Abstract The microstructure of a-plane ZnO grown on LaAlO 3 (LAO) (001) has been systematically investigated by employing X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Based on the results of XRD and TEM, only a-plane ZnO has been found to grow on LAO (001), and it consists of two types of domains perpendicular to each other. The crystal orientation relationships of a-plane ZnO domains with LAO have been verified to be  ZnO// LAO and [11̄00] ZnO//[11̄0] LAO. The domain boundaries in the a-plane ZnO are along the direction in a rotation angle of about 45° from the c-axes of ZnO. The surface morphology of ZnO films in SEM exhibits domain structure in stripe-like shape. The formation of two domains can be attributed to the cubic symmetry of the surface configuration of LAO (001).