Zucchini Varieties: 15 Different Types of Zucchini Cultivars You’ll Love
Zucchini is one of our favorite veggies to add to your garden. But picking the right type of zucchini can be a challenge if you aren't sure which one is the perfect fit for your garden. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey walks through 15 different Zucchini varieties to help you pick which cultivar is best for your garden.
Zucchini is a classic summer vegetable that no garden or kitchen can go without. Whether you’re making zucchini bread, Italian sautees, or gluten-free “zoodle” pasta, this delicious green summer squash is generous in its yields and versatile in its uses. Zucchini is easier to grow than many other vegetables, and produces fruit very early.
But not at all types of zucchini are created equal! There are dozens of different varieties of zucchini that have been bred for different shapes, sizes, colors, growing conditions, and disease-resistant qualities.
There are compact bush zucchini plants for small space gardens, striped or ribbed zucchini for intriguing culinary uses, and even spineless zucchini types for those of us who hate getting our arms scratched during harvest (that’s all of us, right?). Let’s dig into the top varieties, how to choose the best one for your garden, and some common questions about growing this popular summer squash.
Best Zucchini Varieties
While squash has ancient origins that date back almost 10,000 years, zucchini as we know it was developed and refined by Italian plant breeders in the late 19th century. Often called “courgette” in French, the English word for zucchini came from the Italian word “zucca.” The squash made its way to America in the 1920s and has been wildly popular in a diversity of dishes and cuisines ever since.
When it comes to different cultivars of zucchini, plant breeders and gardeners have been crossing and saving seeds for many decades to create the best performing zucchini plants possible. A number of French and Italian heirlooms have also been preserved and are available to order online from dedicated seed companies.
Zucchini Varieties for Short Seasons
In general, summer squash is a fast-growing crop that works great even in the shortest growing seasons. But if you are really constrained by the number of frost-free days (or you’re just impatient), consider growing an early variety that yields super quickly. These are also great options for people without greenhouses to get a head start in the spring. They are easily cared for, easily fertilized, and make an excellent choice for beginners or a child’s garden.
These heirloom early varieties are super easy to grow and highly productive. They yield classic dark green zucchini with delicious white tender flesh and a mild flavor. The fruit texture is firm and with very few to no seeds. 50 days to mature.
One of the first zucchini in my garden every spring! This zucchini takes just 45 days to mature from seed. It gets started extra early and yields generously all summer long. The shiny, dark green fruits have a mildly nutty flavor, dense texture, and are easy to pick from the open-habit plants with widened branch spacing. Bred for great disease resistance.
This early cultivar is bred for high yields and resistance to powdery mildew. The plants are nice and stout with an open habit for easy harvest. If you have an issue attracting pollinators to your garden, this is a great variety for you because it will set fruit even with low bee activity. The zucchini themselves are consistently medium-sized, glossy, and dark green. 47 days.
Spineless Zucchini Varieties
Anyone who has volunteered or worked on an organic farm has a love/hate relationship with zucchini harvests (me!). Those plants can be dang spikey and really scratch up your arms and legs if you leave them exposed. On my farm, we always wore long sleeves and socks (with the toes cut out) over our arms like arm warmers. But dang, that was hot! It’s a lot easier to just grow a spineless or low-spine variety to make harvest much more pleasant.
These open, spineless plants are easy to reach into and harvest without scratching your skin. The fruits are classic straight, uniform, green zucchini with a mild flavor. This F1 hybrid cultivar has great disease resistance and consistent yields all season long. 45 days to mature.
Another hybrid without any spikes on the stems or leaves, this gorgeous zucchini yields dark green fruits without the itchy harvest process. This is the industry standard for many production farms and it definitely doesn’t disappoint in the garden. It takes 46 days to mature.
‘Easy Pick Gold II’
If you want to pick yellow zucchini without the scratch, this nearly spine-free golden variety has an open habit that is very easy to harvest for novice gardeners. The bushy plants grow about 3 to 4.5 feet tall and yield mild-flavored, bright yellow zucchini that are extra delicious when harvested young with their squash blossoms still attached. 48 days.
Best Zucchini Cultivars for Small Spaces
A small garden does not mean you have to forgo your favorite squash. While many summer and winter squashes traditionally require a lot of room, modern breeders have developed these varieties that deliver the most bang per square footage for even the smallest container gardens!
These compact bush heirlooms produce lovely 3” round zucchini fruits that have green skin and pale yellow flesh. They are fast-growing and produce great yields in small spaces or a container. Round zucchini plants take only 45 days to mature from seed.
