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Petunias pack the most punch for summer bloom

May 9, 2014
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

The popular annual petunia is ready for planting. Gardeners who like a mass of beautiful summer blooming plants or a single pot or basket of trailing blooms need to be in the market within the next couple of weeks.

The variety of colors and types of plants will be filling the big box stores and the ever ready nurseries.

The petunia is a genus of 35 species, from South America and family Solanaceae. They are closely related to tobacco, tomatoes, chili peppers and the deadly nightshades.

There is a color and a style for everyone. The older petunias with the large blooms needed a lot of deadheading and tended to wilt fast in a strong rain. The newer varieties are much more tolerable of heavy rains and some really need not be under watch each day because of dying blooms. Their stems are somewhat sticky and not that great to be handling, but cause no health problems.

There are a large variety of smaller blooms now, just as many beautiful colors and mounding and trailing plants. Read the plant tag to make sure which variety you are selecting.

There are always blooms on the plants so you will be able to select your choice of colors easily. Still, the market has not been able to come up with a true blue, however the many deep purple and pastel violet colors are close enough.

You can put your own pot together for a patriotic look, or if you are lucky you will be able to find one already done at the market. I always end up doing my own planting but one of these days I will be in the right place at the right time and be able to purchase one already made up.

I recently bought a Supertunia Wave variety called "Bubblegum" for an inside Garden Club Flower Show. It sat by the entry table at the feet of a 3-foot metal grasshopper. It did fine for 3 days without any sun, and several people asked if the petite pink blooms were actually a petunia. The pastel pinks sure did look like bubblegum. It now lives on the lanai; in the sun in its original pot which sets inside of a larger clay pot. I did not want to bother with soil at the time.

I will have to remember that it is not in soil so will need more water as it dries faster under those conditions.

Petunias do need full sun to bloom well. I like hanging baskets or pots for mine because the summer sun here can be brutal, even on full sun plants. They can also tolerate some shade, especially dappled shade under a tree.

A large oak would not be really sunny enough and even then pots brimming with blooms would be better than planting in the soil. However, I am sure someone out there is planting petunias in that shade and in the soil.

In gardening, never say never.

I am also watching for African Sunset. This plant has mounding salmon-colored blooms. Photos look so gorgeous.

The Wave series has new verities of trailing plants and colors every year. They seem very hardy and will bloom all summer. When the sun turns very hot by the end of June, they will need to be trimmed back to keep them blooming. You do not have to trim each stem at the same time, by trimming here and there you will be able to keep a nice shaped plant. Trim about half of the stem at a time or just do some dried ends.

You do not have to worry too much about watering unless the plant is in a small container. It likes a good watering with good drainage and then will not need any more water for at least a week. Just lift up the blooms or trailing stems and check the soil. It should feel dry at least one knuckle down, depending on the size of the container.

Notice when it rains and where, it will save you time letting Mother Nature do the work.

Fertilizer is not a big deal in or out of a pot. You can use the granulated slow release type for pots and containers. A feeding once a month should give them enough energy to get through the hot summer, in soil or pots.

Insecticide soap can be used for aphids, or just pick off anything bigger if they do attack. A lone worm may be a future butterfly, do not destroy it.

Watch for mosquitoes now, they are out there. It's time to be wearing sunscreen. I do not like to be using sunscreen every day, but I do. I may try using the little mosquito things you wear while gardening, to ward off the hungry critters. Fellow gardeners say they do work.

It is better to be safe than sorry but I do think that going out to garden is nowadays like going out to dinner with all the preparation of donning sunscreen, hat, gloves, mosquito repellant, and don't forget the old shoes.

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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