Zinc nanowires have been synthesized by heating a mixture of boron and zinc oxide (ZnO) powders at 1050 °C under a nitrogen atmosphere. The influences of the gas flow rate and the substrate character on the nanowire formation were investigated. It was found that higher-flow rate of gas led to the formation of thinner nanowires; while lower-flow rate of gas produced thicker nanowires and even particles due to the higher partial pressure of Zn vapor in this case. Zn nanowires can be produced on alumina and quartz substrates, but not on a stainless-steel substrate under the same or different synthetic conditions. Photoluminescence measurements were conducted on Zn nanowires and particles and weak emission bands at 482 and 493 nm were observed, which may be contributed by the thin ZnO film on the nanowire surface.