Probably the most frequently planted flower, petunias are standard plant material for both flower beds and potted plants for porches. These fragrant, sturdy plants can be enjoyed in many bright colors such as white, red, purple, pink and yellow.
Both double flowered and single flowered petunia varieties are available. If you want a flower that smells good, looks beautiful and functions well as a splash of color, the beautiful petunia is the flower for you.
Many flower fans treat petunias as annuals and replant their favorite varieties each year. In warmer climates such as USDA zone 9-11, petunias are perennials and don’t need to be replanted.
Types of Petunias
There are four different types of petunia, namely, grandiflora, milliflora, spreading and multiflora. As the name suggests, grandiflora petunias are a great specimen plant with very large flowers that are three to four inches across. Gardeners tend to place Grandiflora petunias in baskets because the enormous flowers can be a major focal point in an arrangement. These petunias are easily damaged by wind and weather, especially rain damage, and like the protection of living in a pot or a hanging arrangement.
Grandiflora petunias have fewer, larger flowers than the multiflora petunia. When planting Grandiflora petunias in pots, allow them to trail over the edges of the container.
Multiflora petunias, as the name suggests, contain a plethora of flowers that are smaller but more numerous than Grandiflora petunias. This showy flower power makes these splashes of color perfect as bedding plants or container plants. They weather the storms of summer better than grandiflora petunias do, and therefore tolerate being part of a mixed flower bed or border.
Millliflora petunias grow in a more compact manner than do the larger species of petunia. Milliflora petunias work well in pots or in spaces where a smaller plant with a dash of color is needed.
Spreading petunias reach only six inches tall. They tend to grow wide and spread along the ground, making a lovely ground cover with luxuriously blooming flowers.
How to Plant Petunias
Petunias are readily available as bedding plants at many garden nurseries.
If you want to save some money or plant specific colors and types of petunias, you can easily start your plants indoors and transplant them. It is very rewarding to start your plants from seed and watch them come into maturity.
Growing Petunias from Seeds
The natural seeds of petunias are mere specks and hard to see and plant. So many seed retailers put a coating around the seed to make it easier to work with.
When growing petunias from seed, you will need several items such as:
- Potting soil that is loose and fine. Add some perlite or vermiculite if needed to break up the ground
- A container or a flat for planting and use the expanding peat pots available in gardening centers
- A water source that will gently water the seeds in
- A sunny place for your seeds
Place your seeds on the surface of the soil. Put several seeds in each container. You can press them gently into the soil, but they don’t need to be placed under the dirt. Water the seeds in thoroughly. Keep the top of the soil moist but don’t overwater. In a few days, tiny leaves will emerge. Once the petunia has three leaves, begin setting the baby plants outdoors to harden them off to the temperatures outdoors.
Don’t start to place your petunias outdoors until all danger of frost is over in your area. Plant your new petunia plants in a sunny spot in well-drained soil that offers protection from the wind. Petunias will also grow in partial shade but perform and flower better in full sun. Place the plants about six inches apart in beds.
Choosing Petunias from Your Local Nursery
When choosing small pots of petunias for transplanting from a garden center or nursery, look for several qualities of a great petunia plant, such as:
- Healthy looking, solid green leaves.
- Plants with buds about to burst into bloom.
- Plants that look like they have been well cared for by the nursery.
Pick off any spent blooms before planting. Plant the petunia in well-drained soil enriched with compost if necessary. Make the hole about 1.5 times deeper and wider than the plant’s root ball. Place the root ball gently in the soil, cover the plant’s roots, add fertilizer if necessary and water in thoroughly.
Caring for Your Petunia Plants
Petunias are heat tolerant. Water your petunia plants about once per week or when the top of the soil becomes dry. Water any petunias you may have in pots more frequently. Test the dryness of the potted petunias by sticking your finger in the potting soil. If the soil is dry, add moisture to the dirt around the plant.
Water your potted plant thoroughly to encourage root growth. Make your watering even more efficient by using a water soluble fertilizer when you water to produce even more flowers and a stronger, healthier plant.
One of the major reasons for growing petunias is for the amazingly beautiful flowers. Once the flowers fade, pinch them or cut them off. Deadheading petunias is an excellent way to keep your petunias in perpetual bloom.
Deadheading includes pinching off the base of the petunia flower, which also removes any potential seeds. Once petunia flowers are allowed to go to seed, they stop blooming. So keep seed pods from collecting by removing the base of the petunia flower as well as the spent flower itself.
Some recommended varieties include:
- The Carpet Series, which is great as a ground cover and includes a wide variety of colors.
- Rose Star, an exquisite pink striped petunia with a white center.
- Sugar Daddy, which had dark veins on a purple background.
If you keep your petunias adequately watered, fertilized and deadheaded, you should have a large number of flowers per petunia plant that will enhance your porch, patio or outdoor flowerbeds. Plant some petunias today and enjoy them for the duration of your growing season.