Benary's Giant Zinnias - what am I doing wrong?

blueberryhills(7 NW AL)July 3, 2009

I'm so discouraged and I don't understand what exactly I'm not doing right.

Most everything I've read about growing cut flowers for market recommends the Benary's Giant. The description in the seed catalog touts plants 40-50" high and "fully double, dahlia-like blooms".

My plants are maybe 12" tall and have 2-3" single blooms. I called the seed company for some advice and they recommended that I thin my plants to 12-14" spacing. Which I've done with no real improvement.

What am I missing?


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Pudge 2b

Wow, that's too weird, because my Benary's are doing exactly the same thing this year. I've grown them for the past 5 years and have always had big, beautiful plants full of bloom (spaced, by the way, at about 6" apart). I have always been impressed with the Benary's series more than any other. This year, however, they are just as you describe - short and single blooms. I was chalking it up to a very cool, darn near frigid spring but maybe there's more to the mystery. I think I got the seed from Stokes this year.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 11:13PM
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This is interesting. I also grow the Benarys every year.
Mine are doing OK but are only about 2ft. tall instead of 4ft. tall. This is from both bought seed and saved seed.
They are all fully double though and still very lovely.
I planted them the day before a three day warming trend that went into the 90's.
It's very important that they sprout in warm weather then they can take some cooler weather. - Jim

    Bookmark   July 3, 2009 at 11:46PM
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blueberryhills(7 NW AL)

Thank you Jim and pudge for your responses.

I've been succession sowing since the end of April - up until last week. Temps have been in the 90's consistently (we've even had a few 100 degree days last month). Cool temps wouldn't have been an issue.
The field I'm using has only been worked since last year and I was afraid maybe the plants weren't getting the nutrients they needed. However, we grew Zinnias in this same field last year and had buckets of flowers.
Last years seed came from Park, but all of my Zinnia seed came from Johnny's this year.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2009 at 7:50AM
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teresa_b(z6 MO)

My Benarys are not nearly as tall this year either. My seeds are from Johnny's.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2009 at 10:28PM
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annebert(6b/7a MD)

I think it's the unusually cool nights we've been having (in spite of daytime temps in the 80s) that's made things so short. I had to pinch out my zinnias when they started setting buds at about 10" tall. It's also made corn and tomatoes unusually late here.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2009 at 8:06PM
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thinman(Z5 MI)

Yep, same thing here. Cool days, cooler nights, and lots of short zinnias. My Benarys are short, and the Oklahomas are even shorter. They were wanting to bloom at about 6 or 8 inches tall, so I pinched them like Anne did. Ageratum is doing the same thing, and I think cosmos is too, to some degree. Snaps seem to be happy.

I'm having to go to market with not many flowers. It's discouraging.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 9:51AM
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ditto for me also. Cool nights here in central MD. The flats I purchased have only grown to about 20"". The seed I planted from Stokes in early May, are about 8" tall. I've gotten some bloom from the flats, 75% single and 25% double. This is about the same ratio as last year when they were 3-4 feet tall. I think that they advertise the double blooms to get us to buy their seed, but I do love the colors and the few doubles I get. They last so long. I can't wait for my greens to bloom. The plants don't start to mildew until late Sept which is a big plus.
I hate to pinch, but will try it on some to see what happens.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2009 at 2:41PM
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Mine really shot up after we got some warmer temps. It was in the 90's in late june and mine are up to 4ft. tall and loaded with blooms.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 1:35AM
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I am in the Chicago area. I planted giant benary in white, pink, purple, red and salmon.

Staggered the plantings a bit starting in early June/late May.

It has been quite cool here. My tallest/olders plants are about 2' high and I FINALLY found a few buds on tghe pink and white varieties.

I am VERY anxious for some color on my balcony and flowers to cut for inside.

My zinnias are in pots, by the way.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2009 at 10:37PM
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I grow mine in 4ft. wide beds one is about 100ft. long the other a bit shorter. They are on both sides of a path that arcs through the garden.
I can't seem to catch their beauty in a photo. The photo's always makes them look far away. I think that's because I'm trying to take a shot of something so long and can't fit it in without making it look far away.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2009 at 1:28AM
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blueberryhills(7 NW AL)

We are finally getting some blooms, but they are still smaller than they should be and the stems are short.
I have volunteers coming back in a flower bed that are much taller and more sturdy. (Not Benary's Giants) How much would the ph of the soil affect growth and bloom? Zinnias are supposed to be easy.

