A simple, low temperature co-precipitation method was developed to synthesize ZnO nanomaterials with different morphologies such as nanoflakes, spherical nanoparticles (SNPs), and nanorods. The concentration of the capping agent, Triton X-100, is a key factor in the morphological control of ZnO nanostructures. The formation of different morphologies of ZnO was confirmed by HR-SEM and HR-TEM. XRD data showed the formation of single-phase ZnO with the wurtzite crystal structure. The influence of La contents on the structure, morphology, absorption, emission, and photocatalytic activity of ZnO SNPs was investigated systematically. The influence of the ZnO morphologies on the photocatalytic degradation (PCD) of Bisphenol A (BPA) as a model reaction is evaluated and discussed in terms of surface area, crystal growth habits, particle size, and oxygen defects. The results indicated that the particle size is an important factor for the enhancement of PCD. Furthermore, the effect of different photocatalytic reaction parameters on the resulting PCD efficiency of ZnO SNPs was investigated. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.