When I was a young gardener, I had a healthy contempt for petunias, born of childhood memories of flowers that needed deadheading almost every day, were aphid magnets and looked like soggy rainbow Kleenex after a summer shower.
Fortunately, the joys of petunia growing did not elude my generation entirely. In the mid-1980s, plant breeders began back-crossing garden petunias with wild species collected in Brazil and Argentina. That injection of fresh genes led to a new race of plants that doesn’t need constant deadheading, is capable of spreading up to a metre wide in one season, and is considerably more disease, insect and weather resistant than older types. This new generation’s ability to hide spent blooms has earned it the moniker “self-cleaning.”
Useful as groundcovers or annual hedges and perfect for containers, these new petunias deserve a spot in every garden.
Care checklist (for container growing)
- Water daily during hot, dry spells; feed every 10 days using a balanced fertilizer for flowering plants.
- Spray with insecticidal soap in the morning to treat occasional aphid infestations; rinse after 10 minutes.
- Keep foliage dry when irrigatingto avoid mildew problems.
- Trim or pinch back plants to encourage a bushier habit.