Zinnias

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

This is the 1st time I tried Zinnias and I failed completely.
I purchased 12 small plants in the spring and lost 2 before I planted them to a sudden collapse, black on stems.
Of the other 10, 8 were planted in pots and 2 directly in the herb garden.
I have 1 left, all the rest slowly had the stems blacken after being fine for weeks.
Help, what did I do wrong?
The potting mix was organic with added compost.
The 2 in the earth were put in the herb garden that has sandy quickly draining soil.
I used a liquid organic fertilizer, a mix of seaweed and fish emulsion once.

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