published Saturday, July 9th, 2011

5 tips for pretty petunias

Petunias are hardy plants that are not just easy to grow; they’re simply beautiful. Available in many colors, they’ve long been used to brighten their surroundings.

Kim Bonastia, whose family owns Signal Mountain Nursery on Signal Mountain, said in addition to the many established varieties, new ones are introduced each year.

“This year we had Black Velvet petunias,” she said, adding the Black Velvet and purple Picasso varieties have been popular this season.

Petunias are considered to be an old-fashioned plant that has been around for a long time, Bonastia said. “ They are great in combination planters and to mix in landscape beds.”

It’s up to the gardener whether to plant a single color of petunias in a planter or mix a variety of hues.

“I like to mix up all kinds of colors,” Bonastia said. “Red and purple is a favorite, [and] white goes with everything.”

FIVE TIPS

1. Petunias can be grown in flower beds or containers. When grown in a landscape setting, the plant will grow in eye-pleasing waves.

2. Plant them in a good-quality soil-less soil and fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer. Then, during the summer, use a liquid fertilizer to give an extra boost.

3. Petunias definitely need five to six hours of good sunlight. If they are planted in too much shade, they will cease flowering.

4. Watering petunias can be very dependent on numerous things. For example, if you have them in containers, they will dry out a lot faster than if you have them in the ground. You also want to make sure that you do your watering in the morning and not at night. If you water at night, the plants sit wet all night with the heat and humidity, which causes fungal and other diseases for the plant. Even when there is a heavy rain, most planted flower pots and plants in the ground have not received enough water. If you were to dig in the soil after a rain, you would notice that the soil is less than a few inches wet. Another factor is that it is still hot during the day, and that dries out the water more rapidly than if it were cooler. Wind can also dry out the soil. So, if it is a windy day, the soil and pots can dry out faster.

5. You can cut back petunias when they get too long, but you will delay flowering for a few weeks. There are now a multitude of petunias to choose from. In the past, if you did not deadhead petunias, they would flower and stop blooming. Now, you can buy ones that you do not have to deadhead, and they continue to bloom all summer long.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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