45 Comments

  1. Jessica@CapeofDreams
    May 7, 2013 @ 10:26 am

    This is way more involved than I normally get in the garden, but I am going to try zinnias this year. We shall see how I do. No promises can be made. However, one trick that a neighbor gave me for growing any seeds is to put the seeds in a glass of water for a week before planting them. They will sprout in there, and he says that it will help ensure that they will grow. It seems to have helped in my garden where the little lettuces have started poking up their heads.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 1:34 pm

      Yay! Lettuce means spring is actually here… I’ve never used the seed-soaking (for anything not specifically recommended for) but maybe I’ll give it a try next year, see if it makes a difference.

      The zinnia can be really low-maintenance if you just pinch and don’t do the other forty steps!!

      Reply

  2. Susan Hauser
    May 7, 2013 @ 10:31 am

    So, I planted a bunch of (like, 50) zinnia seedlings in several gardens that I started inside under grow lights, and have directly sown about 17 billion zinnia seeds in some other gardens as well. Water – except for the areas where I planted the seedlings – has been a little scarce. It’s supposed to rain today (rain, dammit, RAIN!!), so I’m hopeful. Based on the aforementioned, and your experience growing zinnias, any idea as to how many I can expect to actually grow and flower?

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

      We’re short on rain here too… my guess with the seedlings is that they should all be fine. Barring frost or acts of God…

      The direct sown seeds I would have thought would be fine too… but in my last post, someone commented that they hadn’t had great luck with sow and grow. That surprised me, seeing as how they’re so hardy once started.

      Either way, let me know… especially since you’re doing both, I’d be curious if you think the effort of starting them inside is worth it.

      Reply

  3. Laurel
    May 7, 2013 @ 11:26 am

    Have you thought of driving some sort of stake (like bamboo or pruned off branches of something) into the ground so it’s sturdy around the outside and maybe a few inside of the bed and run twine or something in a grid pattern between the stakes? May be cheaper (also may be way more problematic) than tomato cages.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

      Me and staking anything with twine have a dysfunctional relationship. I always wait until it is FAR too late… and it always turns out that the things I staked are never the branch/piece that I should have… and then I end up tying the whole thing together.

      Plus, I have 1,000 tomato cages anyway… that are totally useless for actual tomatoes. And should be used for something. Plus, isn’t it an appealing idea to JUST stick a cage in the ground and be done with it?

      BTW, we did that stringing-method with tomatoes one year, and were not impressed. Or, rather it was fine at first… and then totally out of control.

      Reply

      • Laurel
        May 8, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

        I had great success with the stringing method last year and got lots of beautifully tasty tomatoes, but things also have a tendency to grow slower in this climate than they do pretty much anywhere else. If they do get out of hand, I have read about another method of support that will be easy to add in that involves basically figure-8ing the plants with string/twine to hold them vertical.

        I agree about the total uselessness of tomato cages. I don’t know how they get off manufacturing something that is so useless at it’s supposed purpose. It’s like they’re the cosmetics industry. I’m currently using one of the 3 cages that I own to try to support my peony… unsuccessfully.

        Reply

        • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
          May 8, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

          When I said stringing, I meant the figure 8 method… by the end of summer, it was laughable to try to “control” the plant with string. I needed heavier rope… and taller stakes… and I guess also a ladder?

          I suspect I was supposed to sucker them… to accompany the method.

          Reply

          • Laurel
            May 8, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

            One of my favorite hobbies is picking at things.. Scabs, peeling paint, sunburns, my face, onion skins, and suckers. I was very obsessive about how I pruned the indeterminate vines last year and was “rewarded” with somewhat spindly, but effective and controlled growth. Plus lots of tomatoes.

            Reply

            • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
              May 8, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

              Um. Why do you not live next door to me?

              I have a disgusting (and compulsive) habit of peeling dry skin off my lip…It’s amazing I have not permanently disfigured my face from picking at it. (there’s still plenty of time for that, I guess)

              My summer hours are dedicated to picking bugs off kale. I CANNOT have another garden task. I CANNOT. Although, after watching you do yours this year, maybe you will convert me. A friend tried it, and he said he’d only noticed a benefit if working in restricted space…

  4. Garden, Home and Party
    May 7, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    Victoria,
    Holy cow. This is pretty amazing, and I know this is my west coast inexperience talking (because any mildly enthusiastic gardener in the East probably knows how to do this stuff), but I’m thoroughly impressed. I tried to grow ‘forget-me-not’ seed this year…wish I had seen this post first. I’ve seen your zinnias and they make me green with envy. That said, the seed I tried to grow was looking good until we had a freakish overly-hot day and even the shade didn’t protect the babies. Mr. B asked, after noticing there was only brown, withered plantings in the containers, what I was going to grow in the plant containers I had sitting in the shade.

