Perfectly petunia

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How do you like your petunias? Big and blousy or dainty and diminutive? Spreading and tumbling or chunky and upright? Striped, starred, multi-toned or plain? Bright brazen reds, pinks and yellows, cool blues and purples, ‘antique’ pastels, snowy white, or black as night? Whatever your look, you’ll find it among today’s amazing smorgasbord of vigorous, floriferous and long flowering petunias.

Worldwide, petunias are the most cherished flowers for window boxes, pots and hanging baskets. And never have we had so many gorgeous varieties to choose from.

Today’s modern strains flower profusely and from spring through autumn. Just one plant fills the space of ten old-fashioned seedling petunias. These new age petunias are highly successful in pots because of their ability to perform in hot dry conditions. As well, they’re infinitely more rain resistant than the petunias we planted a generation ago. No longer must we put up with flowers that languish like soggy tissues in wet weather. Whether you plant your petunias in pots of their own or blend them with other summer bloomers, there is hardly a more failsafe choice for summer containers.

These vampy velvet trumpets range from coin-size to cup-size and they’re produced in astounding volume in a non-stop display from spring till the first frosts of winter. The sooner you plant them, the longer you’ll enjoy their startling effects!

No matter how small your garden or how limiting your soil may be, petunias make it easy and inexpensive to fill your summer with flowers. In Europe, limited outdoor space has never repressed the passion for gardening. Everywhere you look colour effuses from window boxes, hanging baskets and pots bulging with flowers spilling out from all sides.

Apart from their beauty and endurance, petunias are a first choice among container plants because of their ability to perform in hot weather and lower watering requirements. They’re often mixed with ivy geraniums, silver helichrysum, yellow bidens and blue or white lobelias, but there is hardly a more failsafe choice for summer pots and baskets than petunias.

There are new and improved petunia genes at both ends of the cost spectrum. As the lower cost option, seeds and seedling petunias sold in punnets (or as ‘potted colour’) comprise varieties that perform better than ever. For a little more we can buy one large, multi-branching petunia plant that will quickly fill a large pot or basket, one plant often doing the job of up to ten bedding plants.

Tried and true

The ‘Colourwave’ petunias started a petunia revolution when they romped onto the scene in the mid nineties, flowering continuously for six to nine months.  Still a top choice among gardeners internationally, they keep on getting better. Check out the colour range at www.colourwave.co.nz

Supersized

Recently released ‘Happitunia’ petunias are another highly successful strain of fuss-free, perpetual summer bloomers. They include the top-rated ‘Bubblegum’ series in shades of pink and white. These super vigorous, low- maintenance plants are great landscape or basket fillers, reaching 40-60cm tall and covering at least 60cm in diameter. The Bubblegum petunias are truly perennial and will last for about 3 years in pots or planted in the garden. They will take a light frost, although in colder climates they’re best in tubs to survive the winter. Another Happitunia is the unique ‘Pretty Much Picasso’ with bright violet flowers edged lime green. Find out more at www.aussiewinners.com.au.

Tidy trendsetters

The very latest ‘Crazytunias’ are set apart by their vigorous yet tight, chunky growth habit and their uniquely beautiful colours, including darkest unfading ‘Black Mamba’. Other exciting new petunias offering brand new colour combos are ‘Bumblebee’, ‘Blue a Fuse’ and ‘Twilight’.

Little bells

The dainty bell flowers of the Calibrachoas are, for all intents and purposes, mini petunias. They are however classified as a separate plant species, albeit very closely related. Calibrachoas are known variously as ‘Millionbells’, ‘Superbells’, and ‘Sunbells’. The small flowers, just a few centimetres wide are produced in teaming hundreds completely smothering their strong spreading plants with attractive small leaves. Like their larger flowered cousins they are long blooming, sun loving and highly weather tolerant.

Dwarf Calibrachoas, ‘Calipetites’ produce tiny flowers on close-packed low growing plants just 15cm tall x 30cm wide, ideal for pots and for beautifying outdoor table tops, they also make colourful groundcover or garden edging.  

Clever cross

Crossing Petunia with Calibrachoa to combine the best qualities of each has resulted in the SuperCal Petchoas.  These plants combine large flowers with small, non-sticky leaves on a vigorous heat tolerant plant that is more cold tolerant than most petunias. Dubbed the ‘all-weather’ petunias, SuperCals grow about 30cm tall by 40cm wide. Strong roots minimise disease problems.

Getting the best from petunias ...

  • Petunias will flower in full sun or partial shade, but the more sun they see, the more they’ll flower.
  • Well-drained soil or potting mix is essential.
  • Although petunias are drought tolerant, they’ll give their best performance with summer watering.
  • Petunias perform best with feeding. Use slow release fertiliser at planting time with extra liquid feeding up to three times during the season.
  • Most modern strains drop their flowers cleanly and generally don’t require dead-heading, but occasional light trimming keeps plants looking tidy and encourages further flowering.

Petunias from Seed

Petunia seed is very tiny, but not difficult to strike.

  1. Fill a tray with seed raising mix.
  2. Water thoroughly and let it drain.
  3. Gently tap the seeds out of the packet for an even spread (pre-mixing with equal parts of dry sand can help).
  4. Press the seeds down so that they come in contact with the mix.
  5. Light is needed for germination but the tray may be covered with clear plastic to retain moisture until the seedlings appear.
  6. Three to five weeks after sowing, your petunia seedlings should be large enough to transplant.

 

 

Look for these products, tips and advice at a Go Gardening Store near you.



27-Nov-2013

 

Petunia border

Crazytunia Bitter Lemon
Crazytunia Bitter Lemon

Petunia Pretty Much Picasso
Petunia Pretty Much Picasso

Petunia Bubblegum
Petunia Bubblegum

Petunia Blue a Fuse
Petunia Blue a Fuse

SuperCal Petchoa Terracotta
SuperCal Petchoa Terracotta

Calibrachoa Cherry Star
Calibrachoa Cherry Star

Superbells Calibrachoa Coral Cherry Punch
Superbells Calibrachoa Coral Cherry Punch"

Petunia Twilight
Petunia Twilight

Calibrachoa Calipetites
Calibrachoa Calipetites

Yates' Fusion Petunias
Yates' Fusion Petunias
Yates' Fusion Petunias make it easy to create your own beautiful effects from seed. Small pellets made from very fine clay contain three to five seeds each. As the seeds germinate, plants fuse together producing a beautiful close-knit blend of foliage and flowers - a lovely tapestry effect that can’t be achieved with conventional transplanting.