Petunias are one of the most popular annual flowers for sunny gardens. I live in a colder climate with four seasons, and the petunia is considered a summer annual in my region. These beautiful flowers endure for the entire summer season, blooming continuously until well into the autumn.
Petunias: Hardy Outdoor Flowers
The colorful petunia is an easy plant to look after. They are not only a pretty and popular outdoor flower but they are also very hardy and resistent to neglect and harsh conditions. I certainly found this out through first-hand experience one summer when I planted a few petunias among various other varieties of annual flowers. The other plants soon died off, but the petunia kept blooming throughout the summer and into the autumn without fail.
A Bed of Petunias
Planting a variety of petunias in all different colors is all you really need for an attractive bed. It is much easier to take care of one variety (especially a hardy one!) because your entire flower bed will have the same basic requirements and will flourish together if provided consistent care. A display of one color variety of petunia also creates a very striking display as demonstrated in the photo below.
Three Categories of Petunias
Grandiflora, Multiflora and Milliflora
These petunias have a large growing habit and can grow up to a foot (30 cm) high with large wavy blooms. This type of petunia is less hardy and can be susceptible to rain and heat damage. They have the largest flowers up to four inches (10 cm) across and also the largest selection of colors.
The Multiflora petunias are smaller and more compact in comparison to the Grandiflora. This variety has a large number of growth habits, and comes in many shapes and sizes. The flower blooms tend to be about half the size of the Grandiflora but are more resistant to harsh weather conditions such as heavy rain.
The Multiflora is the most popular for gardeners. Two popular types are "carpet" and "wave" that mound and spread rapidly for a striking display. These are also a great choice for hanging baskets.
The Milliflora variety came on the scene much later than the other two varieties. They tend to have very profuse blooms that cover the entire plant but the blooms are quite small at only one inch (2.5 cm) across.
The Unstoppable Petunia
The petunia is the ultimate survivor. Blooming through a crack in the cement is the ultimate test of hardiness. This flower is originally from warm and sunny Argentina but it has made its way into colder climates.
The petunia soon became a favorite summer time annual because the blossoms come in a wide range of colors such as white, purple and pink. There are also varieties that are variegated or striped in color. The bloom sizes range from quite large to somewhat small.
The petunias we know today are hybrids that are mixtures between petunias and other flowering plants. These hybrids have been cultivated to provide certain desirable characteristics such as a low growing, mounding or heat tolerant.
Popular Types of Petunias
There are many varieties of Petunias, with a vast number of colors from which to choose.
It may become overwhelming to decide so a picture is worth a thousand words! If you need some inspiration to plan your flowerbed here are some of the more popular and classic varieties along with some stunning hybrids.
1. Kandy Kane
Red and White Stripe
It looks like a little bit of Christmas in the summer thus this gorgeous petunia certainly earns its name. It has beautifully defined red and white stripes that make this outdoor flower a show stopper. This variety enjoys full sun but will tolerate some shade. It will grow 30 cm high and 15 cm wide or 12 inches high and 6 inches wide. Perfect for anywhere - beds, pots, hanging baskets - very versatile.
2. Dreams Pink
Pretty in Pink
This pink performer has a mounding, tight habit so you will get an abundance of blooms close together. The color is a very deep pink that is very striking to look at. It grows about 25 to 38 cm high and grows to a width of up to 30 cm. This variety prefers the sun similar to most petunias.
3. Purple Vein Ray
Purple People Pleaser
These purple and white petunias have large flowers with striking dark purple veins. This variety is quite tolerant of the heat and will look great even during the hottest days of summer. It will grow 15 to 25 cm or 6 - 10 inches high and 20 to 30 cm or 8 - 12 inches wide. This petunia is a real beauty.
4. Purple Wave
Low-Growing Wave of Beauty
This plant produces three-inch flowers with a low-growing habit that is perfect as a ground cover for the border of flower beds. These spreading plants are great for hanging baskets as well because they will drape quite elegantly over the sides. These petunias will reach a height of 10 - 15 cm (4 - 6 inches) and spread up to 150 cm (5 feet).
5. Classic White
White Blooms of Beauty
The classic look of an all white display or as a perfect accent to other colours - these petunias get the job done! They have a mounding habit and with 3 inch blooms they will create quite a show. They grow about 25 - 38 cm (10 - 15 inches) high and about 25 - 30 cm (10 - 12 inches) wide.
6. Debonair Dusty Rose
Pale Pink with White "Throats"
This colour is not as brilliant and striking as some of the other petunia varieties but is a calming color with light pink edges surrounding a white center. It has a mounding upright habit and therefore it is a lovely addition to the small garden or containers. It grows about 10 to 12 inches high and equally wide. As with all petunias it is low maintenance. It will also attract bees, always a good thing for the environment.
7. Easy Wave Yellow
Little Rays of Sunshine
The great thing about this variety of wave petunia (waves have a low spreading habit) is that it also grows higher than most wave varieties. It reaches between 6 to 12 inches in height with a 10 to 15 inch spread. Beautiful full show of blooms all season.
