Wednesday, February 17, 2016

How To Grow Petunias

A pot of white and pink petunia flowers.

For those of you just starting out with growing anything in pots, I highly recommend the petunia. This prolific and long-blooming flower is virtually indestructible. It has wide trumpet shaped flowers, and the foliage is green, fuzzy, and sticky. All you green-thumbs-in-training, or all you black thumbs, this is one you will want to plant for yourself!


Petunias are native to Argentina. They come in a fantastic variety of options -- ruffled or smooth petals, single or double blooms, striped or solid colors, mounding or cascading types, and sometimes even fragrance. 


I've never tried growing petunias from seed, because growing the seedlings is the easiest. The seedlings are very low cost annuals at every garden center I've ever been to and often come in multi-packs so you can plant them in clusters, or insert them all over your yard. They come in all sorts of colors, and are even sold in hanging baskets in front of grocery stores. The petunia in my opinion, is basically the easiest flower to grow. 

Unless you have total shade, and tons of humidity, your petunias will be happy. They love sunshine, so make sure they get it. They will bloom all summer long, except in intense heat which will slow them down. If your summers are quite hot, you can give them partial shade during the hottest months.  The lower growing types look great in front of a flower border, or in planters by doorways or on patios. You can tuck a petunia plant between evergreen plantings to brighten up the monotony. They work in virtually any window box or planter. Cascading or trailing petunias look awesome in hanging baskets or spilling out of a pot. 

Whichever type you choose, they look best when planted 3 seedlings to an 8-10 inch pot. Space them on average 10 inches apart in planters. Dig a small hole for each petunia seedling about the size of what it's been planted in from the garden center. Carefully slide each seedling from its container. Make sure not to pull the plant, but to push from the bottom of the pot, or you could uproot it. Set it in the hole, fill the dirt around the roots, and press gently. Make sure not to plant it deeper than it was growing in the nursery pot. Water thoroughly. 


After the transplants grow to roughly 6 inches tall, pinch back their central stems to encourage a bushier plant. It will force the stems to branch out on each side. Because petunias bloom so prolifically from spring until mid-fall, they will do much better with fertilizer from time to time. You can pour this on the soil around the petunias or sprayed on their leaves. 

Petunias like to get regular waterings because their shallow roots can dry out very quickly. Using rich soil with organic matter can help you not have to water as much. If your pots are in the sun, you will need to water every day, especially if using clay pots. Clay dries out very quickly. 

Mulch to prevent water evaporation from the soil. Remove the spent blooms to keep the plant producing flowers. This is really easy to do, since they practically dead head themselves. By the middle of summer, the plants are probably going to be quite leggy. Cut the stems back by half to revitalize and encourage all new growth. After a brief pause in flowering, you should have pretty heavy bloom production again. 

A pot of purple petunia flowers.


Petunias are virtually care-free when it comes to problems, but there are a few things that they can have issues with from time to time. 
  • Gray mold and/or soft rot usually occurs in rainy zones. You will want to ask your garden center if they have any weather resistant varieties. 
  • Aphids can cover the whole plant, so if you see them, hose off the plant with a strong blast of water. You can also pinch off the infested parts of the plant. 
  • Budworm caterpillars are small green caterpillars that attack in the first half of the summer. They eat the flower buds which effects the bloom output. Often the caterpillars are hard to find, but you might notice their black droppings or small holes in the leaves and buds of the petunia plant. They should disappear by July. 
  • Petunias are susceptible to disease from tobacco products. Make sure to wash your hands if you've been smoking cigarettes, or you could infect your plants.
  • Deer LOVE petunias. if you live in a place with deer coming into your yard, you may want to plant the petunias in hanging baskets. You can also spray a repellant onto the plants that will either make them odorous or foul-tasting.

++ Have you grown these? What are your favorite petunias? Have any questions for me? Please share below in the comments!

Garden Guide: Petunias - How to grow petunias in your garden.

Join the conversation!

  1. Your petunias are beautiful! I love to garden. I can't wait to get my own house for that reason. Thanks for the tips. Bookmarking now for when I can start gardening. ;) Blessings!

    1. Do you have a balcony or small patio/porch? I only have a 14x14 foot concrete patio at my house, but it's plenty of space. I have seen wonderful tiny balconies decorated with potted plants!

  2. This post made me wish for spring. I'll be adding petunias to my list. Thanks!

  3. This is great! I am definitely a green thumb-in-training, and last year I made my first pallet planter, but it didn't do the greatest. You've inspired me this year to try petunias! Pinning:)

    1. I'm in training too. Last year was only my second try ever at gardening! I hope you have good luck this year.

  4. Lana, I had no idea that petunias were native to Argentina!

    I have brown-green thumbs. I have been known to keep some plants alive, but not all. Petunias are so gorgeous, I love their bright colours, and now I want to get some for our little courtyard. I can see them in a tower, spilling out everywhere. Heaven!

    1. Send me a picture of this spilling tower when you do it. That sounds lovely!!!

  5. Need these tips! I definitely do not have a green thumb, but you make it look so easy! I love petunias!

    1. Oh they ARE easy. Seriously. If you water and deadhead regularly they just go nuts!

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  7. Petunias in containers are more prone to leggy development. If you want to keep these petunias looking beautiful, you should deadhead them more often. Watch them closely and prune when growing too tall.


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