Pretty Petunias.

Those of us that were affected by the Knysna Fires of 2017 were astounded by the array of plan life that emerged in early Spring.  A bounty of alien invasive weeds appeared,  amongst these aliens were Petunias in a wonderful palette of blues, mauves and pinks, with the odd white one. These plants originate from  hybrids grown in domestic gardens. They  reverted back to the original stock and no longer resemble the F1 hybrids of the cascading or  carpet series, but they are all showstoppers.

Petunias growing in vacant plot nextdoor

Somehow they are flourishing without any compost,  water,  deadheading or any TLC.  There are no Mites,  Caterpillars, Thrips,  Root, Stem and Crown Rots,  Botrytis Blight, Powdery Mildew,  Verticillium Wilt,  or Viruses. Personally I have never been a fan of Petunias, but they have eared my respect for being survivors, and I must admit they can look stunning in the right location.

 

(Extract from Gardenista)

Gardening 101: Petunias

 July 11, 2018

 

European plant hunters in the mid-1700s discovered petunias in South America and, after an introduction into Europe in the early 1800s, quickly became a popular choice for the sumptuous flower gardens of the Victorian era. However, those early petunias were not the lush, brilliantly colored blooms we know today. The flowers were small, limited to either white or purple, and the plants themselves tended to be rather lanky and unimpressive.

Fortunately, by the late 1800s breeders in several countries including Germany, England, Japan, and the United States were hard at work to produce plants with larger blooms and an ever-widening array of colors and flower forms. Today the staggering number and variety of petunia hybrids continues to explode. Most petunias sold today in nurseries are varieties of Petunia x atkinsiana.

The mainly funnelform (tube-shaped) blossoms can now range from one to five inches wide. Colors include the basic and ever-popular white as well as pink, red, lavender, magenta, yellow, purple, violet, and even black. Flowers are frequently striped, speckled, edged in a contrasting color (such as white or even chartreuse) or have centers that are round or star-shaped in hues either lighter or darker than the rest of the flower. To further boggle the mind, there are double blooms that look like miniature peonies and fancy varieties with dainty ruffled edges.

Above: Mix-and-match petunias mingle with other flowering annuals in a hanging basket.

Today’s gardeners and designers seem to be taking full advantage of the bounteous assortment of petunias available. It seems that everywhere I walk here in New York City this summer, window boxes and containers of all shapes and sizes are overflowing with this fragrant flower. It is ubiquitous but, with so many pleasing forms and its ability to harmonize so beautifully with other annuals such as geraniums and salvias, petunias still manage to be fresh to the eye.

Given the right conditions and some reasonable regular maintenance, this fragrant relative of the tomato, potato, eggplant, and tobacco will reward you with nonstop blooms well into fall.

Here are some tips if you would like to up the flower power in your garden with petunias.

Cheat Sheet
Begonias and petunias complement each other with their bright colors.

Above: Begonias and petunias complement each other with their bright colors.

Because petunias are good spreaders, they are excellent plants for hanging baskets, window boxes, and other containers where they will fill in abundantly, spilling over the edges and cascading down the sides.
Use petunias in the ground at the front of beds to soften the edges of walkways and as ground covers.
To keep your plant in constant bloom, you must deadhead rigorously. As soon as a flower begins to fade, pull off the entire bloom to prevent the plant from putting its energy into seed production.
Petunia plants can be cut back by as much as half in mid-summer to assure plenty of new flowers into the fall.
Petunias are perennials that are usually grown as annuals but they can be overwintered inside in a warm, bright location.

Keep It Alive
To ensure the most prolific flowering, plant in a site with at least five to six hours of full sun and initially pinch back the growing tip to encourage a bushier habit.
Petunias will tolerate poor soil but prefer a light growing medium that is moist but well-drained.
Water regularly, especially during hot dry summer weather, but don’t allow the plants to sit in soaking wet conditions.
Avoid dousing petals when you water to prevent damage to the flowers.
Petunias are delicate so a sheltered location out of strong winds is recommended.
In general petunia cultivars fall into two major categories: Grandiflora and Multiflora. Grandiflora petunias have large flowers, typically at least four inches across, but are susceptible to damage from rain which can reduce the petals to a sodden mess. If your climate tends to be rainy, put these plants in a sheltered spot. Multiflora petunias have smaller flowers but bloom more abundantly and are usually better able to stand up to adverse weather conditions such as rain and wind.

In general petunia cultivars fall into two major categories: Grandiflora and Multiflora. Grandiflora petunias have large flowers, typically at least four inches across, but are susceptible to damage from rain which can reduce the petals to a sodden mess. If your climate tends to be rainy, put these plants in a sheltered spot. Multiflora petunias have smaller flowers but bloom more abundantly and are usually better able to stand up to adverse weather conditions such as rain and wind.

Calibrachoa

Above: Calibrachoa flowers are almost identical to petunias but are smaller, bloom more vigorously and are available in an even wider variety of colors and patterns. Photograph by Cliff Hand via Flickr.

A discussion about petunias would be incomplete without mentioning one of its relatives that is rapidly giving the petunia a run for its money as a popular container plant. Calibrachoa is a native of Brazil and migrated here in the late 1980s and early 1990s after Japanese hybridizers made some improvements that made it easier to grow.