On the bright side, whatever it is the Zinnias don't like, the Dahlias are loving and I'm wishing we'd planted more.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2009 at 4:20PM
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Mine were absolutely gorgeous last year, and this year... well, I pretend I didn't plant any. Sad. Embarrassing! I blame it on our weather. Why not? We've had an extremely wet spring and summer. We had two weeks in late spring when we watered. Then the heat came for about two weeks. We're talking August-dog-days weather in June. Then it cooled off. REALLY cool! We've hardly used the AC this summer. Keeping the quilt out. It definitely is not our usual hot and dry summer we're accustomed to in south-central MO.

And it isn't just the Benary's or flowers. Our vegetables are not producing normally, either. So, the weather gets the blame.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 5:50PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

My zinnias are finally starting to catch up, but not all of them. They're about a foot and a half tall now. Like Blueberry Hills above, my plants are smaller and my stems are shorter. But I've got a nice, short little bouquet right on the table in front of me. I do have to say the colors are gorgeous.

BluHills, I have to disagree on one point - my dahlias are worse than my zinnias. I lost many of them to slugs(?) and only have a few plants left.

The worst disappointment for me, if I may be allowed to continue complaining - ;) - are my lilies. I got hit with the dreaded red lily leaf beetle this year, and they have decimated my beautiful lilies. And then the few distorted buds I had were eaten by deer! I never had a deer problem!

On the bright side, my squash and zucchini are amazing! Too bad I don't like either, lol.


    Bookmark   July 27, 2009 at 9:03PM
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Not sure . . . my Benarys are tall, 3'-4' and growing and branching out and providing large flowers.

As a market grower Zinnias are my favorite cut flower as far as production AND flower. Annual Asters are my favorite flower, however.

We've had a cool, wet spring-early summer in NH, but the plants are doing OK, but not as "robust" as in the past, but still doing fine. The weather pattern has finally changed and the temps are warmer and not quite as much rain but still more than average.

We use raised beds, soaker hoses under black plastic, lite on nitrogen and heavier on phosphorus and potash.

We plant about 1' apart and have a watering schedule.

While weather is always a factor you may want to do a soil test to see the quality of your soil.

As a long-time gardener I always tell people the most important thing about gardening is the soil. Without good soil, the best grown plant in a nursery or greenhouse will not do well if you plant it in poor soil.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 1:27PM
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I use raised beds, also, but planted my Benary's in a different box from last year with a different soil mix. The box I used last year will be cleared of current plants this week. We'll plant again, even though it's a bit late in the season, and see what happens. The other zinnia types are just now kicking in well. It's been an off-year for some things, and an awesome year for others.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 8:21PM
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blueberryhills(7 NW AL)

I did a soil test late in the summer last year, it showed the soil was very acid. We had the recommended amendments made early this spring.
We used a turning plow to make raised beds - it worked beautifully for moisture retention and drainage - but I'm gardening on a slope, which brings on more challenges.
For those of you who used raised beds, are they permanent? Or do you till them down at the end of the season. How deep are they?
The Zinnias must go - what I do have growing is either riddled with mildew or the Japanese beetles are feasting on them - or they're too short or too small.
Time to till it up and start working toward next year. Next year will be better, right?

I do appreciate all your responses!! I know I'm green, but I'm learning as I go along and you all are a wealth of information! This is not "Big Business" for me - more of a learning experience for my kids (and me). I'm grateful to you who are willing to take the time to share your knowledge.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 12:04AM
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Our raised beds are "free-standing" . . . that is we do not use anything to frame them.

Once the beds are made we do not turn them over . . . EVER AGAIN! Every time your rototill you destroy the structure of the soil and disrupt life at each layer.

All we do at the start of the season is touch up the edges and add compost and organic fertilizer.

We make our raised beds by using a "frame" out of 2x8 lumber. Width should not be more than 4' so you can reach from in from each side. You can make the beds any length you wish. We find 24"-36" wide works best for us. We scratch up the ground then fill in with top soil, then pick up the frame and go to the next area. The soil is at least 8" deep, fluffy, filled with worms and other life that is vital to good soil.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 8:47AM
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Not only are my regular sized zinnias single instead of the double they were advertised to be, the Ferry Morris packages which clearly show deep purple and lavender colors all are blooming magenta and bright pink. I paid extra just for these purple colors. When I contacted sellers on line to ask if they know whether or not their zinnias will look like the ones shown on the packet, none have a clue. I was told by one that these are just "generic photos". If that is the case then I can't but wonder why they are charging a premium for the color.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 1:12PM
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