identifying petunias

If a survey were ever done on the most popular and recognizable flower, petunias would win the gold every time. With their colorful blooms, these low-maintenance garden staples are perfect for beginners and a pleasure to cultivate for seasoned gardeners. 

A genus in the nightshade Solanaceae family, petunias are annuals that can thrive in either garden beds or containers, all 35 known varieties are considered easy to grow and easy to care for, making them the perfect addition to any garden. As the saying goes, “If you can’t grow petunias, you probably should be doing something else.”

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History Of Petunias

In the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers found these low-growing, trail-forming blooms, which at the time came in only two colors: white and purple. The locals called the plant “Petun,” which translates roughly in the Tupi-Guarani language as “worthless tobacco plant.” Explorers made note of it, but it wasn’t until 300 years later that the plant made its way to Spain. In 1823, the first official documentation of petunias was written, and botanists placed it in the tobacco family.

In 1831, Scottish Explorer John Tweedie came across another species of petunia while exploring the Americas. The petunia had a bright purple flower instead of the white flower they had come to know. The color purple was associated with royalty and riches at the time, prompting Tweedie, a known collector for the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, to bring the seeds to be cultivated in Scotland. Petunia tweedia, categorized as grandiflora petunias, was named after him.

By the late 1800s, botanists in England, Germany, America, and Japan began crossing petunias to produce more colors and larger petals. Double petunias were the most sought-after hybrid, the dual layer of petals and the easy care made it an in-demand flower for grand gardens all over the world.

In the 1930s, Japanese botanists finally figured out how to consistently breed the double petunia. Later in the decade, German botanists cracked the formula for making more colorful petunias, and the flower’s popularity soared. It slowly became a cultural staple in household gardens all over the world. 

By the 1950s, the race to breed the perfect petunia was in full swing. More than half of the known varieties of petunias were created and cultivated to be sold to the public. Petunia’s popularity only rose since then, and new varieties and hybrids are still being created to this day. So much so that the latest class of petunias, Floribunda, was created in 1993. Petunias are still being crossbred, with new varieties being created to this day.

Growing Petunias

trailing petunia

Petunias can be planted in a garden as young plants but are easily grown from seeds at home. These flowers are not as intimidating to grow as others, and beginners will appreciate the simplicity of the steps needed to germinate petunia seeds. 

Here are the steps on how to grow petunias at home:

1: Start with the right seeds. Petunia seeds are tiny, almost like specks of dust, so it’s important to start with high-quality seeds. Petunia seeds need plenty of sunlight to germinate properly. The seeds can be planted in the soil when they grow three leaves.

2: Prepare the soil. Petunias prefer well-draining soil. If planting petunias in the ground, amend the soil with compost or other organic matter to improve drainage. If planting petunias in containers, use a potting mix that is specifically designed for annuals.

3: Plant the seeds. Petunia seeds should be planted about 1/4 inch deep. Water the seeds lightly and moisten the soil until they produce more flowers. 

4: Give them plenty of sun. Petunias need full sun in order to produce the vibrant flowers that make them so beloved. Be sure to plant your petunias in a spot that gets plenty of sunlight and is not obscured by the shade.

5: Water the plants regularly. Petunias are heat tolerant, making it unnecessary to water them frequently. Watering them deeply at least once a week is sufficient. Petunias in containers require more frequent watering. 

6: Fertilize. Petunias should be fertilized monthly with a balanced fertilizer to support their rapid growth and heavy blooming. Gardening centers can provide the right fertilizer that most benefits this popular flower.

7: Deadhead the flowers. Petunias will produce more flowers if you deadhead them regularly. This means removing the spent flowers as soon as they wilt, which keeps the blooms looking full and fresh all through the season. 

8: Protect the plants from pests and diseases. Petunias are susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, so it’s important to inspect the plants regularly and take steps to control any problems that you see. There are a number of pest control products and methods that can be used to keep them safe.

Types Of Petunias

These trumpet-shaped blooms can grow happily in different climates all over the world. The 35 varieties of petunias, the ones most commonly grown at home are all hybrids. These hybrids and other petunia varieties are categorized into five basic types based on their growing habits and flower size. 

All 35 varieties have specific traits in common, listed below.

  • They all bloom over a long period of time
  • Their flowers are colorful and trumpet-shaped.
  • All varieties are known to attract pollinating insects and hummingbirds.

