Anyone of voting age with a mother who gardens probably remembers old-fashioned petunias. Their fragrant, ruffled blossoms in every conceivable color have long been a fixture in flowerbeds. Today, we enjoy many new trailing and mounding types. They do great in containers and stand up like troupers to Southern weather.
Modern petunias are hybrids of species such as the white petunia (Petunia axillaris) and violet petunia (P. violacea, also sold as P. integrifolia). While the former is rarely cultivated, the latter is a rediscovered favorite. This trailing plant with small, rosy purple flowers blooms nonstop from spring until fall.
Purple Wave Petunias
‘Purple Wave’ spreads out like a ground cover; a single plant can ramble 4 feet or more. Sporting 2- to 3-inch blossoms, it blooms all summer without being pinched back. Purple was the first color of the series, but now you can buy pink, lavender, lilac, and blue versions too.
Hybrid Millifloras, a newer class of dwarf petunias, form mounds 6 to 8 inches high and wide. They need no pinching to keep blooming. Small 1- to 1½-inch flowers come in every color except yellow. The Fantasy Series is perfect for pots, window boxes, and hanging baskets.
How to Grow Petunias
Petunias prefer full sun with good air circulation and fertile, loose, well-drained soil. To keep them going and making more flowers, feed them every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer such as 15-30-15 or 20-20-20. Once plants are established, pinch back by half to encourage compact growth.
Best New Petunia Variety
A brand-new petunia we’re gaga about is ‘Shock Wave Purple.’ A single plant quickly spreads 2 to 4 feet, smothering itself with small, gaudy blossoms all summer. It grows flat along the ground until it encounters other flowers, whereupon it climbs up onto them. Note that it doesn’t like to be cut back. This petunia also comes in white, blush, and pink.
"Dazzling Petunias" is from Southern Living's Container Gardening.