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What's Not to Love About Petunias?

I’m not talking about those sticky, lanky petunias that your grandmother grew. Old-fashioned petunias do have a place, and that place is in the past.  Remember those big floppy flowers on straggly stems that looked so bedraggled after a hard rain?  Or those doubles that melted with mold and ended up looking like used tissues?  No, no, I’m not talking about those. 

Today we can enjoy a plethora of petunias that are easy to grow, that bloom profusely and require little care. Petunias show off in a wide variety of dramatic colors, novel shapes, and useful forms. Some are even scented. They attract butterflies and hummingbirds and they’re pretty disease resistant.  Add the fact that they will bloom consistently all summer and that makes petunias as a group one of the most popular sun-loving summer annuals.

Interest in petunias has grown tremendously since the end of WWII with breeders winning awards as early as 1941. As a result, the petunia world is a complex world. There are hundreds of named varieties, and by far, the most popular series of petunias is the ‘Supertunia’ family. Grown from cuttings, not from seeds, supertunias are vigorous growers with non-stop blooms.  They are perfect for window boxes and hanging baskets, and certain varieties will create a fabulous ground cover.   They don’t need deadheading, and the flowers look great all the time, perking up a couple hours after a heavy storm.   They are heavy feeders and using a time release fertilizer is important.  They are naturally fast growers, so they need nutritional support to keep growing and blooming.  They make the perfect hanging baskets, but a word of caution: they are thugs and may overtake many weaker plants in a basket, so plant them where they won’t compete with other specimens.

Care: Planted in the ground, supertunias should have a deep watering once a week. Short, shallow waterings, as from a sprinkler system, contribute to weak roots and root diseases.  Once established in baskets or window boxes, water thoroughly (until water runs through the drainage holes) whenever the top of the soil becomes dry to the touch. 

Within the supertunia group, there is some variation in height and spread, so be sure to check the individual labels if you are trying for a uniform look.  

If you haven’t tried petunias in a few years, try some supertunias.  Put them in a sunny spot and you won’t be disappointed.