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Not a fan of petunias? Some new varieties might win you over


How do you feel about petunias?

My guess is that you feel very strongly about them; you probably either love them or hate them. 

I had no idea a flower could elicit such strong feeling in such vastly different directions, but I’ve recently become away that petunias are controversial. If you love them you see a plant that provides loads of color all summer long and comes in just about every color under the sun. If you loath them, they are floppy, sticky, messy, unimaginative plants. And apparently petunias have a scent, that some loathers love and some lovers hate, but I never even noticed it.

For better or worse, I fall in the lover category. For my money few plants can provide the color punch of a petunia, particularly a vigorous variety that fills a container and spills over the edges.

And I’m not alone by a long shot. I don’t know what the most commonly sold annual in the United States is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was petunias. There’s a reason why plant breeders continue to work to make them better—hence the self-shedding varieties that don’t require deadheading—and more colorful than ever. New varieties are being bred to not flop when it rains, hold their color longer, have more flowers and do the dishes. (The last one may be a ways off.)

I saw 5 million petunias during California Spring Trials, where plant breeders show off their latest introductions in hopes that growers, brokers and retailers will want to carry them. Most won’t make the cut, but some will. Petunias now have stripes, spots, hearts and more. Here are just a few, but keep in mind that many of these varieties won’t be available in garden centers until 2019 and some might never make it there.

Surfina Heartbeat
Can you see the hearts? This is Surfina Heartbeat from Suntory.
Potunia Cappucino
Some petunias are a more sophisticated palette, including this Potunia Cappuncino from Dummen Orange. This would be wonderful paired with purple foliage.
Evening Scentsation
Evening Scentsation is an All-American Selections winner from Takii Seeds with a light, pleasant scent. I just love the flower color.
Yellow petunia from Dummen Orange
Dummen Orange shows this clear, clean yellow petunia in a combination basket.
Selecta One Headliner Rose Star
On the opposite end of this spectrum is a more moody but very interesting color combination on Selecta One‘s Headline Rose Star.
Dark petunia
I believe this striking petunia is Sweetunia Johnny Flame from Dummen Orange.
Dark purple blue petunia
The color of this blue-purple petunia from Dummen Orange was outstanding.
Syngenta Dekko Coral Star
Star patterns were popular including this Dekko Coral Star from Syngenta, which packed a huge color punch.
Hemgenics low petunia
These are Disneyworld colors. This low-growing mounding petunia from Hemgenics is designed for mass bedding displays. In the background you can see Hemgenics’ Picotee line of petunias in bright colors with white edges, which are huge sellers at Wal-Mart.
Selecta One Headliner Starry Sky Burgundy
Dotted petunias hit the market last year and were very popular. Breeders are working on make them more stable and offering them in different colors, including this Headline Starry Sky Burgundy from Selecta One.
Constellation Gemini petunia
Westoff showed this Constellation Gemini petunia.
PW truffula pink gomphrena supertunia honey superbells pink
If you love candy colors, this combination from Proven Winners might be up your alley. This is Supertunia Honey (a favorite of mine), Superbells Pink and a new gomphrena called Truffula Pink.
Proven Winners Blue Skies petunia
Proven Winners also showed this interesting petunia called Supertunia Blue Skies.
Proven Winners Supertunia vista bubble gum, silverberry, fuschia
None of these Supertunias from Proven Winners are new, and neither is this combination, but it’s a good one: Supertunia Vistas Bubblegum, Silverberry and Fuschia. The Vista line is vigorous, so if you’re looking for a petunia that will get big, this is a good one.
Petunia wall
Kudos to Proven Winners on a fabulous display that featured this petunia wall made from wood crates.
Sakata Supercal new premium petunias
Sakata’s new additions to their SuperCal line (which are a combination of a petunia and a calibrachoa) were outstanding and a nice addition to the color range for petunias. From right to left they are Cinnamon, Caramel Yellow, French Vanilla, Bordeaux and Sunray.
Sakata Sunray
Sunray is fabulous with its detailed center. This is one to plant close where you can appreciate it.
I saw so many petunias, but I think this may have been my favorite. This is Westoff’s Crazytunia Limy. It’s hard to show in a photo, but it is a true chartreuse, a color I can’t get enough of in the garden and plays so well with almost every other color.
I don’t generally love star petunias, but this one was a great partner to Limy.
Climbing petunia
Want something different? How about a climbing petunia? You read that right. These tall petunias, which require support, can reach nearly 6 feet in a season! These, including ‘Purple Tower’, are from Thompson & Morgan.
Benary petunia container.
And let’s not forget that even if you like the more typical colors, petunias are almost no-brainers in containers, like in this one from Benary.

So, what do you think? Did any of these new varieties change your mind? Any you’d love to try?


7 Responses

  1. The problem with petunia hybrids is that they do not provide well for pollinators – they lack the nectar reward. They may attract hummingbirds and bees, but they don’t provide adequate sustenance. Even red plastic will attract hummingbirds, but it provides no ecosystem services:

    “An issue of concern is whether or not cultivars, which are generally selected for horticultural benefits (larger flowers, different color), are as attractive to pollinators as are the species. In this work there were 14 direct comparisons and about 50% of the time the species was better than the cultivar (Table 3). ”

  2. I finally decided to eliminate Petunias even the new improved varieties from my plantings.Unless you have a gardening crew to feed them ,water and pinch them back all those beautiful Mother’s Day hanging baskets will soon start to look poorly as soon as the hot dry summer weather we have here in the southeast.arrives. As I try to do more low maintenance gardening I have eliminated all hanging baskets other than large ferns on the porch. I will just enjoy looking at other homes who have the energy and time to give them the attention they thrive on.

  3. I love petunias, they provide so much color and are easy for not-great gardeners like me to grow. My sister on the other hand hates petunias with a fiery passion. My uncle owns a nursery, and she and I both worked there in the summer during high school/college. I got to stay inside in the air conditioning doing accounts payable, while she had to work on the floor where her primary responsibility was deadheading petunias (along with watering, etc.). Ever since, she refuses to even consider them. Of course now, many years and dark offices later, I’d much rather spend the summer pinching petunias than doing bookwork, but I guess that’s the way things go! In any case, I always send her pictures of petunias whenever I encounter them, just to antagonize her, because between sisters some things never change 🙂 Thanks for sharing all the wonderful new varieties, I especially love the pink speckly ones and the dark purple magenta ones that look almost like velvet.

  4. Sunray reminds me of a Salpiglossis which I always thought were kind of cool, though I have never been a big Petunia fan. Love the Cappuccino and that incredibly dark red one. And if they can do the dishes, they will become my top favorite plant!

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