By Ronnie Dauber, Garden Guides Contributor
Petunias are popular low-lying annuals that brag of their diversity of brilliant color and attractive green foliage. They bloom all summer with little maintenance and make perfect centerpieces to containers and hanging baskets and serve as good low bordering color to gardens.
Petunias require soil that is a peat based mix containing perlite or vermiculite for drainage. They grow best in full sunlight but will survive in shaded areas that provide at least 6 hours of full sunlight daily.
Although petunias are appreciated for their continued growth with low maintenance, when given the extra care they can become the main attraction in containers, window boxes and hanging baskets, and the colorful border or bush flower to any garden. Their colors range from whites to yellows to pinks to reds and purples, with an impressive selection of mixed colors.
Choosing a Variety
There are several varieties of petunias to choose from, all of which exhibit an abundance of color with blooms that vary from single to double and from small to large. * Wave petunias grow about 4 to 6 inches tall and spread about 3 to 4 feet with 2- to 3-inch blooms, and are perfect as groundcover, in hanging baskets or in pots or window baskets. Rambling petunias grow about 10 inches high and spread about 2 to 3 feet, and come in an array of colors. Tidal wave petunias (Hegiflora) grow into a dense hedge of about 16-to 22 inches high when planted 12 inches apart, and will become a garden spreader about 3 feet long and 8 to 10 inches high when planted 24 inches apart. Single petunias are single petal blooms that come in a multitude of colors. Double petunias (Grandiflora hybrids) provide double petal flowers and come in beautiful single or mixed colors.
Seeds can be started indoors about 8 weeks before transplanting to the outdoors. Sprinkle the tiny seeds onto the soil surface and gently press them into the soil. Do not cover with soil. Give them lots of light and warmth of about 70 to 75 degrees F. When planting the Petunias outdoors, wait until after the last frost and choose a full-sun location, either in a garden, pot or planter. New plants require plenty of water and regular fertilizer for continuous blooms. Space plants about 12 to 18 inches apart in garden beds, or place 1 to 3 plants in the center of each 10-inch container.
Petunias require little to no maintenance. Deadheading is only necessary when encouraging the plants to become bushier.