Petunia

Petunias are one of the most popular flowering plants for gardens. They are grown all over the world now, but they were not always as attractive as they are today.  There are 30+ species of wild Petunia native to Argentina, but all of the varieties available today are thought to be descended from just two. Brought to Europe in the 1800’s, neither of these varieties was very exciting as a garden plant, they had small flowers and did not have an attractive form. People began to experiment, however, by crossing the two together. This was kind of a hit or miss process, and created a lot of random colors, some with double flowers. These were not truly hybrids because they could not be consistently reproduced. It was not until the 1930’s that seed was produced that always grew into double flowers. Once double flowers were conquered, breeders began to work on other desirable characteristics such as bigger flowers, better disease and weather resistance, more compact plants and more abundant flowers.

Petunias belong to the family Solanaceae, and are closely related to potatoes, tomatoes, deadly nightshade, chili peppers and tobacco. The name Petunia is said to be taken from the French word for tobacco. They have trumpet shaped flowers and hairy, somewhat sticky foliage. Some can be grown as perennials in tropical areas, but most of them are treated as annuals. They look wonderful grown in large masses in the garden, and the spreading types do well as ground cover, or in hanging baskets or containers. Some of them have a pleasant scent, and they make good cut flowers. Don’t eat them though, they are not edible.

Today, there are many different types of Petunias. Flowers come in a wide range of sizes, from 1 to 4 inches, and in almost every color, except blue and black. Some have yellow throats, some have white edges, and varieties are found that are ruffled, double, veined, single, double, striped, smooth and bicolor. Petunias will bloom through the summer, requiring little care. Those planted in containers will need more frequent watering, and some varieties also need to be deadheaded often to keep them blooming. All they ask is well drained soil, and at least 6 hours or more of full sun a day.

I usually have Petunias in my yard every year. Lately, they have been in hanging baskets. It is so nice to sit out on the porch and smell their lovely fragrance. This year, in an effort to save some money, I planted several types of seeds, including Petunias. The seed packet neglected to mention that seeds take 10-12 weeks to grow large enough to plant outside. Also, the seeds are incredibly tiny, and it is difficult to tell how many you are planting. After a month, my Petunias are about an inch tall and are impossibly skinny. Right now, it is kind of hard to believe they will ever grow enough. Maybe I am just impatient, they still have 5-7 weeks more to grow. We’ll see.

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3 Responses to “Petunia”

  1. Kem Says:

    I have never tried petunias from seed! Please let us know how it goes. By the way, I am trying Black-eyed Susan vine from seed (they looked cool in your post). They’re 3-4″ now, and I’m about ready to transfer them to pots.

    • margaretsgarden Says:

      I am also growing Black-eyed Susan Vine from seed and I am amazed at how quickly they are growing. They were planted at the same time as the Petunias and are now about 6 inches tall and working on their 3rd set of leaves. Last year they were all yellow and this year I got the mixed type, with several different colors. Can’t wait to see how they look!

  2. Kem Says:

    Cool! I think mine are all yellow…or at least the picture on the package was all yellow. 🙂

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