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Pretty Petunias

Petunias in hanging baskets are stuff that makes for the coziest green home décor. I for one would use a lot many of those baskets. Such a lovely splash of colors! Seriously, is it any wonder that Petunia Pretty Paws is the name Elisabetta Dami chose for Geronimo’s Valentine?

The Petunia plant is an annual, which means it wraps up its life cycle within an year, but that does not mean one should not go for it! In fact, it is reason all the more to grab the chance of having this ephemeral beauty smile in your garden and enjoy it while you can.

The word petunia meaning is interesting – it is derived from the French word ‘petun’ that means tobacco. For those who are wondering about the seemingly weird connection – well – tobacco is also a member of the botanical family to which petunia belongs. And the gardener and the botanist can stop squabbling over names as Petunia scientific name is the same!

The original petunias are native to South America, where they attract a good number of insects, especially butterflies and moths. Most of the petunias we grow in our Indian gardens here are hybrids obtained after crossing and re-crossing the originals to yield numerous options in color and style. These hybrid petunia’s flower season in India can be year-round – but not during weather extremes. Whether that’s too hot-dry, frosty or cloudy will discourage the flowers. Many petunia cultivars do not require deadheading and in that way, are low-maintenance.

Petunia types include ‘Grandiflora’ and ‘Multiflora.’ As the names suggest, Petunia varieties grandiflora have larger but fewer flowers whereas the multiflora ones have several smaller ones. There are several other varieties. Petunia Cascadias and Surfinias are perfect as trailing plants from hanging baskets, while Wave Petunias make for excellent ground cover. Petunia night sky, for example, is one of the loveliest flowers one can lay eyes upon.

Petunia plant care is easy – give plenty of sunlight to these outdoorsy delights and don’t let them dry up. Adding manure twice-monthly should see to it that they remain healthy. To make them flower, banana peel fertilizer and bone meal mix works well. 

Petunias grow best from seeds. Petunia flower seeds are easily available in local nurseries and online gardening stores. In moderate weather, seeds can be planted almost anytime. Allow them ten weeks to put up a full show. Interestingly, petunia cannot be grown from cuttings without challenges. Notable exceptions include the Supertunia cultivars that can only be grown from cuttings.

Fun Fact -

Who could have thought that this pretty flower shares the family of everyday veggies like potatoes, tomatoes and brinjal? Yes! Petunia family is Solanaceae, which is otherwise famous for stuffing our tummies with vitamin and carb-rich veggie staples.

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