When you want loads of colorful blooms all summer long, it's tough to beat these easy-care annuals.
One of the most popular annuals, petunias add mountains of color to garden beds and containers. These tough plants are capable of producing loads of blooms all season long and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. While most petunias available nowadays are hybrids, they used to come in roughly two general classes, grandiflora and multiflora. Grandiflora petunias were bred for their large, showy blooms while multiflora were bred for quantity over quality, producing numerous smaller blossoms.
Petunias have always been known for their vast selection of colors and patterns, and now more than ever, the options seem almost endless. New varieties come out every year in novel shades and patterns. Countless color options are available, along with patterns like stripes, splashes, and even hearts. The blossom size selection is quite diverse as well. Whether you're looking for a low-growing groundcover, a mounding type for containers, or a rambling wild plant to fill up some space, there is a petunia for every situation.
Petunia Care Must-Knows
One of the characteristics that makes petunias such a valuable and commonly used plant is their easy-going nature. Modern varieties require very little maintenance and aren't too picky about growing conditions. As long as they are planted in well-drained soils, they typically won't have any problems. In anything less, there is a chance that they could have problems with rot and fungal issues. Because petunias are such vigorous bloomers, they do need a substantial amount of nutrients to keep up their blooming power, so plant them in soils rich in organic matter. It is also beneficial to fertilize them fairly regularly throughout the growing season.
It is important to plant petunias in full sun; anything less can lead to fewer blooms and lankier plants. Much like planting in wet soils, less than full sun can make plants more susceptible to fungal diseases. Part sun also allows soils to stay wet longer, increasing the likelihood of rot.
Similar to flowering tobaccos, a close relative, petunias can attract some pesky bugs, especially during the heat of the summer, but rarely in large enough quantities to be of concern. Keep an eye out for whiteflies and aphids, as they are the most likely to show up. Petunias are fairly low maintenance, but older varieties, especially seed-grown types, may require deadheading to keep up a constant display of blooms. Meanwhile, most new types are self-cleaning, so deadheading is unnecessary. If they get too leggy, some petunias may also benefit from an occasional shearing back to help encourage a new flush of compact growth.
More Varieties of Petunia
Petunia 'Cascadias Bicolor Purple' is a heavy-blooming variety bearing purple flowers with a white star in the center. It has a trailing habit.
Petunia 'Cascadias Cherry Spark' is a floriferous selection with pink flowers veined in dark purple. It has a trailing habit, making it good for hanging baskets.
Petunia 'Cascadias Sunray' is a trailing petunia with medium-size soft yellow flowers veined in rich yellow.
Double Wave Blue Velvet Petunia bears double, purple-blue flowers on vigorous plants that reach 6 inches tall and 2 feet wide.
Petunia 'Dreams Fuchsia' is a large-flowering petunia bearing many bold fuchsia-pink flowers all summer. It grows 15 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
Easy Wave Blue Petunia is a spreading petunia bearing tons of dark blue-purple flowers. It grows 12 inches tall and 40 inches wide.
Easy Wave Coral Reef Petunia is a spreading petunia with an abundance of dark coral-pink flowers. It grows 12 inches tall and 40 inches wide.
Easy Wave Mystic Pink Petunia is a spreading selection that bears creamy-soft pink flowers with a white center. It grows 12 inches tall and 40 inches wide.
Easy Wave Pink Petunia is a spreading hybrid with bright pink flowers all summer long. It grows 12 inches tall and 40 inches wide.
Petunia 'Famous Lilac Picotee' is a vigorous variety with a semi-trailing habit and lilac-purple flowers edged in white. It grows 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.
Petunia 'Fantasy Pink Morn' bears soft-pink blooms with a white throat on compact plants that grow 1 foot tall and wide.
Petunia 'Madness Yellow' is a floriferous selection with clean yellow blooms, great branching, and season-long performance. It grows 15 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
Petunia 'Merlin Blue Morn' offers rich purple flowers with a glowing white center. This award-winning variety grows 18 inches tall and wide.
