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Strange Zinnias and Plant Withering

For the first time in 25 years, my tall zinnias did not grow well. They grew malformed, with short, fat, stems on a long main branch; the leaves were small and curly; the flower buds were mutated and some were brownish. If there was a flower, there were none or barely any yellow centers, and the petals had stunted growth. I used no pesticides; only some liquid fertilizer. Also, what makes annuals suddenly wither and die, while the one next to it is fine? Thank you very much!
Submitted by BHGPhotoContest

It sounds as if your zinnias were infected with a virus of some kind. These are often spread by aphids and other sucking insects. If you bought the plants as youngsters, they were probably infected before you bought them. You would be wise to destroy all the affected plant material rather than putting it on your compost pile. Also gather up and destroy any leaves that have droped. Next year fill the space with another kind of plant and put your zinnias elsewhere, just to be on the safe side.

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