Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

All About Petunias (page 3 of 4)

by Peter Kopcinski

Trailing types

Trailing types

Surfinia and other new trailing types were introduced in 1989, but only now are they becoming a market presence. They represent the first really new type of petunia in a generation.

Seed-propagated trailers. The Wave series is another star of the new trailing types. The incredibly vigorous 'Purple Wave' won an All-America Selections award in 1995. 'Purple Wave' was the first, and it continues to set the standard of performance, not only when compared with other trailing petunias, but also compared with sister colors in the Wave strain. Three new Wave colors were introduced in 1997: pink, lilac, and rose.

Wave flowers are multiflora-sized, 2-1/2 to 3-inches across, slightly larger than other trailing types. Although the flowers appear otherwise similar to Surfinia, and both types are hardy to about 28oF, their growth habits and leaf shapes are different. Wave petunias spread very rapidly, forming a low, solid mass studded with flowers. Plants remain about 6 inches tall and spread more than 5 feet across, making them a good choice for hanging baskets or patio pots.

Cutting-propagated trailers. Surfinias result from a cross of P. hybrida with a wild South American trailing type, P. pendula. They are remarkable for their long, trailing, dark green foliage that offsets flowers in five colors: blue-purple, pink, purple, violet, and white. Flowers are about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Plant them in baskets, tubs, beds, or window boxes. In baskets, they produce trails of flowers. Their vigor can be a problem; it's not easy to find a sufficiently large hanging basket and to keep it watered on hot days. A single plant can cover a 4-foot-diameter space, or trail that far out of a basket within four to five weeks!

Supertunias are modern hybrids of P. hybrida with another wild petunia, P. axillaris. These fast-growing, long-lived, profuse bloomers are ideal for hanging baskets, planting beds, and containers. Eight colors are available: burgundy, fuchsia, bright pink, pastel pink, dark purple, two types of violet-magenta, and white. Plants are slightly hardier--to 27° F--than Surfinias, so might be more likely to survive mild winters and serve as short-lived perennials. Their flowers are about 2-1/2 inches in diameter; plants will spread to 3 feet in six weeks. Both Surfinias and Supertunias are marketed under the Proven Winners brand.

Cascadias are Surfinia look-alikes. They share a similar hybrid history and are sold under the Flower Fields brand. Cascadias are available in 15 colors including several shades of purple, pink, and blue. For instance, uniquely colored 'Charlie' is blue with a soft yellow center. Cascadias also include a double-flowered strain, Doubloon.

Petitunia were introduced in 1998. Also marketed under the Flower Fields brand, it has the same vigorous and wide-spreading habit as the Cascadias, but its flowers are a diminutive 3/4 inch in diameter. The tiny flowers bloom in such profusion that the overall color impact is nearly equal that of its larger-flowered cousins. Colors include pink, purple, and white with darker veins. All four of these similarly vigorous petunias--Surfinia, Supertunia, Cascadias, and Petitunia--are propagated by cuttings only, not seed. Cutting-grown petunias are available at garden centers. As bedding plants, plant one per square yard. They'll form a very dense carpet, with new shoots continuously producing blooms. Additionally, there's no need to pinch off spent flowers, as old flowers dry up and fall off.

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