How to get long stems for cutting?

diggerdee zone 6 CTJune 30, 2006


I've been getting quite discouraged with my cutting garden this season. Granted, the weather has been uncooperative, but I had the same problem last year also.

Most of my annuals for cutting are blooming at a very short height. Zinnias, snapdragons, calendulas, dahlias, etc. The stems are about 8 inches long at best. An additional discouragement this year is that many plants seem to be just one stem, at least so far.

What is the secret to getting nice long stems? I'm starting to get tired of having tiny little bouquets. Yes, they are nice, but I'd love to have a nice, tall bouquet to put in a real vase instead of a bud vase.

I thought I was careful in researching my seed selection for height and bloom, but now I'm not so sure.

Also, I'm concerned about further blooms. I know I need to keep cutting to encourage more blooms, but won't the future stems be even shorter than the first, main stem?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.




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Noni Morrison

Only ideas are that if you are planting seedlings they are stunted by the time you put them in, or they get too dry, or the weather turns hot too fast for them. Something is telling them they have to go to seed quickly to propagate their species. You say you researched carefully so I am sure you picked out plants that said they would grow taller.

Do you wait until it is hot to seed them? My best stems come from plants I set out early while it is cool and wet. I don't know if you can do that where you are. I plant out my snaps in March and for the first time got bells of ireland with good height by planting the seed in March also.Larkspur, Ammi and calendulas can also go in before the last frost date.

What is your soil like? Is it loose and fertile? Can the plant put down good roots? Tight-packed dry clay will stunt most anything.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 12:59AM
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Haven't you had a lot of rainy days and cool nights? If these were interspersed with hot, dry periods, the plants get really stressed. Sometimes even a short cold snap will trigger flowering.

Lizalily asked some good questions. Are you transplanting from your own seedlings grown in greenhouse, seedlings grown on window sill, direct seeding, transplanting from garden mart plants? About the latter, if they already are showing buds, most times they should be pinched to allow the plant to get some new growth before setting new buds.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 5:54PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Thanks guys!

Lizalily and Paveggie, to answer your questions - I wintersow, so all my seeds were planted outside in containers starting in January, and sown through March., and were outside from the get-go. Due to a prolonged sickness, there was a delay in actually getting the seedlings planted out into their beds, but they were outside in containers before being planted out. My cutting beds have very good soil. I have four raised cinder-block beds with a compost/manure/soil mix, a few smaller raised beds, and two lasagna beds which were made with lots of organic materials. The soil in all of them is loose and well-draining.

Paveggie, you may have hit the nail on the head. We had a very wet, cool spring, then some long stretches of very hot, humid, dry weather. I thought at first that that was the reason I was getting zinnia's in bloom at six inches tall, and that just may be it. It just seems like I had the same problem last year. I see these bouquets in the stores and the stems are all so long. My bouquets are only about ten inches high.

So I guess that's just the way it is - at least for this year. So my next question is, will these plants - or the individual stems, I should say - eventually grow taller? Or am I stuck with 10-inch boquets again, lol?

Thanks for responding!

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 10:22PM
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Here, and along the eastern seaboard, there has been a LOT of rain lately. We started out warmer this spring so plants could be put in earlier, but then we started in with the rain. Lately, the last 2 weeks, it's been warm temps along with the rain so the annuals started to take off, but also came the blooms on shorter than I would like to see stems. And the weeds are growing faster them I've ever seen. My perennials on the other hand have the longest stems they've ever had but everything is about 3 weeks ahead of schedule which makes me wonder if there will be any flowers left for the Aug. wedding I have. I had zinnias blooming the end of June which is unheard of here, and the stems are shorter. I'm hoping it's just those first few blooms, and the plants will contine to get big. They are the Benery Giants which should be a 36-38" plant. I haven't given up hope on them, now if the wind will just settle down.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 7:34AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Cheryl, sounds like we're in the same boat! It seems like this year things have been much earlier than usual here too. Earlier this spring, there were some things that had come and gone before the time they even started last year.

Funny, I was just sitting at the computer looking out the window, watching one of my cutting beds that is on a 45-degree angle from the wind, lol! The wind was great to work in the last two days, since it was so hot, but I believe all my plants are now permanently slanted!


    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 8:11PM
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