    The whole planting bed with light is the only hiccup for me. No room in the garage or house. Can’t wait to see what you come up with for the linky party next week…way to put pressure on a blog friend!
    Karen

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

      Come on, what do you mean no room in your house? I’ve seen that lovely sitting area you have… wouldn’t it be so much nicer with some dirty trays and florescent lights?

      I never even got my spinach planted… it bolted on a REALLY warm day…and then went back to being cold! So annoying!!

      Reply

  5. Kevin R
    May 7, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    I didn’t know a lot of this… so thank you! Now I know what I am missing (light) and how to proceed !!! Thanks!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

      Hey! I’m so glad!! While I was writing it out… I kind of thought—no one will be interested in all this! I’m glad to know at least one person was!

      Good luck with your garden!!

      Reply

  6. the misfit
    May 7, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

    I’m pretty sure I took biology (and even paid attention), but for whatever reason I did not know most of these things, so this is extremely informative. I generally understand that certain parts cut off of certain plants can form their own roots, but I thought the only system governing what and when was Murphy’s Law: in other words, when I cut bits off my climbing roses because I want more roses for free, they will not form new plants, and the cuttings will die; when I dig weeds to prepare my raised beds and chop them in pieces with the shovel and I accidentally leave a tiny piece of weed stem in the bed with my squash, it will form the world’s largest dandelion at night while I am sleeping, take over the bed, and murder the squash. I’m pretty sure this is still true, but if you say you can make two zinnias from one, then I will believe you, and also, I will not freak out if one of the wee pots I’ve set up fails to take, because I can MAKE MORE. Theoretically. (I am not going to pinch the plants to make them bushier, because I can see the result as clearly as an oncoming train: whatever I remove will be exactly what that plant needed for its survival, and every single thing I’ve planted will die, except faster than last year.)

    Sort of related musings: I couldn’t find the “Benary” zinnia at the store where (I know) I should not have bought them, so I bought a different kind of giant repeat-blooming zinnia. I started them in tiny pots on Sunday, because if I can see them before they go in their bed, I have some chance at telling which things are weeds. They are germinating (I like to think) on the “sun” porch, which faces East; they’re getting very little direct light. I would haul them outside and put them in crazy sunlight (here in the swamp, we have lots of that), but it is raining all day, and probably all week, and it will not be specially warm. I imagine this would kill them. (I kill all my plants; I come up with a new method every time. I am just trying to avoid the obvious ones.)

    Am I doomed because I started them before a week of bad weather? Will they germinate EVENTUALLY in limited light? Can I just put them in the bright sun next week? Would they survive the rain? Should I just admit this is futile and buy some stupid pansies? Many thanks for your extremely wise guidance. I have decided to hold off loathing you for your magnificent garden until August, when my gardening failures will be complete.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 2:01 pm

      I’m copy and pasting your description of Murphy’s law of gardening to a safe place… it’s really the best definition I’ve read.

      I do not know why nature made it so difficult to grow pretty things, and so easy to grow weeds… although I guess it’s a matter of perspective, since my neighbors grow a particularly invasive weed, as a flower. They love it. And they say things like—how hardy it is… and I’m like, yes! It’s EATING my yard. Do you not see me out here all summer? Digging it up???

      I wish I could say your zinnia will be fine… but I really have no idea. They MIGHT be. Especially if you put them out in full sun… you could even put them out in the rain. Since theoretically if it wasn’t raining, they’d be getting sun… which is probably better than being inside?

      Or just put the seeds where you want and mark the spot with a toothpick?

      p.s.- by August, the bugs will have destroyed the veg garden, and I will be telling you all to never bother growing anything again.

      Reply

  7. Danielle
    May 7, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

    You just pulled back the curtain and revealed why Martha is who she is and why you’ll make a fabulous replacement. This looks like a ton of work! But great reward when your new little plants grow into amazing flowers.

    And next time you tell me you don’t have patience for something I’m just gonna say, “Whatever… Plant Girl.” 😉

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

      I really, really, really cannot wait until I inherit Martha’s staff. It will be glorious. I have all kinds of plans for them.

      Reply

  8. Alex
    May 7, 2013 @ 1:25 pm

    Let me just say that this is much much more effective than me using my butcher knife to go to town on my hosta plants in the soil. I so need to get on doing this with the new plants I got. That I don’t know the names of. At all.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

      Hey, a knife will do wonders for weeding… it’s not until you either cut yourself or destroy your best cutlery that you second-guess the tool-choice.

