Prime Petunias

Petunias don’t have a specific season and can actually be planted all year round. But it is in the cold and dry late winter months, when we are so desperate for cheerful colour, that their happy, flowering faces bring comfort and are unblemished by heavy spells of summer rain or extreme heat. Winter is traditionally also the time to replant our window boxes, hanging baskets and pots to be in full bloom for spring. It would be hard to find better plants than the fantastic new varieties of petunias bred especially for these uses! The ‘obsolete’ versus the new? The petunia world is an ever-changing one with new ranges appearing every year. Since the petunias that we plant are garden hybrids, it means that they are in fact ‘man-made’ flowers, which are being constantly developed and bettered to bring forth the best that a plant can give.

Designer grandifloras

TriTunia series

This range can best be described as ‘the best-of-the-best’, as breeders used three longstanding grandiflora varieties to create a new series with excellent garden vigour. Attributes are huge blooms, good heat tolerance and a uniform, mounding growth habit. Available colours are red, rose and sky blue. Height: 25 – 30cm. Spread: 30 – 35cm.

Limbo GP Series

Within this improved series you will recognise all your old favourites: the veined flowers, two-tone picotees, gaudy colours and pastel shades, but with the added advantage of greater performance (GP). Plants in this range have inbred growth-control genes to turn them naturally into non-stretching compact plants with better garden performance and fast recovery from weather damage. The flowers are many and huge, up to 10 – 13cm in diameter! Height: 13 – 20cm. Spread: 20 – 30m.

Grandiflora petunias are generally very robust, spreading plants sporting large flowers, and are therefore recommended for containers to prevent rain damage on the blooms. New ranges are, however, more versatile and suitable as bedding plants too.

Sophistica collection

This collection of plans will give you a multitude of large blooms on mounded plants in unique designer colours and patterns that have never before been matched so well! You simply have to plant the whole range in pots to display together. Height: 25 – 38cm. Spread: 25 – 30cm. ‘Antique Shades’ – antique rose-pink with a yellow throat. ‘Blackberry’ – shimmering black with reddish-purple undertones. ‘Lime Bicolour’ – unique flower colour and markings based on growing conditions and age of flowers, in rose-pink and soft lime tones. ‘Lime Green’ – yellow with underlying lime tones. ‘Twilight’ – smoky mauve on top with a green underside.

Lovely novelties

‘Night Sky’ boldly goes where no other petunia has gone before. The flowers are dark purple with blue tones and splotched with white markings, giving the impression that the plants have been dusted by star dust. Height: 25 – 40cm. Spread: 60 – 90cm.

‘Lightning Sky’ is the new firework in the petunia Cascadia Rim Magenta sky – the bright shining starand-dot pattern on a dark red base presents a pretty velvety colour combination. This is a spectacular choice for window boxes. Height: 15 – 20cm. Spread: 25 – 40cm.

‘Baby Doll’ is a tidy and neat petunia that sparkles with shocking pink blooms and a unique white colour pattern that shows off both near and far. A compact habit that loves full sun and is perfect to doll up your patio or balcony. Good weather resistance. Height: 25 – 30cm. Spread: 30 – 40cm.

‘Cascadia Rim Magenta’ is a knock-out, vigorously mounding variety with large dark magenta blooms edged in cream. The semi-trailing, mounding habit makes it a winner for baskets and large pots. Brilliant, even in very hot conditions! Height: 15 – 25cm. Spread: 40 – 50cm.

‘Amore Queen of Hearts’ and ‘Fiesta’ in full flower will do exactly as their breeders intended – they will steal your heart! The flowers are decorated with bold, contrasting stripes forming five perfect hearts on each bloom. Fantastic for eye-catching hanging baskets and patio pots. Height: 25 – 30cm. Spread: 40 – 45cm.

How to care for petunias

As petunias are long-flowering annuals, give them a good start in the garden with well-composted soil enriched with bonemeal for good root development.

  • Plant them where they will get at least five hours of sunlight per day.
  • Protect young seedlings against snails and slugs, and shelter them with frost cover if frost is expected.
  • Feed monthly with a liquid fertiliser such as Nutrifeed or MultiGro.
  • Remove yellowing leaves at the base of the plant to prevent disease.
Water regularly at first, but only once a week when you see active growth – petunias don’t like waterlogged soil at all. Water at soil level and not overhead.

Petunias in containers

  • Use a good quality potting soil mixed with a handful of bonemeal and a slow-release general fertiliser. Also add a water-retention product such as EXLGel.
  • Although petunias are sun lovers, they will grow in light shade too, although they won’t flower as generously. You should therefore be sure to turn hanging baskets and patio pots regularly to expose them to sunlight and to encourage even growth all around.
  • Water as soon as the top layer of soil feels dry – in hot weather it should be daily.
  • Feed monthly with a liquid fertiliser.
Deadhead spent flowers regularly to encourage more flowering.
The Gardener