8. Night Skies
The Sky at Night
When I first saw a photo of this petunia I thought there was something wrong with the shot! Was this a blue petunia with splotchy lighting? But upon closer look this was the actual color. This flower is quite unique and very dramatic like the night sky - hence the name. Your flower garden will get noticed with the addition of these beauties as they can reach a height of 16 inches!
9. Black Velvet Petunia
Shimmering Black Beauty
The duly named Black Petunia, often marketed by the name "Black Velvet" is actually a very deep purple that appears black to the eye. It took a plant breeder four years to develop this cultivar. They are somewhat small with a mounding habit instead of trailing. They grow only 8 to 12 inches across. Can you envision a place for this black beauty in your garden?
10. Red Petunia
Lady in Red
Red petunias come in a variety of shapes and sizes and habits – from bushy to trailing. One particular aspect of the red petunia is that they tend to be more fragrant and there are very attractive to hummingbirds and bees. Remember it is important to feed the bees! The red petunia is a good environmental choice for this reason.
11. Cascadia Rim
Beautiful White Rimmed Petunia
This hybrid petunia comes in many colors. It has a cascading habit, thus the name, and is perfect for hanging baskets and planter pots. This variety is not prone to disease and is easy to maintain. The white rim around the beautiful and plentiful blooms are made even more gorgeous with the white rimmed accent.
12. The Tiger Petunia
Striped Like A Tiger
The Tiger Petunia is true to it's name. A tough plant with a strong growth habit, it sports the striped pattern of red, orange, and yellow. A very striking and different looking flower, that most would not initially identify as a petunia.
Flower Garden Neglect
My decision for this summer is to plant a flower bed exclusively made up of petunia flowers. Why? Here is my petunia story...
The above picture was taken of my flower bed one summer. You can see several petunias in bloom and yes, I know they don't look too spectacular. In fact, they look quite the opposite and there is a reason for this so here is what happened.....
How to have Abundant Flowers
I was once an avid flower bed gardener. Those were the days when I was home raising my family and didn't have a job that took me away from home for eight or more hours per day.
Every year during that time I had a large display of a variety of flowers throughout the summer. I would plant flowers of all types and they flourished under my care. I was very diligent with watering and plucking off dead blooms and I fertilized them regularly. Needless to say I was very proud of my flower garden.
All this work created a very beautiful, abundant and colorful display year after year. Neighbors would ask me how I did it and I shared my "secrets" with them. However, they are not really secrets! You just pay attention to the garden with regular maintenance - water, deadhead, fertilize. It's as easy as that. I also made sure that the bed itself was dug up and new black soil was added each year before planting.
The Neglected Garden
Eventually, I went back to work outside the home and my flower garden suffered. I did not have the time and I found I lacked the motivation to keep the garden blooming. There were years I planted nothing and the bushes and perennials just filled in the blanks. Soon the perennials died off from neglect.
One year I was reminiscing about my garden of yesterday so I decided to buy a load of annuals from the garden center. I planted them around my front walkway. I soon found out, however, that bad habits die hard and I began once again to neglect the plants!
The Powerful Petunia
I must confess that I totally neglected them. They were left to fend for themselves and make do with just sun, rain and whatever nature provided. The plants slowly died off EXCEPT for the petunias! The petunias grew and blossomed. No, they were not full and abundant because I had only planted a small number of them but that few started to branch out and fill in the blanks.
So the picture tells the story. You can even see some of the "skeletal remains" of the other plant varieties.
I made a mental note to myself - buy only petunias next year!
For Beautiful Blooms Learn to Deadhead Properly
Freeman, P., & Rickard, J. M. Annuals: Black & Decker outdoor home.
North Carolina Farms, Inc. Wholesale Petunia Cascadia Rim Fantasy Rooted Plug Liners. Retrieved from https://ncfarmsinc.com/rooted-plugs/Petunia-Cascadia-Rim-Fantasy
Questions & Answers
Question: What should I use to kill the green worms that are devouring my blooms?
Answer: Do you know the name of these green worms? I have not had this trouble thus far.
© 2013 Sharon Bellissimo
Sharon Bellissimo (author) from Toronto, Canada on March 15, 2013:
@Tamara14: Yes, I love the deep purple petunias too, very striking.
Tamara14 on March 15, 2013:
I used to have lots of petunias hanging from my balcony but then we decided to turn the balcony into the room and join it to the rest of the closed space so no more petunia for me. As if living in a flat is not boring as it is :) So I get a huge basket of petunias and hang it on my patio shade construction during the entire summer when I get to enjoy our summer house. Dark purple petunias are my favorite.
Takkhis on February 18, 2013:
Wow! Beautiful flowers and you have got great photos here. Blessed by takkhis! :)
jolou on February 12, 2013:
Yes, I love flower gardens. I'm from Victoria, BC which is known as the city of gardens. You have created a really nice page here and I love your photos. Blessed.