Flower Tales-Petunia


Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful:  they are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.  ~Luther Burbank 



I just love the tried and true annual tender perennial* flowers that bloom happily in late spring and all summer into fall.  While they seem to be common to many folks, I find them charming.  And I want to profile these beautiful old flowers this winter.  

Nepalese police dog unitIn my first post last month, I profiled the marigold.  It was great to hear from readers about how many love the marigold.  And many were fascinated by the history and folklore.

Susan@Life.Change.Compost was one commenter who had personal history observing the use of marigolds in ceremonies in Nepal.  Aren’t these dogs gorgeous as they are decorated for a special ceremony honoring the dogs.  Thanks Susie for allowing me to use this stunning photo of these Nepalese police dogs.  And please visit Susie at her blog.  I told you I would be sharing the blog love more.

This month I am profiling the petunia.  I have always loved these flowers, especially the old-fashioned types that have lovely colors.  I try to grow them from seed now, and I make sure I have some in containers on my front porch especially a purple variety for my antique planters.

As I write this month’s flower tale, I am linking in for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) hosted by Carol@May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month.  And I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.





PIMG_6452etunias hail from South America, and are closely related to tobacco, tomatoes, deadly nightshades, potatoes and chili peppers; all in the family Solanaceae. This flower has about 35 species, and gets its name originally from the Brazilian word petun, meaning “tobacco.  Most of the varieties, of this annual, are hybrids.

Petunias were discovered in the early part of the 17th century by explorers, who brought them back to Europe. Marigolds started to gain in popularity in European gardens when news spread after James Tweedie sent samples of the flowers to the Glasgow Botanical Center in 1831. 




Growing Conditions

The original funnel-shape of the flowers has been modified a bit with newer hybrids sporting fringed margins, double petals and unusual color patterns with some almost black in color and even bright green.  Petunias prefer full sun but will grow in part shade conditions as long as they get at least 5 hours of sunlight.  These tender perennial plants are only hardy from Zones 9 to 11 which is why most of us grow them as annuals.  *Thanks Christina for pointing out that really these are not annual flowers, but we treat them as such.IMG_4875

One thing that is essential for these plants to grow is hot weather and frequent watering in well-drained soil (as they do not like wet feet).  They can withstand a bit of dry weather, but too much water can cause the plant to become ‘leggy’ with less flowers.  

I wait until the soil is warm and all threat of frost is gone before I plant mine out in late spring.  They are said to put out their maximum growth in late spring, but here it is more like summer when I see the growth spurt due to our cooler spring.  To keep the plant flowering all season, monthly feeding is needed.  I use a good organic fertilizer.

When planting in containers, it is helpful to pinch the plants back to encourage more branching.  Deadheading is not necessary especially with newer varieties (although recommended with container plants), but the older varieties do require a bit more deadheading.  If the plant stops flowering in summer, I do cut it back a bit to refresh the plant.

Be forewarned that pinching or deadheading will make for sticky hands, but I love the scent when I do any pruning. 

IMG_7425Petunias generally don’t have many issues except they can get a bit bedraggled and their heads will flop if they are deluged by rain.  Some problems that can be found with petunias are:  Gray Mold which occurs when petunias are exposed to too much rain, and insects such as aphids or budworm caterpillar.

Petunias are very slow to germinate, and can be difficult to grow from seed.  It can take 10 to 12 weeks before they are ready for planting out.




Folklore and Tales

It is said that in the early 1500s, Spanish explorers found petunias growing near the coast of Argentina. This first petunia IMG_5648found was a trailing white flower that was not thought to be of great interest and was not sent back to Spain.

It was not until extensive hybridization began in the United States that the plant really became popular.

In Germany, petunias are known as “Mary’s Praises” and are viewed as uplifting flowers.  They are also said to be a common symbol of the Virgin Mary in Christianity.





IMG_5865Petunias are insect pollinated except for one species that is hummingbird-pollinated (P. exserta).  And the tubular flowers are a favorite of the Lepidoptera species, including the Hummingbird hawk moth.  I have also found many hummers visiting my petunias all summer.

These flowers are used as bedding plants (multiflora) and container flowers (Grandiflora and multiflora).  I especially love how petunias look in hanging baskets especially mixed with other flowers.

And milliflora (miniature petunias), are perfect for borders, containers and beds.

I also have read petunias are a great flower in a floral arrangements so look for some in my vases next summer.

Petunias are also a favorite flower for me because they are deer resistant.




Language of Flowers

Petunias also have a rather fickle meaning.  They can represent Resentment or Anger.  But I much prefer the meaning of Your Presence Soothes Me as seeing these flowers makes me smile and linger to do a bit of deadheading.

petunia 2014 


Do you grow petunias?  If you do, do you prefer growing them from seed or buying the plants?



Blogging Love:

In the past 2 months, I was lucky enough to win a couple of garden prizes from some wonderful blogs and bloggers.  In early October, Kylee@Our Little Acre was giving away a $50 gift certificate from American Meadows, one of my favorite sites.  And lucky me, I won this prize (I really rarely win things).  Needless to say I was so happy as I planned to use it to order amaryllis HippeastrumDSCN7712 bulbs (they were having a half-priced sale) and some native meadow plant seed.

Then just before Thanksgiving, a few bloggers were part of an amaryllis (Hippeastrum) giveaway from Longfield Gardens.  And pinch me, I won an amaryllis Hippeastrum bulb from Dee@Red Dirt Ramblings.  But what I discovered when the box came in the mail, not only did I win an amaryllis Hippeastrum I actually won the gorgeous kit pictured here.  Two bulbs, lovely box, soil and moss.  Everything needed to plant the bulbs.  And I learned from Dee’s post how to stake my plants so they had support as they grow.

 So a great big thank you to Kylee and Dee as I send lots of blog love to both of you……


In A Vase On Monday


We just had a foot of snow this past week, and with it being so cold it is not melting.  I noticed many things in my garden recently that would make a fine winter vase prior to the snow coming, but they are buried under all that snow now.  So instead of saying ‘I can’t make a vase this week’, I decided to bundle up, go out in my boots, brush away the snow and dig out what I could find.

As I arrange this vase of interesting winter plant material, I am linking in with Pam@Digging for her Foliage Follow Up on the 16th, and with Cathy@Rambling in the Garden  who hosts this wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday.   I am also linking in with Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles.


So what did I find….. 


mid dec vase

I added some dried grasses, St. John’s wort still sporting autumn colors, boxwood, winterberries, rose hips, Scouringrush horsetail, willow branches and a branch from the forsythia with loads of buds. 




mid dec vase collage


What a festive late autumn bounty I found in my garden even if I did freeze my fingers.  I love the grasses this winter as they will provide lots of interest in my vases.  And I hope the willow and forsythia will bloom.  Wouldn’t that be a great treat.




mid dev vase 2

Here’s a last look at this week’s vase with a bit of fancy magic to make it look like there is sunlight glowing on it….it does brighten my gray days right now.  



I hope you will join me in my Seasonal Celebrations meme where we celebrate the new season coming soon to your part of the world.  


Just write a post between now and December 21st.   Leave a link with your comment on the kick-off post of Seasonal Celebrations-Winter Wonders. I will include your link in my summary post on December 22nd.  


I am collaborating with Beth@Plant Postings and her Lessons Learned meme at this same time.  What lessons have you learned this past season of summer here in the North and winter in the South.  Write a separate post or combine your lessons with your celebrations in one post.



Next up on the blog:  

I will have the follow up post for Seasonal Celebrations on Monday.  And then on the last Monday of the year, I will have a native plant profile to close out this year’s Simply The Best series.  

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her new blog just for Nature Notes.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 



I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


100 Replies to “Flower Tales-Petunia”

  1. Donna interesting about the petunia, I used to buy some each year back in the 70s when I had the tiny garden, they were lovely and flowered well into autumn, here would be much too wet for them, I like that you like them as they are deer resistant, I find I tend to like plants the rabbits leave alone, there are deer here but they tend to stay on the moor and not come to the houses, thankfully, Frances

    1. Nice memories of petunias Frances, and I agree it makes sense to use plants that critters will leave alone…makes for less stress in gardening.

  2. Very interesting information about petunias! We like them very much and grow different types and colours in containers every year. For the next summer, however, I collected seeds only of one cultivar, with white, large flowers.
    It’s because last summer I seriously fell in love with Million Bells (Calibrachoa). We had bought plants with lovely colours (different shades of pink and dark red). It would be lovely, if my growing them from seed next year would succeed: I would have them everywhere! 🙂
    Deadheading them is not required, but during the summer months we try to do it rather regularly.

    Your autumnal bouquet is wonderful!

  3. Hi Donna. You have quite a long post on a few topics. Congrats on your wins. I do grow petunias but not every year. Most years I grow the small look-a-like, Million Bells, Calibrachoa. They are more drought tolerant, are very proliferous, last the entire season without fail and need no dead-heading. I find hard rains can make a sticky mess of my petunias, but the Calibrachoa makes it through fine, popping right back up. I still do have petunias self seeding in the garden from years ago and I love to find them each season. Another preference of one over the other is the petunia has too strong a fragrance. It is one I find not very appealing.

    1. I agree Donna that Million Bells are so much easier and I adore the color range they have too…but I still love to mix them with some petunias…I guess it is the nostalgia for me…and another flower’s scent I like that many do not. 🙂

  4. My only petunias are ‘Laura Bush’ that I started from seed years back. They happily seed about and require no more than an occasional haircut to prevent legginess.

