Summer in the garden would not seem the same without Petunia flower gracing flower beds, pots and containers, widow boxes and hanging baskets. They really are that versatile and are one of the most important of all summer bedding plants. As with all things garden plants and flowers, you need to know how to take care of Petunias. Sow and grow then see what happens, works well, but for a mass of Petunia flowers throughout the summer a little bit of extra petunia care goes a long way. You will be well rewarded.
Petunia flowers are sun lovers; no getting away from that; with a summer downpour of rain leaving them as bedraggled as we would be without protection. But rain stops; Petunias shake off the dampness and its back in business with masses of petunia bell flowers cheering us up through summer.
It therefore goes without saying, that the planting position of petunia plants is important. Leave the dark corners and shaded areas of the garden for the likes of the begonias and impatiens which will thrive. Petunias want sun; give them what they want for maximum pleasure return for you and your garden.
Bedding Petunias are annual plants lasting just the one summer season. They cannot be over-wintered or in any way saved as plants for the following year. Some types of trailing petunias – Surfina varieties for instance – can be treated as perennials with late summer cuttings taken to be over-wintered in a warm greenhouse.
There are several methods of growing petunias. Simply choose the best growing method that fits in with your level of expertise and time allowance.
Most petunias are bought as young plants from garden centers or nurseries – either as a few plants in a bedding plant strip, or as small patted plants – often showing the first bell flower as a good selling point. This also help you in choice of colour, for the colour range of petunias encompasses white through to deep red – and all the pink shades between; delicate mauve to deepest purple; with oranges and yellows also thrown in to give you maximum colour choice.
The young plant purchase method is for those who want an instant splash of colour. Most garden and window box petunia flowers start life this way.
Petunias can also be bought as small seedling plants in plug units. Depending upon size, these can either be planted out or placed in window boxes, patio pots or hanging baskets, where they will soon multiply in size and produce flowers within a few weeks. It is sometimes necessary to pot into larger pots if the weather is not quite right for planting out. This takes a little time, added materials an of course suitable growing space and conditions.
Petunia seeds germinate quite easily and do not need a high temperature. If growing petunia seeds in a heated propagator, carefully gauge the temperature to mid range - 70-75 degrees F - 21-23 degrees C maximum. Once germinated grow cooler or plants will become leggy!
Aim for cool growing conditions and a nice compact bushy petunia seedling. Flowering time from seed sowing in ideal conditions is 12 - 14 weeks. That’s more than three months of total care! – Do you have time and space?
Do NOT plant Petunias outside until all frosts have gone - late is better than early! Make sure the plants are properly hardened off.
Location is important for Petunias. In the garden beds and borders, the sunniest position with moist soil conditions is ideal. Not easy to combine both situations so don’t worry too much. Petunias are happy in dry areas once established. They will simply need watering for a few weeks after planting to ensure that they get settled in without too much stress. After that, watering only in the driest conditions is necessary.
You will be planting small plants but do not make the common mistake of planting too close together. Most petunias are best planted a minimum of 9in apart (20cm) and will soon grow to cover up any bare soil between. Good spacing of your petunias also ensures compact plants rather than untidy, unproductive spindles of shoots. Planting Bedding Plants
Did the hole slightly bigger than the plant pot or plug plant. Insert the petunia and firm into position with a bit of fine or sifted soil. Give plant of water which will settle the soil nicely around your new petunia plant.
Planting petunias in hanging baskets is much the same and is covered fully in this separate article about growing petunias in hanging baskets.
Once planted in garden, container, window box or hanging basket, petunias are not overly demanding in the cultural sense. Easy to grow would be a good description for petunias.
Given that all the ideal conditions above are met, the most important activity is to regularly remove the dead and faded flowers. This extends the flowering season and keeps the plants in good condition. Petunias flower on the tips of permanently lengthening stems. After a while the stems become untidy and look messy. The longer less productive stems can be cut back halfway to encourage side shoots which increases the flowering ability of the petunia plants.
Petunias planted in all manner of containers including hanging baskets tend to dry out quite quickly so daily watering may be necessary. This will also have the effect of leaching out any residual food in the potting compost, so supplementary feeding with a general liquid fertiliser will be necessary. This will probably need to be carried out on a weekly basis – but not with a strong fertiliser mix. Adhere to the mixing instructions on the carton. They are all different, so the is no universal advice that can be safely given.
Aphids are the main insect pest problem - materialising as greenfly. This is so with Petunias planted in all situations, and needs careful surveillance to catch them early. Under the leaves and on flower buds are the main areas to look for them.
Slugs - of course - may be a problem in damp humid conditions, though are not happy in the dry conditions tat petunias enjoy.
Diseases are confined to several types of Viruses. Incurable, but prevented with good cultivation techniques.