Garden petunia is in the nightshade family. It blooms continuously throughout the summer until frost and is one of the most popular bedding plants. Seeds can be started indoors, sewn directly into the soil or plants can be purchased from local nurseries. Petunias are readily available for the garden, and there are multiple varieties.
Plant petunias in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Petunias will not bloom profusely in heavy shade. Deadheading provides more blooms, and leggy plants should be pinched back throughout the summer. Petunias are moderately drought tolerant and rarely bothered by deer or bunnies.
Today there are many petunia cultivars available. Trailing petunias or calibrachoa thrive in moist, organically rich, well-drained soil. It can sometimes survive through the winter in Zone 8. Calibrachoa can tolerate some drought and requires frequent fertilization throughout the blooming season. It is low-growing and can reach a height of 6- to 9-inches tall and a spread of as much as 2-feet. It produces masses of small petunia-like flowers in many colors during the growing season. Calibrachoa colors range from cherry, red, rose, violet, blue and yellow. Some flowers are multi-colored. Plant calibrachoa in a container or in the front of the flower bed or walkway. Calibrachoa is sometimes called million bells. www.gardeningknowhow.com
The Wave petunia was introduced in the mid-1990’s. It will blanket the garden in color and is often used as a ground cover or along the garden border. Wave petunias are prolific bloomers and may trail from a container for 2-feet. Fertilize wave petunias with a general all-purpose fertilizer when planting and through the summer. Wave petunias are so versatile they will accent almost any part of the garden. www.gardeningknowhow.com
In 2006, Proven Winners introduced the Supertunia, a petunia with huge blooms and many amazing colors with fun names like, Raspberry Blush, Really Red, Picasso in Purple, Limoncello, and Lovey Dovey, just to name a few. Supertunia is a vigorous grower with a slightly mounded habit. The flowers are large and long lasting. They are best suited for containers or the front of the flower bed. www.provenwinners.com
Both Wave and Supertunia benefit from regular fertilization and will bloom all summer. They are reliable bloomers and will attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
Look for petunias in your local garden center, and plan to add some to your garden soon.
Photos and information by Jeanne Pavero
NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox