While many avid gardeners flock to new trends and innovative hybrids, there is still nothing quite as satisfying as the timeless charm of the good, old-fashioned petunia. Growing petunias is a hobby that continues to be enjoyed by gardeners who appreciate the variety, the colorful, long-lasting display of blooms, the fragrance, and the easy care of these enduring favorites. And while they may be an old-fashioned idea, new varieties of petunias continue to be developed every year, just to keep it interesting.
Petunias have a wide, trumpet shaped flower that can range from one to four or more inches in diameter, depending on the variety. The petals may be arranged in a single or double display, with a smooth or ruffled surface. The color options range from delicate pastels to breath-takingly vibrant brights, to a variety of bi-colored or striped selections in just about every hue except blue or orange. Your choice of color mixes will give your garden or container just the character you want. Most petunia species are annuals, and die at the first frost, but there are some newer species and tropical varieties that return year after year in milder climates.
Older varieties such as Grandiflora and Multiflora have a mounding effect for a dramatic impact when placed in mass groupings in beds and borders. Newer, spreading types of petunias likewise are good in beds, but they are also excellent as ground cover or in dramatic cascades down the sides of window boxes, hanging baskets, or other containers.
Petunias Are Easy to Grow
Unlike some of the more persnickety flowers, petunias can handle a range of pH levels in the soil. They do best when they’re placed in soil that is neither too sandy nor too heavy with clay. Augmenting the soil with organic elements such as peat moss, leaf compost, or manure combined with perlite or vermiculite will provide the ideal combination of nutrient availability and drainage.
They Need Sun
For consistent blooming, petunias should have at least six hours of full sun. If you live in an area where the summers are mild, you’ll get good results from allowing your plants to enjoy full sun all day long. Petunias in hotter areas may need some shade in the hottest part of the day; excessively high temperatures tend to discourage them from blooming.
If you’re interested in growing petunias from seeds, you should sow them indoors about 8 weeks before you intend to transplant them into your garden. The seeds are very tiny and they need light to germinate, so just sprinkle them over a moist surface and lightly press them into the soil without covering them. Keep them warm and moist, and when it’s time to transplant them to their permanent location, give them plenty of water and fertilizer to get the blooming started.
Spacing requirements vary between different types of petunias, so read the recommendations on seed packets to get the proper spacing between plants. To keep them blooming all summer, keep them hydrated, but not saturated, and feed about every three weeks after mid-July
Most Don’t Need Deadheading
.Most modern species of petunias don’t require deadheading or pruning to keep blooming abundantly, but there are a few varieties, mostly the older ones, that still need to get that extra bit of grooming to continue to set buds. That being said, it’s not a terrible idea to cut back some of the newer varieties, as well. A nice trim about mid-season can keep the branches from getting too leggy, and rejuvenate your hard-working petunia plants. Avoid any deadheading after a rain, as the wet petals tend to be a little mushy.
Considering the minimum amount of time, money, and effort required for growing petunias, it’s amazing the maximum reward you’ll receive by using these delightful flowers to add color and character to your landscape.
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