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Gardening with Laurie: Make petunias your next choice in flowers

Feb. 28, 2013 at midnight
Updated Feb. 27, 2013 at 8:28 p.m.


By Laurie Garretson

Once upon a time, petunias were one of the most popular of all the garden bloomers. During the past several years, their popularity has dwindled. I attribute this fall from popularity to three things: hotter summers, drought and planting them too late in the season.

Planting earlier in the spring will allow the plants to get better established before the harsh summer conditions get here. Healthy plants that are planted in the right conditions with a better, stronger root system will be better able to withstand the extreme summer weather.

Petunias require good drainage and at least six hours of sun, preferably with afternoon shade. Weekly to biweekly feeding is recommended. Regular trimming every several weeks is an often-ignored habit. I realize it's hard to trim off all the beautiful blooms, but a light trim will definitely help to rejuvenate the plants. If planting at this time, I would trim the plants toward the end of May and then again in mid-August. Always feed plants after trimming.

Today, you can find many different varieties of petunias. Some types will grow in a mounding fashion, while others grow like a ground cover and will spread up to 4 feet. You will find petunias with small, inch-size flowers and some with large, 2-inch diameter blooms. Petunias grow well in flowerbeds, baskets, window boxes and containers.

I like all varieties of petunias, but one of my favorite varieties has to be the Laura Bush petunia. Laura Bush petunias are a cross between the old-fashioned reseeding fragrant petunias and the VIP petunia that is known for its hardiness even during hot Texas summer weather. Because of this breeding, Laura Bush can take any weather conditions we normally have. It is one hardy petunia.

Laura Bush petunias bloom either pink or purple 2-inch size flowers and form a mounding plant about 8-10 inches in diameter size. It can bloom all the time and will require at least seven hours of full sun. Less sun means less blooms and taller, lanky plants. If there had to be any negative aspects to this plant, it might be that it can reseed all over the landscape. At one time, my mom had a beautiful Laura Bush/St. Augustine lawn.

All petunias are best watered by drip irrigation hoses rather than overhead watering. Overhead watering can destroy blooms and spread diseases. Keep all bed plantings well mulched to help prevent problems. Also, watch out for slugs, snails and pillbugs. These bad guys love the tender foliage and flowers on petunias plants.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, and not against it, and maybe all your weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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