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Hilltop's Variety Spotlight

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Petunias have come a long way since the Wave series was released in 1995 (and the Wave's really changed petunias as we knew them then!) Originally, the Wave petunia was only one - purple, which won the All America selection. Before the Waves made the scene, petunia lovers had a lot of work to do to keep their petunias looking good. The plants would become scraggly, needing a mid-summer haircut for further blooms. After a hard rain, the ruined blooms would have to be manually removed. Spent flowers would also have to be pinched off to keep the plant bushy, full, and in bloom (as opposed to going to seed).

Before the Waves, petunias were mostly 12-18" tall and wide. The color range was enormous, but all had similar "issues".

Then came the Wave petunia - 6-10" tall and up to 36" wide! No deadheading needed. But only purple! After a couple of years, many other colors joined the Wave series and the Waves were off and running! Waves are all grown from seed that is produced in Japan. (The Japanese brewing company, Kiren, developed it starting with a South American species. Yes, thank beer for those wonderful petunias! The brewing company bred plants (beer ingredients) to make better beer. They also bred simple plants (petunias) to check process. Interesting.) Now available in a wide range of colors, the Waves are the yardstick to see if other petunias "measure up".

The "Double Waves" came into the gardening world in the early 2000's. These are raised from cuttings and not seeds. The blooms on the doubles are like carnations (smaller and tighter, tidier than the "old fashioned" double petunias). The Double Waves have similar growth habits to the single Waves, maybe a bit more compact, but differ in their bloom type and propagation method.

Since the advent of the Waves, there are many (many!) petunia series similar to the Waves, such as Supertunias. I think most are pretty good. (There are a few "dogs".)

We have always offered our Wave petunias and other similar petunias in 4" pots to give them more soil to root into (and therefore give a nicer plant that has a better start). We don't offer petunias in packs anymore because we only grow the Waves and Wave-types and they just don't work in packs! We also do not grow petunias in hanging baskets. The baskets may look great early on, but mid-summer, the plants get ratty looking, like the old petunias. The Wave type petunias need lots of root room and a 10" basket just doesn't have it!

We grow many petunias, mostly from cuttings. Some of these petunias are Wave-like, growing short and wide. Others are more rounded, having the stature of a bowling ball! We do have to work harder presenting these to you in a consistent way, showing which are carpet types, like the Waves; and which are the mounding types, such as the "Crazytunias". (We tend to refer to all our petunias as "Wave" petunias because that is the "generic" name these days. Kind of like you need a "Kleenex" to wipe your nose on even though you might use a "Puffs".)

The modern petunias do require a lot of fertilizer to remain dark green and floriferous. If you prefer Miracle-Gro, use it at least once a week. However, we suggest you use a high level dose of timed-release fertilizer such as Osmocote. This makes it easier to keep the plants looking their best. We use a 9-month formula of Osmocote, but find we usually need to put on another dose later in the summer. (We also recommend a "hair-cut" late summer when you add the second dose of Osmocote. This freshens the plant!)

All petunias are sun lovers needing at least half a day of direct sunlight. (In less sun, the plants may grow ok - or rot - but blooms will be very few!) Petunias are tolerant of cooler temperatures and even a light frost, so they can usually be put out mid-April. (In 2013, we had that 4" of snow on May 3rd - remember? Well, we had petunias out in that snow, in full bloom! When the snow melted, the petunias kept on chugging!) All petunias attract butterflies and moths. Some are fragrant.

Petunias come in such a wide range of colors these days, there is probably a color to perfectly match your patio chair cushions!

Variety Spotlight #19, 11/26/2018 © Hilltop Farm

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