Though there are five main types of petunias, there are outlying varieties that are classified in their own categories, as well as some petunia varieties that overlap. The types of petunias listed below are the most common kind, ranging from the largest flowers to the smallest ones.


daddy petunia
daddy petunia

The largest blooms of all petunias, grandiflora produce large and vibrant flowers, blossoms measuring between three to five inches across. While they don’t produce as many flowers as other types of petunia, they remain just as striking and a wonderful addition to any garden.

Grandifloras are best grown in containers or hanging baskets, with the plant cascading  with its long, flexible stems. These large petunias do not fare well in humid, hot weather, making them more susceptible to rot. Grandifloras are also more sensitive to heavy rain, which is why it’s best to bring them inside during heavy rainfall. These impressive blooms absolutely need to be deadheaded to keep the flowers looking at their best.

Those sought-after large double bloom petunias are categorized as grandifloras, meaning that some of the most popular varieties of petunias can be found in this category, available in a wide array of colors. 

Popular Grandiflora Petunia Varieties: Aladdin, Amore, Aphrodite, Avalanche, Cascade, Cascadias, Constellation, Daddy, Diamond, Dreams, Explorer, Falcon, Fanfare, Flash Sweetunia, Frost, Limbo, Hulahoop, Magic, Mistral, Pacta Parade, Sophistica, Storm, Super Cascade, Supermagic, Surfinia, Trumpet, Ultra, Viva.


carpet petunia
carpet petunia

Multiflora petunias are the most recognizable and durable of all the known varieties, a popular choice for a beginner gardener. Though the trumpet-shaped flowers are smaller than those of grandifloras, these free-flowering plants have much more abundant flowers in a single plant. These varieties are the most tolerant of wet weather and disease-resistant while thriving in a garden bed.

Multiflora petunias usually grow about 10 to 12 inches tall, and can spread up to 10 to 15 inches. Pruning them is required when the plants start to get leggy. Fortunately, these petunias do not require deadheading, as the wilted blooms fall off on their own. 

Double-bloomed petunias are also found in this type, making them a low maintenance, attractive choice to plant in your garden, compared to other types. They come in a variety of colors and add a cheerful vibrance to any garden.

Popular Multiflora Petunia Varieties: Carpet, Easy Wave, Espresso, Good and Plenty, Hurrah, Mambo, Mirage, Pearls, Primetime, Tidal Wave.


madness petunia
madness petunia

Floribundas petunias often overlap with multiflora petunias and grandiflora petunias, essentially acting as an intermediate group. It is said that floribundas exhibit the best qualities of grandifloras and multifloras, with large attractive blooms and high tolerance to harsh weather conditions. 

These types of petunias can grow 8 to 15 inches tall, and spread 10 to 12 inches. Floribundas are not typically self-cleaning, and usually require some deadheading or pruning.

Popular Floribunda Petunias: Celebrity, Double Madness, Freedom, Frillytunia, Horizon, Pretty Flora, Madness, Merlin, Wave.


flash forward petunia
flash forward petunia

Milliflora petunias are smaller, singular blooms than any others on the market. The flowers are only about one to two inches wide, but they can bloom all year round.

Of all the types of petunias, milliflora petunias produce the most flowers. These buds are self-cleaning, which means they do not require deadheading or consistent pruning. Milliflora petunias are compact, growing on average eight inches tall and eight inches wide. This makes them the perfect addition to any small space garden space.

Popular Milliflora Petunia Varieties: Fantasy, Flash Forward, Picobella, Shock Wave, Tiny Tunia, Vivini.

Spreading/Trailing Petunias

supertunia petunia
supertunia petunia

These types of blooms are low growing, and the varieties can spread between three to four feet wide and some even as wide as ten feet. The small flowers forming along the entire length of each stem make a striking and attractive ground cover. 

Trailing petunia varieties also thrive in a hanging basket, their long stems often used for ornamental purposes in gardens, such as growing along a trellis or a garden arch. 

The varieties of petunias in this group often overlap with other groups, but they stand out by their spreading stems and high tolerance of harsh weather conditions.

Popular Spreading/Trailing Petunia Varieties: Blanket, Double Blanket, Hang Out, Supertunia, Tidal Wave, Velvet.

Floriography Of Petunias

Despite the beauty and popularity of these easy-going and vibrant blooms, they represent a dark meaning in the language of flowers.

Petunias are most associated with anger and resentment, especially when used in strategic bouquets.

However, petunia is most used for representing comfort, or feeling comfortable with someone. It was historically given to close friends and family members as a symbol of the giver’s comfort in their presence.

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