, it’s still worth learning the nuances in meaning between certain colors, and, of course, in different cultures.
What Does The Zinnia Flower Mean?
As you’re about to discover, the meaning of zinnias can change quite dramatically from color to color, culture to culture, and occasion to occasion, but their most notable connection is with friendship and affection.
Growing them in your garden is a great way to keep your friends in mind. Every time you see or smell these flowers, the distance between you and your loved ones won’t feel so vast, and your connections will feel stronger than ever.
Gifting zinnias to someone is the perfect way to show them how much you value their friendship. As the embodiment of positive thoughts, zinnias let the receiver know that they’re anchored in your heart and mind and that you’d do anything for them.
Etymological Meaning Of The Zinnia Flower
Cards on the table, the etymological root of zinnia is not a very long, or indeed, interesting one. Some flower names enjoy a rich linguistic history, chaining them to ancient languages and mesmerizing folkloric tales, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in the case of the zinnia.
These lovely, bubbly floral beings are simply named for the 18th-century German anatomist and botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn. But before you accuse the poor man of vanity for naming a beautiful flower after himself, you should know that he wasn’t responsible for the self-referential title.
This eponymous flower was actually named by famous 18th-century Swedish botanist and formalizer of binomial nomenclature, Carl Linnaeus. Linnaeus gave the zinnia Johan’s last name in honor of his work in the field.
Symbolism Of The Zinnia Flower
The symbolism of zinnias is always closely related to its color (which we’ll explore in a moment), but this flower does enjoy the following general associations.
- Friendship And Affection
As we’ve already touched upon, the zinnia symbolizes friendship and affection, particularly when physical distance is a factor in the relationship(s) in question.
I, for one, can absolutely see why this is the case. The soft, round petals evoke all the warm, fluffy feelings associated with friendship, and the adorable open disk florets that blossom around the pistil are reflective of the depth and nuance in every positive relationship.
The fact they don’t have a scent is also quite profound, adding a slightly melancholic tinge to this otherwise joyous flower.
It mirrors the distance felt by friends in that they can see photos of one another, as the zinnia can be seen, but the more intimate senses, such as smell, are denied due to one another’s absence.
This symbolism makes the zinnia an incredibly thoughtful going-away present for someone special in your life. Or, perhaps it’s you that’s decided to hit the road and go on an adventure. They make just as much sense as a gift for the one staying put.
- Remembrance And Tribute
Remembrance ties in to notions of distance, but zinnias can also be used in tribute, signifying perhaps that somebody isn’t just far away physically, but gone from the living world.
Growing them in your garden is a fantastic way to pay homage to those no longer in your life in a positive and soul-warming way.
Although the departure of a loved one can be devastating, the zinnia has the power to transform sad tears into happy ones by bringing to mind all the gleeful times you shared together — beautiful!
- Eternal Love
If the rose is the commercial face of romantic love, and jasmine is the flower of pure love, then the zinnia is the flower of eternal love.
Although it has a seemingly simple structure, the closer you get to a zinnia, the more astounding and complex its anatomy becomes.
This mirrors the maturing of loving relationships, growing from strength to strength, becoming ever more magical and nuanced to those involved, whilst appearing quite ordinary from an outsider’s perspective.
So, if you’re sick of roses (I don’t blame you), and the white petals of jasmine just don’t seem to communicate the warmth you feel towards your partner, you should definitely consider zinnias as a gift.
Zinnias may be the perfect flower to celebrate someone’s success, as they also symbolize acclaim. So, if you or someone close to you is finally making headway after lots of hard work and effort, this flower can show pride in the achievement, as well as signify a bright future for the endeavor in question.
It’s likely the showy, eye-catching nature of these flowers that has earned them this association, but I’m certain their ability to overcome the odds (drought and cold temperatures) has something to do with the link as well.
The zinnia is known by many as youth and old age, which isn’t the catchiest name I’ve ever heard, but it does go some way in explaining why the zinnia represents endurance.
Zinnias bloom for a comparatively long time and have excellent survival skills. Plus, no matter how much they’re chopped down, the flowers will keep growing back.
These notions of endurance are probably a large part of the connection the zinnia shares with eternal love, too.
- Poor Taste
Historically, the small yet bright zinnia was considered an eyesore. It perhaps wasn’t large enough to be arresting, and the fact that it doesn’t have a scent means it’s not quite as complex or alluring as some other colorful flowers.
Zinnia Flower Color Meanings
With the general symbolism of the zinnia covered, let’s address the colors of this wonderful flower and how they can bend its meaning in certain ways.
As is the case with most red flowers, the crimson zinnia represents romance, passion, and love — it’s basically a more exciting and original red rose.
Some see their red hue as a symbol of rage, but the gentle appearance of zinnias contradicts such notions. Granted, the leaves of a zinnia can feel quite rough, something I’ll pick up on again a bit later, but the flower itself has a very nonviolent, calm aesthetic.
