Passion for petunias
Oh, sure, you say, who can goof up a petunia? Anyone who thinks these sturdy summer annuals don't need a thing.
Petunias don't need much. But in return for a little effort, you can probably get more bloom from your buck than any annual out there. Think of all the colors petunias provide from crayon-colored reds and blues to groovier violets with green edges. Petunias are the perfect pop of color when you need some.
Shapes and sizes are evolving, with deadhead-free Supertunias from growers like Proven Winners to the groundcover Wave and Surfinias that can cover up to three feet of space in good growing conditions. There is something in the petunia clan for any situation, from hanging baskets to garden beds and potted sorts for the porch.
Petunia aficionados know what petunia to put where. Grandifloras have the largest blooms, can be ruffled, but bloom the least. Multifloras are similar to Grandifloras but have smaller blooms and are single-petaled. You usually get your dark purples from these groups, and many are highly scented.
Milliflora are dwarf petunias and have smaller flowers and a mounding habit that is perfect for pots. Trailing petunias are best for hanging baskets and groundcovers.
Let your nursery person know what you want to achieve, and they can help you choose the right type for your garden.
Full sun to a wee bit of shade is essential. Petunias will want all the sunshine they can get to keep the blooms coming along. A consistent but weak feed while watering with something organic helps, too.
To pinch or not to pinch the sticky stems? You will want to deadhead and pinch back the old-fashioned trailing type of petunias as they can get sparse and leggy-looking at the crown as the summer progresses. Keep pinching.
Petunias, like fuchsias, are branchers. The more you pinch, the bushier the plant will grow. Keep this in mind as you train your petunias throughout the season to grow in a habit that works for you.
You will want to keep your petunias moist – not wet. Wet conditions cause fungal problems.
And speaking of problems, if your petunia blossoms are getting munched beyond recognition, look closely at the plant and you might find budworms are the culprit. Budworms are hard to see as they often take on the exact color of the plant they are eating. They are easy enough to treat – just pick them off as you find them and change out the soil of potted plants once a year where budworm eggs can overwinter.
Pro tip: If you can, water petunias underneath the foliage as you'll notice the blooms close when they get wet and it can take a few hours for them to open again.
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