Bedding and hanging basket favourite
Chosen by the Flower Council of Holland, the Garden Plant of the Month for April is the petunia (remember not to plant them out until after the last frosts).
With its large trumpets, the petunia has many uses – in hanging baskets, pots and troughs. When it’s planted in a bed, petunias shine among the ground cover. If looked after properly, plants will flower until the first frosts.
Flowers come in an almost overwhelming array – plain, spotted, striped, single or double, in all the colours of the rainbow through to almost black.
Watch out for different names – Surfinia, Crazytunia or Cascadia are all petunias but hint at their specialism – long stems, unusual flower shapes or a cloud of hanging flowers.
- The plant is related to Nicotiana, the tobacco plant.
- It was named in 1789 by French botanist Antoine Laurent de Jussieu.
- Artist Georgia O’Keeffe made her breakthrough in 1925 with a petunia painting.
- Bees love the nectar so that the plant brings lots of activity to the garden.
- The petunia originates from Brazil and Argentina. There are hundreds of hybrids available.
What to look for when buying
- Generally speaking, the larger the plant, the greater the chance that it will be a successful bloomer.
- Check that the plant is rooted and shows signs of growth if in very small pots. Small plants are usually grown from seed, the larger ones from cuttings.
- Remove yellowed leaves and wilted flowers from plants and ensure sufficient light in order to avoid stretching.
Caring for petunias
- Petunias like to be out of the wind in full sun.
- Keep the soil moist, water every day on sunny days, ensure drainage in pots and hanging baskets so that the roots don’t get too wet.
- Be sparing with plant food: it particularly encourages the production of leaves and not necessarily of flowers.
- Cut off wilted flowers, stem and all.
- If the Petunia is past its peak, prune it back and the flowers will return.