The petunia is an annual flowering plant whose popularity has only grown from the twentieth into the twenty-first century.
The tubular flowers, in a variety of colors ranging from soft pastels to rich jewels, scramble along in landscapes and trail down hanging baskets with equal enthusiasm.
Petunia plant varieties fit into a mix of garden styles. Petunias will creep along to fill up open ground in a landscape or tumble off the rim of a container.
The varieties of petunia plants and its flowers have exploded exponentially as breeders have sought unusual colors and improved growth habits.
Identifying a Petunia Plant and its Flowers
The petunia (Petunia spp. and cvs.) has early fragrant flowers with ovate shaped leaves that have a slight hairy feel. The plants produce a plethora of big blooms relative to the foliage.
Petunias are bodacious, and each bloom has a funnel-shaped corolla tube and the petals with a feel of soft velvet. Each bloom grows with a diameter roughly from 2” – 4” wide, which by annual- bedding-plant-flower standards, is big.
Petunia plant varieties are described as grandiflora, multiflora or the species plant, Petunia integrifolia. Many new cultivars are bred with a mix of varieties or species to create more hybrid petunias.
The grandiflora grows very large blooms that reach approximately 5” across. The down side of grandiflora flowers is that they do not withstand downpours of rain well – ending up like wet tissue.
Despite that, the Daddy series is a beautiful example of a grandiflora; its heavily veined blooms run from pink to salmon-pink to purple or lavender-blue and grow on an approximate 14” tall plant, reaching a spread of 12” – 36.” The lavender-blue flower has often been used for the popular red-white-and-blue combination gardeners like to plant for July 4th celebrations.
The multiflora petunia is a bushier plant that produces many smaller flowers that reach from 2” – 3” across. The Horizon series includes ‘Horizon Red Halo’ and is marked by white throats in a red flower. Wave petunias are mutiflora petunias and exhibit their characteristic spreading habit.
Petunia integrifolia is a wild petunia. The blooms have a dark violet inside and a rose-violet red on outer petals. Petunia integrifolia is treated as a short-lived shrub or a big annual plant, which will grow 24” tall in the garden.
Garden Styles with a Variety of Colorful Petunias
Color is an intoxicating feature of petunias. Whether planted in mass in a wide sweeping landscape or in a saucer to be seen as you turn the corner into a small patio, your eye will drink in that space.
But beyond color, petunias have some distinctive markings. Petals on a variety of petunias may be fringed, doubled with many layers, a star pattern imprinted or with picotee margins.
Cultivars of petunias are in abundance:
- Petunia ‘Red Picotee’ was named the All-America Selections winner in 1983.
- The purple Wave™ petunia has 3” blooms, stays 4” – 6” tall, but spreads 4’ – 5.’
- Petunia ‘Razzle Dazzle Mix’ is a collection of reds and blues contrasted with white into a large star on each flower, which are favored for July 4th garden decorations, too.
- Supertunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’ has bright pink flowers that have reddish purple veins. The plant has a cascading upright habit of a couple of feet.
- Petunias in ‘Black,’ ‘Pinstripe’ and ‘Phantom’ were a break-through for plant breeders and are favored by gardeners for autumn plantings.
Petunias attract hummingbirds and beneficial insects, such as butterflies and bees, to any garden style outdoors.
Basic Plant Care for Petunias
Petunias are only hardy in zone 11; however their habitat can extend to zone 8 where gardens are protected from freezing temperatures and overnight frosts. Its seeds will germinate at approximately 70 degree and it is possible to root the soft stems of petunias from cuttings.
Petunias grow well in sunny to part sunny conditions and prefer moist well-draining soils. Regular watering is necessary when and where hot sunny days are common.
As plants continue growing during a long growing season, the stems will stretch out; the plant should be trimmed back to rejuvenate it.
Deadheading is an important maintenance chore for petunias especially after a rainfall. Petunia flowers that are big take on a wet-tissue appearance and are best handled by removing the soggy petals.
Compare and Contrast Petunias with Calibrachoa
Calibrachoa may be called a mini-petunia and although they are related, Calibrachoa and Petunia are distinct plants which behave differently in a garden.
Million bells (Calibrachoa sp.) are self-cleaning – that means its dried up flowers will drop from the plant and, because they are tiny, will fall through to the ground.
Calibrachoa plants are better tolerating light shade and some drought.
Petunias are a high-impact annual flowering plant and easy to grow in a summer garden in the ground or in containers.