What is Eating My Zinnia Leaves?

What is Eating My Zinnia Leaves? (9 Culprits & Quick Fixes!)

Aphids eat holes into Zinnia leaves. Caterpillars like Leafrollers, Cabbage looper larvae, Armyworms, and Cutworms can eat holes in your Zinnia leaves. Fungal leaf spot or Bacterial leaf spot diseases are likely to ‘eat’ holes in your Zinnia leaves.

Zinnia is one of those annuals which can be grown effortlessly. Zinnia produces colorful flowers which one must have in their garden.

I have Zinnia in my backyard and the plant never fails to amuse me. Even such an amazing plant can run into issues.

What is eating holes in my Zinnia leaves?

Holes in Zinnia are not only caused by insects. They are also caused due to a wide variety of diseases. Let’s see the symptoms and remedies of each of ’em.

Fungal leaf spot diseases

Leaf holes can be caused due to a fungal infection. Zinnia is attacked by Alternaria fungus which causes holes in the leaves.

Initially, you’ll see large reddish-brown or purple lesions on the leaves of Zinnia.

Spots eventually turn gray or tan. Such lesions become irregularly shaped as the fungus eats the leaf. These lesions become bigger and turn into holes.

This disease also causes grayish spots on flowers. This is a sign you can use to differentiate this disease from other similar disorders/diseases.

It is better to prevent this disease as there’s no treatment if the infection is severe.

Tips to prevent:

  • Do not water the leaves of the plant. Wet leaves help the fungus thrive.
  • Water the plant early in the morning so it has time to dry.
  • Spray copper fungicide on the infected leaves. Do this once a week till the spots disappear. This works only if the infection is mild.
  • If the infection is severe, you’d have to destroy the plant and dispose of it.

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Not only fungus, but bacteria can also cause leaf spot disease in Zinnia. There are many bacteria that can cause spots and holes in the leaves of Zinnia.

Initially, the spots are tiny, circular. Eventually, they turn into spots with yellow borders. They become bigger and merge with each other.

It is at this point the spots turn black and the tissue dies (Here’s an article on why your Zinnia dies). Dead tissue causes holes in the infected leaves.

There’s no chemical control for this disease. It is best to prevent this disease.

To prevent

  • Do not wet the leaves. Provide good air circulation to the plant.
  • The disease primarily enters the plant via wounds. So, do not wound the plant unnecessarily.
  • Remove and dispose of the infected plants.

Aphids on Zinnias

The black bugs you see on your Zinnias are aphids. They damage the leaves as they feed on the plant’s sap.  Aphids damage Zinnia by puncturing holes in the leaves.

How to get rid of aphids on Zinnias?

Small populations of Aphids can be controlled by dislodging them with the help of a water hose.

If there is a severe infestation of Aphids, you may want to spray natural solutions like a soap-water mixture, Neem oil, or essential oils.

Note: Black bean aphid is the variety that attacks Zinnia. This aphid as its name suggests is black in color.

Do ants eat Zinnias?

Ants do not eat Zinnia leaves. You are probably seeing ants around the plants that are damaged with holes in the leaves.

This is not caused by ants although it seems so. Ants carry aphids on their backs and carry them onto your plants.

Ants are attracted by the honeydew secreted by the aphids. Aphids give the ants honeydew for helping them reach the desired host plant. So, you can control the aphid population by controlling ants. You may want to prevent ants from climbing the plant.

Caterpillars eating Zinnias

Various types of Caterpillars feed on the leaves of Zinnia. Let’s look at them one by one.


Oblique-banded leafrollers love to feed on Zinnia leaves and flowers. These leafrollers are yellowish-brown with black-colored heads.

These caterpillars eventually develop into moths. Leafrollers don’t often infest Zinnias but when they do they feast on both leaves and flowers.

Leafrollers can be a big problem when the infestation is severe. They defoliate the plant and destroy the flower buds before they even bloom.

Armyworms and Cutworms

Armyworms are small and green initially, they turn black, brown, or gray once they mature. Adults of these moths have an orange or yellowish heart-shaped spot.

Armyworms and Cutworms can infest Zinnia. These are serious business and you need to respond as soon as you notice them.

These caterpillars attack flowers and leaves. Armyworms and Cutworms skeletonize Zinnia plants.

Cabbage looper larvae

Cabbage looper larvae are light green in color with white lines running along the two sides of their body. Adult moths have brown forewings that have an eight symbol in the middle.

Younger caterpillars feed on the undersides of lower leaves. As they become bigger they feed on entire leaves and flowers.

Such foliage-eating caterpillars cause rapid defoliation, stunt the growth of the plant, and may eventually kill the plant.

To control

The best way to control caterpillars is by controlling weeds around the plants as these host the caterpillars. You can hand-pick the caterpillars if the infestation is in an early stage.

These caterpillars can be controlled with Bacillus thuringiensis. Repeated applications help get rid of the infestation.