Almost all yellow flowers symbolize optimism, joy, and all-round positive vibes, and the zinnia is no exception. If you want to manifest your happiness, having lots of yellow zinnias in your garden will help a great deal.
Yellow zinnias can also represent gentleness and care, making them a fantastic way to tell someone you’re thinking of them without actually, you know… telling them.
So, if you’re not a big sharer, and you don’t like getting all mushy, but you want to communicate your fondness of a friend, you can send them a yellow zinnia, and get the job done without dealing with big emotions and awkward moments — hooray!
Purple zinnia variants aren’t breaking any molds either, as they simply symbolize royalty, luxury, and refined beauty.
Bear in mind, however, that you don’t have to be BFFs with the Queen of England to gift these gorgeous flowers. Giving them to the person in your life who you see as your own personal or familial royalty is a great way to honor them and show respect.
For example, you could give them to your great-grandmother or great-grandfather, the revered matriarch and patriarch in your family.
Pink zinnias are gorgeous, which is why they’re associated with notions of romantic affection. You would rarely give them as a present to “just friends”, which makes them all the more special when you treat your significant other with a big pink bouquet.
They’re also a little cute and flirtatious, so if you were perhaps trying to reveal your true feelings for someone in a gentle and sweet manner, the gift of pink zinnias is a very poetic and sophisticated way to do it.
White zinnias are the perfect alternative to lilies or jasmine at weddings, christenings, baby showers… any event tied to notions of purity and innocence.
White flowers are often considered funereal as well, but, even in their stark white form, zinnia flowers are decidedly joyful little life forms, so they may not set quite the right tone for such an event.
Meaningful Botanical Characteristics Of The Zinnia Flower
Remember earlier when I mentioned that no matter how much you cut a zinnia, it will continue to grow and blossom? Well, we could all learn a thing or two about such steadfast resilience.
It urges us to be resolute in times of hardship, and that, with courage and determination, we will emerge victorious, stronger than ever before.
Zinnias also despise being transplanted to new soil and locations, and, as such, can be seen as a celebration of home and roots.
Don’t get me wrong, stepping outside of your comfort zone and going on adventures can be a great thing, but not enough is said of the virtues of staying put and building a life where you feel most happy and secure.
Special Occasions For The Zinnia Flower
Zinnias are the perfect choice for a going away party, either as a gift for the wandering soul or as decor in and around the venue. Likewise, they’re a thoughtful choice for a welcome home party as well.
Zinnia flowers are also a fantastic anniversary gift, especially if you’ve been in a relationship for a while.
Zinnia Flower Cultural Significance
In Mexico and Central America, the Aztec people regarded the zinnia as an ugly flower that, in the sun, was too bright for the eyes, and referred to it as “mal de ojo”, which translates to “evil of eye”.
To the Victorians, the zinnia was an important part of floriography, the language of flowers, as they conveyed a wide array of thoughts and feelings including, but not limited to, love, friendship, and the missing of someone.
Zinnias are also considered one of the sacred life medicines of the Native American Navajo Tribe, and have a prominent position in popular culture and art due to their inclusion in works by masters such as Van Gogh and Clementine Hunter.
Zinnia Flower Facts
- Zinnias are favorites of butterflies and bees, so if you want to create a beneficial natural environment in your yard, zinnias should be a top priority!
- The zinnia was the official state flower of Indiana in the US between 1931 and 1957. It was proceeded by the peony, which remains the state flower to this day.
- Smaller zinnias with narrow leaves look beautiful when pressed and dried, making them a favorite of floral collectors.
- Zinnias bloom from late spring/early summer, all the way through to the first frosts in October.
- Zinnia flowers are the perfect companion plant, as they attract hummingbirds that feast on all the pests that can have a damaging impact on neighboring plant life in a garden.
- A self scattering plant, although the zinnia is popular with birds and bugs, it needs no help sewing its seeds.
Zinnia Flower Uses
- Zinnias were and are used by southwestern Native American tribes to create brightly colored dyes.
- The Native Americans also used these pretty flowers as ritual and medicinal herbs.
- You’re almost certain to find lots of Zinnias in butterfly gardens, as these winged critters absolutely adore them.
- Zinnias have been used in studies carried out on the International Space Station, the results of which showed that they can grow and blossom in zero gravity environments — that’s one small stem for plant, and one giant leaf for plant-kind!
What Is The Symbolism Of A Zinnia Flower Tattoo?
As zinnias are so beautiful, many have them tattooed with no symbolism in mind, but others get zinnia tattoos to represent absence. They communicate a longing to be closer to someone who is either distant or deceased.
Well, that concludes our investigation of this wonderful plant. The zinnia predominantly represents friendship and can help people feel closer to one another despite distance or perhaps even death. If that’s not a powerful message, I don’t know what is!
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