For beginner gardeners, a simple reliable petunia is the best choice to grow for long summer color. Experienced gardeners might argue these zone 9-11 annuals are trite. They’re available at every nursery and hardware store, bursting in bright colors, begging loudly to be taken home. Still, they cheer up a garden like no other flower. I’ve been a professional gardener for over a decade and a half and every year I use them in arrangements, both for myself and clients.
What Kind Is Best?
Because both commercial businesses and home gardeners use petunias, growers work hard to perfect the longest blooming, easiest care cultivars. They’re divided into multifloras and grandifloras (fancy words for many blooms or large blooms) and trailing petunias. But you needn’t worry much about that. Get whatever kind you like most.
Growers also offer different series of petunias. I’d recommend the ‘Ultra’ or ‘Madness’ series. They’ve been bred well for disease-resistance and long-lasting blooms. I often grow petunias from the ‘Wave’ series. They fill in quickly, bloom profusely, and the colors are bold. If you don’t want to waste time filling in a container, a ‘Wave’ petunia of any color is a good choice.
Easy Care for Easy Blooms
Petunias like well-draining soil. An all-purpose potting soil should suffice, something fresh that still contains nutrients. They also like full sun. No shade, please. They bloom less in shade. Water every few days in summer to keep them perky. Try not to water the flowers themselves as they’re delicate. They flatten and resemble wet tissue. If given a 10-10-10 fertilizer, flowers will multiply quickly.
The Beautiful Benefits
Obviously, the best reason to grow a petunia is its bold alluring color. If you want a garden to pop with it, plant petunias. I like deep purples and magentas, but of course, I also like that yellows, whites, blues, pale shades, and striped varieties exist. You can have great fun arranging the candy-striped ‘Ultra Star’ with black mondo grass or the veiny ‘Purple Vein Ray’ with lavenders or powdery asters.
Also, petunias can attract hummingbirds. The birds like the large tubular shape of the flowers and are particularly attracted to bright red colors. The rare and slightly odd looking Petunia exserta is apparently the most enticing.
A Couple of Drawbacks
You might notice petunia leaves and flowers are sticky. They produce a protective sap on their leaves to trap and kill insects. But the residue can come off on your fingers. I’d recommend caring for them while wearing gloves. And clean pruning shears with an alcohol wipe if needed.
Later in the summer, petunias can turn leggy. They also turn leggy if in too much shade. When this happens, they look gangly and awkward. But new blooms can be pinched back to keep the plant bushy, which I recommend. If you don’t mind the leggy look, they will keep blooming until frost.
Overall, if you want to beautify a patio or balcony or even border, you can’t go wrong with a petunia. These South American natives are a proliferous joy to grow. And if you already have some, please share the photos in the comments below. I’d love to see your favorites. Happy planting!