They can be controlled biologically by introducing Parasitic wasps, Tachinid flies, and Lacewing larvae.

What is eating my Zinnia flowers?

Japanese Beetles eat Zinnia flowers. Slugs eat Zinnia flowers at night. Earwigs also eat holes into Zinnia flowers.

Earwigs are long-bodied insects that have a pair of pincers in the rear end.

They are coppery red/brown in color. They pass through five stages before turning into adults.

Earwigs feed on the flowers of Zinnia. They usually attack in the summer and fall. They chew holes in the leaves and flowers.

Earwigs eating Zinnias

Earwigs usually eat decomposed plant material. But they feed passionately on the flowers of Zinnia.

Earwigs hide under decomposed plant material in the daytime and prey on the flowers at night. You can trap Zinnia.

How to get rid of Earwigs on Zinnia?

You can trap Earwigs by placing a bowl of vegetable oil near the infected plant. One can also trap them using rolled newspaper.

Now destroy the trapped Earwigs by dropping them in soapy water or rubbing alcohol.

You can control the Earwig population by spraying Imidacloprid over the infected area. You may spray 4 to 8 ounces per 1000 sq ft, depending on the severity of the infestation.

Beetles eating Zinnia leaves

Japanese Beetles eat holes into Zinnia leaves and flowers. Japanese Beetles have a dark green metallic body and burrow into flowers. 

Japanese Beetles eat the whole leaves leaving only the veins. This is why skeletonized zinnia leaves are seen on plants infested by Japanese Beetles.

You can spray Neem oil on your Zinnia to keep beetles from feeding on the leaves. Neem oil also keeps the eggs from hatching. You can also use Pyrethrin-based insecticide to get rid of beetles on Zinnia.

Do slugs eat Zinnias?

Yes, slugs do eat Zinnias. Slugs love to eat the foliage of Zinnia. They are pesky pests that are most active at night time.

Slugs leave shiny trails as they move ahead. You can find their presence on these trails. Slugs attack Zinnia in summer and spring.

They feed on Zinnia leaves at night. Slugs chew on the leaves, leaving holes in them.

You can hand-pick these pesky pests at night and throw them into a bucket of soapy water. This would get rid of them if they are in low populations.

If there’s a large population of slugs, they can kill the plant.

To control slugs

  • They hide under debris where it’s moist. Make sure there are no such spots around the plant.
  • You can use wet newspapers or shallow bowls of beer to trap slugs. Then, you can throw the trapped slugs into a bucket of soapy water.

What animal eats Zinnias?

Squirrels eat Zinnia leaves, flowers, and twigs. Wild rabbits are also known to eat Zinnias. Slugs eat Zinnias at night.

Do Deer eat Zinnias?

No, Deer do not eat Zinnias. Zinnias are one of the best deer-resistant plants that can be found in the garden. Deer dislike the taste of Zinnia flowers.

Do Rabbits eat Zinnias?

No, Rabbits don’t usually eat Zinnias. Rabbits might eat the leaves/flowers of Zinnias if they don’t have other food in the garden.

Do Groundhogs eat Zinnias?

Yes, Groundhogs do eat Zinnias. They feed on Zinnias when they don’t have any other food in the garden.

Spread some lime around the garden to keep groundhogs at bay as lime burns Groundhog feet when they walk over it.

Do Chipmunks eat Zinnias?

Yes, Chipmunks do eat Zinnias during times of drought. Chipmunks might feed on Zinnias for their nectar or to hydrate themselves.

You can sprinkle Cayenne pepper/Chilli powder or other intense spices around the garden to keep Chipmunks from eating your Zinnias.

Do Chickens eat Zinnias?

No, Chickens don’t usually eat Zinnia leaves as they taste bitter. They can damage the plant by knocking it over or scratching the stems.

What is eating my Zinnias at night?

Earwigs and Slugs eat Zinnias at night. Slugs leave slimy trails on the plant as they feed on the leaves and flowers of Zinnia.

Earwigs hide in the decomposed matter in the daytime and feed on the flowers at night. Go out into the garden at night and check the plants for any infestation.

What is eating my Zinnia seedlings?

Cutworms and Slugs are known to eat Zinnia seedlings. Dig your fingers around the remaining stem to find the culprit that’s eating Zinnia seedlings.

Cutworms cut the seedlings at their base, they don’t directly eat the seedlings. If you don’t see seedlings that are cut at the base then Earwigs or Slugs are the culprits.

What to spray on Zinnias for bugs?

You can spray insecticidal soap on Zinnias to control Spider Mites, Aphids, and Whiteflies. You can control Earwigs or other bugs by spraying Neem oil on Zinnias.

Spray Insecticidal soap only in the evening as you might end up harming the hummingbirds or beneficial insects. Make sure to spray on the lower sides of the leaves.

You can direct a steady stream of water at the affected branches of Zinnia to dislodge aphids from the branches. Use chemical sprays diligently as they harm the beneficial insects too.