Petunias, a spring favorite!

Nothing says spring like petunias. They are great for spring because they tolerate a light frost just fine but thrive in the sunny days of spring. There are two basic types of petunias grown, seed and vegetative (grown from cuttings).

The seed petunias are the original type. They are usually available in 6 packs and other small packs. The seed varieties are generally a smaller plant that grows more upright. They are available in a rainbow of colors, and flower size. Grandflora petunias have the largest flowers usually with a ruffled edge. A good example would be the Dream Series. Floribunda petunias have more but smaller flowers. This type is most common in the madness series. Seed petunias are good in mass plantings or as a mid-sized filler in a bed. An example of a new introduction of seed petunia can be seen in the photo labeled “Easy Wave formula mix”.

Petunias add a perfect punch of color

Vegetative petunias are probably more well known today. They are the cascading types used so much in containers and baskets. They are grown from a cutting that is rooted and then planted, so they are usually only available in individual pots. The individual pots are generally 4 Ω” or larger. The larger pot is needed as these plants grow much bigger. The Bubblegum petunia by Proven Winner is a great example of this type. It will grow up to 18″ tall and 2í ñ 3í wide. This very aggressive pink petunia is truly a star performer! Not only does it handle the cool of spring it has handled the last two summers with beautiful color. The planters I planted in spring were still full of bloom when the hard freeze finally killed them. Not all vegetative petunias are such monsters. The Potunias are a small version of the big spreaders. They are great for mixing in planters where you don’t want the petunia to overtake the pot. An interesting example of a new vegetative petunia can be seen in the photo labeled “Cha Ching Cherry Petunias.

“They need at least 6 hours of good sun”

Regardless of the type, all petunias do need similar care. They need at least 6 hours of good sun. They need well-drained soil that holds water but lets excess drain away. The two most important things for best performance are probably the most neglected. The first is fertilizing petunias bloom on new growth so regular fertilizing is needed to keep them growing and blooming especially when it’s hot and we are watering a lot. Stutzmans All Purpose fertilizer is great to feed with once a week. Not only does it have the fertilizer it needs for growth, it has a good dose of mineral, especially iron. This will keep the foliage very green.

The other important care point is pruning. Both types need regular cutting to do their best. Seed petunias will produce a seed pod at the base of the flower. If this is not deadheaded off the plant will soon put all energy to seed development. If these are cut off the plant keeps trying to reproduce (more flowers come on). The vegetative or cascading petunias need the branches cut back occasionally. This will keep new branching in the body of the plant and keep flowers throughout the plant. Untrimmed plants get leggy and stringy looking. The flowers tend to be only at the branch tips. Don’t be afraid to use some scissors and give them a good haircut. If you follow these tips you will have great success with your petunias. If you have more petunia questions or any other garden related questions feel free to e-mail me at


Jason French

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