Number eight on our list is another unique round zucchini called Eight Ball! These classy, bold green fruits have an excellent earthy flavor and grow on compact vines (rather than bushes). You can trellis these zucchini plants upward to save space in your garden. 55 days.
This small bush-type zucchini needs just 18-24” of space to grow long, straight, gorgeous zucchini that are best harvested around 8” long. Don’t mistake the compact plant for low yields! These babies will really crank out some fruits while saving you space in the garden. 51-60 days.
One of the most popular F1 hybrid cultivars, ‘Black Forest’ is another unique climbing variety that is perfect for container gardens or small spaces. Use a trellis to train the vines upward from your raised beds or a large container (at least 2 feet wide), saving your precious soil space for other veggies.
The thick stalks on this variety can grow up to 7 feet tall, so be sure that your trellis is robust and durable. The fruits are classic straight green zucchinis with the perfect texture for roasting or grilling. 51-60 days.
Best Heirloom Zucchini Seeds
Newer does not always mean better! If you prefer the classic, time-tested zucchinis of our great grandparents, these heirloom varieties will be the perfect addition to your garden. Heirloom seeds are open-pollinated (non-hybridized) types that have been passed down through the generations to preserve their antique genetics and workhouse performance in the garden. With their superior flavors and intriguing origins, these varieties each have a unique story to tell.
This Italian heirloom is sometimes labeled as ‘Tromboncino’, a reference to its large curly trombone shape. These large vining plants produce some of the most delicious 10-12” zucchinis with nutty, dense flesh and subtly striped skins. The plants need at least 3 square feet of space if they are allowed to vine on the ground, but they can be trellised on a durable trellis for smaller space gardens.
While most zucchini are technically varieties of the Cucurbita pepo species, this type is actually a cultivar of Cucurbita moschata (the same species as butternut squash varieties). Unfortunately, it can still cross with most types of zucchini and should be planted at a distance or a staggered date from other types to get true trombocino zucchini. 60 days to mature. Tolerant of squash vine borers.
These tasty crookneck Italian zucchinis are gorgeously striped with alternating light and dark green flecks and a slightly ribbed texture. Cocozelle has one of the tastiest flavors and is far superior to our regular ole’ American zucchini if you ask me. They are uniformly straight and best harvested at 6-8” in length. The bush-habit plants are highly productive and very easy to grow. 58 days.
‘Ronde de Nice’
These dazzling round French heirloom zucchinis have been highly regarded by French kitchen gardeners for many generations. The fruits are pastel green and lightly striped with fluffy tender yellow blossoms that are best picked while still attached to the zucchini.
This centuries-old variety is crazy vigorous and yields continuously until the cold nights of fall. Best of all, their flavor is among the richest of all zucchinis! Try them steamed or stuffed with their squash blossoms. 60 days to mature.
Best Disease-Resistant Zucchini
If you have powdery mildew or fungal issues in your garden, consider choosing a disease-resistant zucchini that has been naturally bred to keep those annoying pathogens at bay. Most disease-resistant types are hybrid populations that have been intentionally exposed to diseases zucchinis are prone to in order to choose the most resilient individuals to pass on their genetics. They are completely non-GMO and as available certified organic seeds.
Increasing plant spacing, improving your soil biology, and ensuring proper airflow will also help prevent disease in your zucchini patch.
These gorgeous, smooth yellow summer squash are bred for exceptional powdery mildew resistance and performed amongst the best in Purdue University’s squash disease resistance trials. The sturdy bushes are highly productive, producing tender, attractive fruits continuously throughout the summer. The best option for anyone who struggles with powdery mildew! 50 days.
Another tasty yellow crookneck zucchini, these plants are highly resistant to foliar disease and yield exceptionally well under humid conditions that may otherwise decimate your squash crop. ‘Sunglo’ grows super fast, large, and open plants that are easy to harvest. 38-42 days.
Choosing Best Zucchini Variety
It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or advanced gardener: the diversity of options for seeds these days can be pretty overwhelming. While most types deliver maximum benefits, sometimes you have to pick and choose the top few traits that are most important to you. Oftentimes, cultivars have been maintained to give you the best of both worlds (for example, the exceptional flavor and performance of ‘Trombocini’.
To choose the best zucchini variety for your garden, start by asking yourself a few questions:
Why am I growing zucchini?
- For flavor? Choose a French or Italian heirloom
- For nutrition? Choose a yellow zucchini (research shows that yellow squash types have the highest levels of carotenoids)
- For high yields? Choose ‘Dunja’ or ‘Sungreen’
- For interesting meals? Choose ‘Cocozelle’
What is the biggest problem I’ve had in my garden with squash in the past?
- For powdery mildew or fungal diseases, choose ‘Dunja’ or ‘Success PM’
- If it was lack of space, choose ‘Black Forest’ and build a trellis with a cattle panel
- For bee pollination issues, choose ‘Dunja’
- For squash vine borers, choose ‘Trombicini’
What is the most important for my squash harvest?
- Earliest harvest possible? Choose ‘Green Machine’
- Longest production throughout the season? Choose ‘Trombocini’
- Easiest to grow? Choose ‘Black Beauty’
- Least itchy harvest? Choose ‘Spineless Perfection’
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you pick the best zucchini?
Whether purchasing it or picking straight from the garden, zucchini should be medium sized (not much larger than 6-8” for most varieties) and free of nicks or scratches. The skin should feel firm and appear vibrantly colored.
The best cultivars in the garden will yield abundant fruits that can be harvested with the squash blossoms still attached for an extra treat in your meal. To choose the right variety, consider if you are growing for flavor, nutrition, appearance, or if you need a compact or disease-resistant type.
Can you grow multiple zucchini varieties together?
The short answer is yes, but they may cross together for some funky (or delicious) combos. The most common problem with zucchini is how easily it likes to cross-breed. All varieties of Cucurbita pepo (zucchini and yellow summer squash) can cross-pollinate together as bees hop from flower to flower.
The easiest way to grow multiple cultivars is to either stagger their plantings (succession planting) throughout the summer season or through physical spacing in a large garden. Otherwise, choose varieties you really like and take a chance on their experimental progeny!
Will zucchini cross-pollinate?
Most varieties are members of the Cucurbita pepo species and will readily cross-pollinate with each other and with yellow squash types. However, this is not always a bad thing, as it can result in really interesting fruit colors and flavors.
If you prefer to stick to the purest variety possible, either plant only one cultivar or space different varieties on the far ends of a large garden. Zucchini does not typically cross with winter squash (except for acorn squash).
Which variety has the best taste?
The best tasting zucchinis are arguably French and Italian heirlooms that have been passed down through the centuries. ‘Trombocini, ‘Cocozelle’, and ‘Ronde de Nice’ have been ranked among the most flavorful and perfectly textured zucchini available today. These heirlooms give those bland supermarket squash a run for their money, plus they are incredibly productive, open-pollinated, and non-GMO.
Is Black Beauty zucchini a bush or vine?
‘Black Beauty’ is a bush-habit zucchini that produces early fruits and takes about 50 days to mature. The best vining variety for small spaces are ‘Black Forest’ or ‘Eight Ball’.
Is there a striped zucchini?
There are many types of striped zucchinis, including ‘Safari’ and ‘Cocozelle’, which are among the richest in flavor and attractive in appearance. Striped varieties have simply been bred for alternating colors on the skins that create a beautiful display in the garden and in the kitchen.
Are there different kinds of zucchini plants?
There is a massive diversity of seeds available on the market today. Each cultivar has been bred for specific traits like flavor, striped skins, spineless habit, or disease resistance. In spite of their dazzling diversity of shapes and sizes, all zucchini varieties fall under the Cucurbita pepo species.
What is the easiest zucchini to grow?
Zucchini is one of the most beginner-friendly garden plants because it grows quickly and yields abundantly without much effort. ‘Ronde de Nice’ is a French heirloom that produces baby round zucchini and is one of the easiest types to grow. ‘Dunja’ is a newer variety that is extremely beginner-friendly and mellow in flavor with a classic green oblong shape.
What is a hybrid zucchini?
Zucchinis are famous for their super high yields and ease of growth. Hybridized varieties are created from crossing inbred lines of vigorous zucchini types in order to create seeds that are highly productive and disease resistant in the garden. Hybrids tend to yield larger, faster-growing, and more uniform fruits. They often have exceptional disease or pest resistance as well. Hybrids are non-GMO and available as certified organic seeds.
Zucchini is by far one of the easiest crops for beginner gardeners to grow. No matter what cultivar you choose, these tasty summer squash are always eager to perform. If you want to learn more about growing zucchini, be sure to check out our guide on How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Zucchini to get all the pro gardener tips for some of the best-tasting veggies you’ve ever grown!