The Humble Petunia: A Love Story

Petunias are one of those flowers that may evoke times of yore, like Grandma’s house...and  maybe even a small yawn. But then you probably haven’t really checked out the modern petunia.

The reality is that they're flashy and brightly colored with endless variations of spots, picotees, and bicolor! Their all-season blast of color is incredibly reliable. Petunias are an excellent choice for the Spiller component of the “Thriller, Filler, Spiller” design aesthetic, and we'll show plenty of photos from our landscapers to prove it!

petunias in schonheit gardens containers

A great random fact to have in your back pocket: petunias are a member of the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes and potatoes. And now for a little history lesson. They have a storied history starting in their native habitat of Argentina though appearance in American seed catalogs didn’t occur until the late 1800s. All throughout the 1900s the popularity of petunias grew as hybridizers created more colors, larger flower size, increased flower abundance, disease resistance, and longer bloom time. Not only were traits developed for amazing beauty, but did you know that petunias are developed to have different habits such as trailing and mounding types? Schönheit Gardens carries a wide variety of both types. Why would anyone need both trailing and mounding types? I knew you'd ask. Here's a breakdown of the two types:

Petunias in Schonheit Gardens containers

Trailing petunias

Trailing petunias are the most well-known varieties as they are showstoppers in ground and in baskets. The first “Purple Wave” petunias entered the market in 1995 and were a huge hit in garden centers. Easy Wave and Tidal Wave are two popular Wave series that we carry in the nursery. We also stock a colorful selection of Proven Winners Supertunias.

petunia bordeaux madison wisconsin

Proven Winners Supertunias are a family very long trailing petunias. This series gets 24 inches tall by 36 inches wide. Proven Winners suggests giving Supertunias a light trim in mid-summer on the longest branches or to the bottom edge of the pot/basket though not more than 20% overall. No deadheading or pinching required. Proven Winners has awarded its variety ‘Bordeaux’ (pictured at right) as the 2018 Annual of the Year and it happens to be one of our trusted favorites in the landscaping division.

Easy Wave is fast-blooming, blooms freely all season without cutting back, and tolerates both heat and cooler temperatures well. This plant grows 6-12 inches tall and 36 inches wide.

Tidal Wave is the largest of the Wave family and makes a great screen for unsightly spots. It will fill a very large container no problem! This plant grows 12-24 inches tall and up to 5 feet wide. This award-winning plant will amaze you with its ability to cover ground. No deadheading or pinching required!

Mounding petunias

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Mounding petunias are those that are bushier and compact, spreading from 1-1.5 feet wide. This is the perfect addition to an mixed annual container. Mounding types offer some of the wildest colors, ruffles, and markings. For instance, Headliner Banana Cherry Swirl picture at left is eye-catching and Night Sky has super unique starry spots. I can barely begin to describe all the fascinating colors the nursery carries.


My personal favorite?

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It's difficult to choose, but I love the Sweetunia series, which is technically trailing, though it's shorter and more compact at 18 inches wide. They’re incredibly floriferous and ‘Johnny Flame’ picture here is a fabulous mix of dark magenta and rose.

Remember that pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and hawkmoths love petunias, which is yet another reason to rethink their addition in your summer garden.

petunias in schonheit gardens petunias

Here are a few pro tips to help your petunias look their best:

  • 8 or more hours of sun per day
  • Consistently moist but not wet soil
  • Water at the soil surface--  watering on top of the flowers wil cause them to pass more quickly
  • Fertilize regularly (read the instructions on your bottle); preferably with chelated iron (we sell this at Schönheit Gardens!) Iron chlorosis is a common reason for the yellowing of leaves
  • Trim as the summer passed to give plants a leg up for continued beauty – remove about 20% at a time.
  • If you go on vacation and, oops, your hanging basket goes dry, move it to the shade and soak in a bucket/tub to just above the pot surface until there are no more bubbles. Petunias are resilient!