Petunia 'Merlin Rose' produces beautiful pink blooms with a white and yellow throat on plants that grow 1 foot tall and wide.
Petunia 'Opera Supreme Pink Morn' bears bright pink flowers with a soft white center. This award-winning variety grows 6 inches tall and 3 feet wide.
Petunia 'Orchid Daddy' is an award-winning selection with 4-inch-wide lavender-pink blooms that bear darker veins. It grows to 1 foot tall and wide.
Petunia 'Picnic White' is a mini petunia with an abundance of small white flowers. It grows 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide.
Petunia 'Pirouette Rose' bears frilly, double, pink-and-white flowers on 1-foot plants. It's not as heat tolerant as many other petunia varieties.
Supertunia Bermuda Beach Petunia is an easy-growing selection that produces an exceptional number of salmon-coral blooms. It grows 10 inches tall and 24 inches wide.
(Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia) shows off soft pink flowers with rich purple-red veins. It's a vigorous plant that bears a lot of flowers and grows 10 inches tall and 4 feet across.
(Supertunia Citrus Petunia) is a vigorous selection with soft yellow flowers veined in rich yellow. It's good for hanging baskets and can trail to 1 foot.
(Supertunia Lavender Skies Petunia) is a vigorous variety that covers itself in lovely lavender-blue flowers that seem to change color throughout the day. It grows 10 inches tall and 48 inches across.
(Supertunia Mini Blue Petunia) graces gardens with small, dark blue-purple blooms. It grows 8 inches tall and can spread to 6 feet.
A new color pattern in petunias, Raspberry Blast has bright pink blossoms with a deep violet edging for an interesting new effect. Zones 10-11
Supertunia Royal Velvet Petunia displays an abundance of rich, blue-purple flowers all summer long. The vigorous selection grows 10 inches tall and 4 feet wide.
Petunia 'Sweet Sunshine Compact Lime' is a delightful double-flowering petunia with chartreuse-yellow flowers all summer long. It grows 14 inches tall and wide.
Petunia 'Sweet Sunshine Compact Nostalgia' shows off beautiful, double soft-pink flowers touched with creamy yellow on a 14-inch-mounding plant.
Vista Silverberry Petunia offers silvery pink flowers on vigorous, long-blooming plants that grow 2 feet tall and wide.
Wave Blue Petunia liberally splashes bright purple-blue color through the garden, growing rapidly to 4 feet and blooming profusely all season.
Wave Misty Lilac Petunia shows off silvery, soft-lilac flowers on a plant that grows 6 inches tall and 48 inches wide.
Wave Purple Petunia is an award-winning selection with magenta flowers on 4-inch-tall plants that can spread 4 feet wide.
Petunia Companion Plants
Sweet alyssum, with its dainty, fragrant flowers, is frequently used in containers and hanging baskets to spill over the edges, creating a soft, frothy look. It's also a great edging plant because of its tidy, compact habit. Regardless of how you use it, sweet alyssum does best in the cool conditions of spring and fall (or use it for winter color in very warm climates). In cool-summer conditions, such as the northern third of the United States, sweet alyssum will bloom steadily through the summer. It halts bloom in summer in warmer areas.
Even without its fabulous scent, heliotrope would be widely grown in the garden. It has a distinctive scent—some say it smells like cherry pie, others say a grape ice pop. Still others say it's reminiscent of vanilla. Regardless, it is undeniably one of the most intriguingly scented plants in the garden. As a bonus, this tropical plant, grown as an annual, bears big clusters of rich purple, blue, or white flowers. Heliotrope thrives in a spot with full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It's a great container plant—try it in a window box or next to a doorway where you can enjoy it frequently. For the strongest scent, group several plants together where they can get afternoon sun, which helps release the fragrance.
There are few gardens that don't have at least one salvia growing in them. Whether you have sun or shade, a dry garden or lots of rainfall, there's an annual salvia that you'll find indispensable. All attract hummingbirds, especially the red ones, and are great picks for hot, dry sites where you want tons of color all season. Most salvias don't like cool weather, so plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.