How do you like your petunias? Big and blousy or dainty and diminutive? Spreading and tumbling or chunky and upright? Striped, starred, multi-toned or plain? Bright brazen reds, pinks and yellows, cool blues and purples, ‘antique’ pastels, snowy white, or black as night? Whatever your look, you’ll find it among today’s amazing smorgasbord of vigorous, floriferous and long flowering petunias.
These vampy velvet trumpets range from coin-size to cup-size and they’re produced in astounding volume in a non-stop display from spring till the first frosts of winter. The sooner you plant them, the longer you’ll enjoy their startling effects!
No matter how small your garden or how limiting your soil may be, petunias make it easy and inexpensive to fill your summer with flowers. In Europe, limited outdoor space has never repressed the passion for gardening. Everywhere you look colour effuses from window boxes, hanging baskets and pots bulging with flowers spilling out from all sides.
Apart from their beauty and endurance, petunias are a first choice among container plants because of their ability to perform in hot weather and lower watering requirements. They’re often mixed with ivy geraniums, silver helichrysum, yellow bidens and blue or white lobelias, but there is hardly a more failsafe choice for summer pots and baskets than petunias.
No longer must we put up with flowers that droop and die like soggy tissues in wet weather. The petunias we planted a generation ago have long been displaced by strains with more weather tolerance and more disease resistance than ever before. Over the 250 years since they were first discovered in their native South America, they’ve undergone huge changes at the hands of plant breeders and seed companies.
There are new and improved petunia genes at both ends of the cost spectrum. As the lower cost option, seeds and seedling petunias sold in punnets (or as ‘potted colour’) comprise varieties that perform better than ever. For a little more we can buy one large, multi-branching petunia plant that will quickly fill a large pot or basket, one plant often doing the job of up to ten bedding plants.
Tried and trueThe ‘Colourwave’ petunias started a petunia revolution when they romped onto the scene in the mid nineties, flowering continuously for six to nine months. Still a top choice among gardeners internationally, they keep on getting better. Check out the colour range at www.colourwave.co.nz
One plant of the hugely popular Petunia ‘Raspberry Blast’ will fill a large hanging basket to overflowing with stunning two- toned blooms. It also performs extremely well in pots or garden soil, spreading to 60 – 80cm wide with a height of around 25cm. Read more about ‘Raspberry Blast’ at www.gardeningsolutionz.co.nz
Recently released ‘Happitunia’ petunias are another highly successful strain of fuss-free, perpetual summer bloomers. They include the top-rated ‘Bubblegum’ series in shades of pink and white. These super vigorous, low- maintenance plants are great landscape or basket fillers, reaching 40-60cm tall and covering at least 60cm in diameter. The Bubblegum petunias are truly perennial and will last for about 3 years in pots or planted in the garden. They will take a light frost, although in colder climates they’re best in tubs to survive the winter. Another Happitunia is the unique ‘Pretty Much Picasso’ with bright violet flowers edged lime green. Find out more at www.aussiewinners.com.au.
The very latest ‘Crazytunias’ are set apart by their vigorous yet tight, chunky growth habit and their uniquely beautiful colours, including darkest unfading ‘Black Mamba’. Read more on page 20 or go to www.gardeningsolutionz.co.nz
Other exciting new petunias offering brand new colour combos are ‘Bumblebee’, ‘Blue a Fuse’ and ‘Twilight’.
The dainty bell flowers of the Calibrachoas are, for all intents and purposes, mini petunias. They are however classified as a separate plant species, albeit very closely related. Calibrachoas are known variously as ‘Millionbells’, ‘Superbells’, and ‘Sunbells’. The small flowers, just a few centimetres wide are produced in teaming hundreds completely smothering their strong spreading plants with attractive small leaves. Like their larger flowered cousins they are long blooming, sun loving and highly weather tolerant. Superbells collection from Aussie Winners features more than ten colours with new ones released every year. Find out more on page x and at www.aussiewinners.com.au.
Dwarf Calibrachoas, ‘Calipetites’ produce tiny flowers on close-packed low growing plants just 15cm tall x 30cm wide, ideal for pots and for beautifying outdoor table tops, they also make colourful groundcover or garden edging. See the range of five bold colours at www.gardeningsolutionz.co.nz
Crossing Petunia with Calibrachoa to combine the best qualities of each has resulted in the SuperCal Petchoas. These plants combine large flowers with small, non-sticky leaves on a vigorous heat tolerant plant that is more cold tolerant than most petunias. Dubbed the ‘all-weather’ petunias, SuperCals grow about 30cm tall by 40cm wide. Strong roots minimise disease problems.
Petunia seed is very tiny, but not difficult to strike.
Crazytunia Bitter Lemon
Petunia Pretty Much Picasso
Petunia Blue a Fuse
SuperCal Petchoa Terracotta
Calibrachoa Cherry Star
Superbells Calibrachoa Coral Cherry Punch"
Yates' Fusion Petunias
Yates' Fusion Petunias make it easy to create your own beautiful effects from seed. Small pellets made from very fine clay contain three to five seeds each. As the seeds germinate, plants fuse together producing a beautiful close-knit blend of foliage and flowers - a lovely tapestry effect that can’t be achieved with conventional transplanting.