      Reply

  9. SJPBF
    May 7, 2013 @ 2:21 pm

    I am in the garden as often as I can be these days, too. My hands are usually too dirty to get anywhere close to the camera, though, so there is precious little evidence. It’s bad news. BUT I have a suggestion for your zinnias. Have you considered peony hoops? they are lower profile than tomato cages, but should get the job done for you. I just them with my ginormous mums that do not know they are supposed to be annuals, and it helps their rotund selves stay relatively upright.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

      I did consider peony hoops… but I have 1,000 tomato cages (from before I learned how totally ineffective they are for tomatoes.) last year’s zinnia would have cleared the top of a cage (about,) so I’m hoping that mixing them in will get them camouflaged…

      Reply

  10. Mandy
    May 7, 2013 @ 5:25 pm

    Wow – you seriously know a lot about gardening! Your house looks like a science lab. I’m thinking of starting a vegetable garden…maybe you could do the research for me and then do a post on it….please. 😉 That would be awesome. Thanks in advance. 🙂

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

      It only looks like I know a lot… if I could keep my kale from being destroyed by nine kinds of bugs, THEN I would know a lot.

      Here is my advice: move next to someone with a nice veg garden… pick theirs in the night. 🙂

      Reply

  11. D'Arcy H
    May 8, 2013 @ 12:04 am

    Great botany tutorial! I am jazzed about sowing my zinnia seeds. (Yes, you talked me into it … you also talked me into little disco balls at Christmas, so you are a very influential woman!) This is a hard time of year to do anything BUT gardening because if you don’t, the weeds will get ahead of you and you’ll be lost all season. So much for our kitchen remodel! HA! I wish everyone luck with our zinnias … just think of them growing all across the country (all around the world?) … a zinnia nation!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 5:01 pm

      Getting nervous now… these seeds better live up to the hype I gave them. Otherwise I’ll never live it down.

      Reply

  12. Laurel
    May 8, 2013 @ 11:10 am

    I just did some googling and found that there are many white and purple zinnias that I can totally put in my front yard (promised myself not to go too crazy with color in the front yard)… There goes the whole “drought tolerant” plan I had!

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 8, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

      I don’t know why life thinks I have other things to do than this blog… totally annoying. I overlooked your comment on my last post about not too late for Dahlia… and I’d like to say to you:
      a- I am trying to do LESS.
      b- You didn’t even need to tell me that because I ordered Emory Paul IMMEDIATELY after googling it. I couldn’t not.

      Also, I wish I had one-third the enthusiasm for vegetables as I do for flowers.

      Reply

      • Laurel
        May 8, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

        I will be fully expecting photos of your emory paul blooms. I do believe that I managed to kill my emory paul over the winter…. or rather the strange super-invasive succulent groundcover that has overtaken one of my beds, may have strangled it to death. It’s quite unfortunate as this is the bed of dahlias that I like the most and like to bring in for cut flowers. The other bed is the “oh shit, what do I do with this tuber?” dahlias and they’re interplanted with nasturtiums which attract aphids.

        Reply

        • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
          May 8, 2013 @ 5:29 pm

          While was there… I went ahead and ordered 10 new ones… I love shopping for flowers. I don’t know WHY I thought could skip it this year… and am irritated I waited. (Normally I start them in the house)

          I have no idea where I will put them.

          Reply

          • Laurel
            May 8, 2013 @ 5:33 pm

            Were we separated at birth? I ended up buying more tomato plants than I have room for at a plant sale, then got home and frantically found some unclaimed pots to grow them in. Then last night when I was watering, decided that I needed to plant my beans and totally forgot to leave space for the tomatoes. So now I need to buy 2 more pots and somehow scare up enough soil to fill them in the next few days.

            Reply

  13. Sue
    May 8, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

    Best tutorial I have seen in a long time or maybe ever. I am not going to be growing any Zinnias this year and am mostly working on keeping up with the yard as it is and then once I have a handle on that, will branch out again with flowers. Your the best and the next Rachel Ray.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 9, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

      I always love when you visit me… I’d probably do better to focus on the rest of the yard/weeds… but I’m SO good at ignoring the bare patchy parts, and just looking at the flowers!!

      Happy Spring!

      Reply

  14. Elizabeth
    July 31, 2013 @ 12:45 pm

    The only plant I ever bother to root is basil. I like to grow lots of Italian sweet basil to make pesto (which can be frozen, as you may know). But it flowers and then tries to go to seed, which is not good if you want lovely sweet leaves. I used to go around pinching off the flowers, which gets pretty time-consuming, and even so, I’ll miss some and the plant will get leggy. Instead of trying to keep up with the flowers, I make cuttings from some of the plants tips–early in the season, before they starts to flower, put the cuttings in bottles of water on the kitchen counter. When the roots are developed enough to plant, pull up the original plants and make the pesto. Now plant the rooted cuttings. This way, you can have lots of fresh basil leaves throughout the summer. Also, it is nice to not have to make all of your pesto at once.

    Reply

  15. Karen
    September 6, 2013 @ 9:07 pm

    Hi Victoria,

    New reader, here. Can you tell me where you get the lights for your seedlings? I can’t find them on Amazon. Are they just regular fluorescent lights with special bulbs? Thanks. Love your blog. You are a hoot!

    Reply

  16. Maria Scaler
    March 28, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    Hi Victoria,

    I am new to your blog and just saw this article from last spring. I love your style and want to plant zinnias from seed! Can you please clarify the lights and containers you used? How many days did you place the seedlings under light? At what point did you stop using the heating pad? As the seedlings grew, did you have to adjust the light? How many days were they in your house? Once transportted did you have to fertilize a lot during the season? I live in DC so I think the timing will be similar…. if we ever get into SPRING!

    Thanks again! I really love your posts. I am also adding a bathroom and have read these posts. I am so glad that I am not alone as it’s taken me months to figure out the darn marble tile and finishes…. My husband is about to strangle me and says “crazy” things all the time regarding purchasing everything at Home Depot . Sigh.

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      March 29, 2014 @ 12:05 pm

      Cheap fluorescents from Home Depot
      Random assortment of plastic containers we already have
      Keep the seedlings under light until you plant outside
      Heat mat is optional… once they sprout, you can remove
      Mine went outside before I had to raise the height of the lamps
      No idea how many days in my house… I will keep track of that this year!
      I’m a leaf-mulch-fanatic… Best fertilizer there is!! I do not use any other fertilizers… I think they are evil. haha.
      GOOD LUCK!

      Reply

  17. stina
    November 11, 2014 @ 7:57 pm

    Oh! This is brilliant! I have a fittonia that has no leaves on the bottom 4-5 inches due to cat depradations, and now the poor thing is starting to fall over because it has no fullness on the bottom to provide support. Just did a quick lookup, and I can totally pinch the stems and hopefully get both new growth on the old plant, and new growth on the cuttings! Yay! Thank you!!!!!

    Reply

  18. Sarah
    May 10, 2015 @ 11:28 am

    I just planted some zinnias and my mom told me to pinch off the flowers. Then I read this post and thought I’d try popping them into a planter. Will this work with the flower itself and a bit of stem?

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 10, 2015 @ 11:48 am

      yes… BUT, the plant won’t support the flower because no roots = no water system to flower. Cut off the flower, root the stem/one set of leaves (so that it looks like the cuttings in the photos).

      Then, keep the cutting watered… don’t let it dry out. It should root fairly quickly, but the first week is crucial!

      Reply

  19. teresa
    May 20, 2015 @ 1:45 pm

    Hello Victoria Elizabeth Barnes – you are a delight. I just discovered you because I have sown many many zinnia seeds. They’re coming up nicely, which thrills me every morning. (Not too much else happening except that my cat is purring more lately.) My question – I planted them rather densely because I like that look – but everybody always says ‘thin them out thin them out’. Must I?

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      May 21, 2015 @ 10:47 am

      Well, that depends. If this is your first year doing zinnia, my guess would be that it is LIKELY you have been overzealous.
      I myself can relate.

      I plant my giant zinnia about 10 to 12 inches apart. It is hard when they are small to imagine just how large the plant will get. And you want it to have plenty of airflow – Zinnia are prone to mildew.

      If you are doing a smaller zinnia variety, you might want to plant closer… If you still have the seed packages, the instructions are probably pretty good advice.

      Also, don’t forget to pinch them! It makes all the difference in the world in how bushy the plant gets.
      xoxo
      VEB

      Reply

  20. Patrick
    June 23, 2015 @ 9:48 am

    Yikes!

    Just had a giant Zinnia fall over. What is the magic formula for saving it?

    You cut one up and got 5 new plants. Do I need to cut the heads of fond replant the stems? Just hit the above a leaf stem?

    I hate to lose this plant. It was a beaut.

    Thanks

    Reply

    • Victoria Elizabeth Barnes
      June 23, 2015 @ 9:54 am

      yup… you want the pieces you cut up to look like the last photo in this post… because there are no roots, the plant won’t sustain any flowers/excess foliage.

      put the cut piece (as much stem as possible) into ground and keep it WET, especially if super hot!!

      Should root quickly, but be sure to water regularly until you see new growth is happening, then can relax a little.

      Plants will never be as tall as original… so don’t plant at back of border.

      Reply

  21. Sharon Cobb
    April 20, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

    This info is great! I am a beginner at this and you have answered sooo many questions I had!

    Reply

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