    I even had a bloom for Bloom Day, tucked back behind shrubbery in a corner.

    1. Jean how wonderful to have them come back so often….sometimes mine will reappear the next year especially when I deadhead and discard the blooms that have some seed.

  5. I love petunias too! They have faces, do they not? I just need to be better about watering so I don’t kill them. Congrats on winning a few prizes on blogs. How exciting!

  6. Petunias have been a reliable basic annual for years, haven’t they? Although there are many varieties available today, they’re not a plant I use a lot of because of the leggy issue.
    A couple of nice giveaway wins, congratulations Donna.
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

  7. I am fond of Petunias. Like you I think of them as a bit old fashioned, but all the more charming for it. My problem is they always get leggy. Based on your post, I wonder if I water them to frequently. I especially love the color of the Petunias at the top of your post.

    1. Thanks Jennifer. Those pots are in part shade and not watered too often which is why they tend to not get leggy. I love their charm too.

  8. Hi Donna, interesting post, as usual, with great photos too. Congratulations on your winnings. Love the box for amaryllis. I have a red amaryllis just bursting into flower so took note of the correct way to stake them. Your vase is absolutely stunning – I love all the colour and textures you’ve combined – very effective. I’m not participating this week but couldn’t resist taking a peek … I can always learn from the experts 🙂

  9. I love the dogs with their marigold collars! And, for whatever reason, I never realized that petunias were in the nightshade family – I tend to avoid them as I have a slight aversion for sticky flowers but they are pretty so I may have to revise my position and grow some. Your vase is very inventive and also beautiful. Stay warm Donna!

    1. Thanks Kris…the marigolds around the dogs was such a wonderful picture I was glad Susie shared so we could all enjoy it. And glad you will give petunias a try again.

  10. How interesting to hear all about the petunia, Donna, the stalwart of my summer baskets at the front of the house – although they were still flowering about 3 weeks ago when I hoiked them out for violas. Perhaps I should try growing them from seed instead of growing them on from little plug plants…. Your bundle of glowing grasses and foliage and hips is absolutely gorgeous – love that first picture – and well done for not being thwarted by the snow! Thanks so much for linking to the meme

    1. Loving the challenge still Cathy although I am worried about the lack of variety for the vases to come. And how wonderful to hear you still had petunias only a few weeks ago…I also adore violas.

  11. your vase is lovely today, you are very brave to go out in the snow to find this lovely foliage. If you can create a lovely vase like this there is no excuse for any of the rest of us. Btw a Petunia isn’t an annual it is a tender perennial treated by many gardeners as an annual. But an annual is a plant that grows, flowers and sets seed and then dies. In their native habitat they would regrow each year. All the plants you mentioned as being in the same family are actually perennials, but they are tender for most of us so we tend to think they are annuals but this isn’t the case.

    1. Thanks Christina so glad you enjoyed the vase…it is becoming quite a challenge…and I appreciate your information about the petunia being a tender perennial. I should have known better (and I did)…I think it is best to present the most accurate info, so I have updated my post to make sure I distinguish these flowers as tender perennials. I would love to see these flowers growing in their native land.

  12. I enjoyed your informative post. I used to just plant nursery grown Petunias in my deck planters, but this year I grew Petunia exserta from seed, which was charming, especially the ones in a large pot. This next year I am planning to grow that plus “Laura Bush Mix” from seed, which I read about in a blog, I think Bonnie Lassie. Your autumn vase arrangement looks great and very seasonal.

    1. Thanks Hannah. I hope to grow a bunch of petunias from seed if I can start them early enough. Looking forward to seeing yours next year.

  13. Those petunias are gorgeous!! I hope to start a vegetable garden in the spring, but it seems something always happens to make me put it off. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  14. I confess, I am not a petunia lover. I cannot even state why. Although I did grow a most beautiful variety last summer named Surfinia that also smelled delicious. I should try some of the heirlooms – it might lead to more petunia love. Speaking of love, I love your arrangement! Such great color and texture.

    1. Thanks Kathy and there are so many varieties especially the lovely colors that I bet you would like them…I love the striped old fashioned petunias.

  15. Hi Donna, thats dedication to the cause and very glad you went out in the snow, your vase is lovely and I love the determination involved too.

    1. Thanks Julie…I am hoping for some success with forcing some flowers from the branches…need a bit of bloom to break up all the foliage.

  16. Fabulous Donna, I always admire the wonderful posts you put out, along with all the lovely photographs. Thanks again for linking with Today’s Flowers, and I wish you a very happy week 🙂

  17. I am so glad you braved the cold and produced such a lovely vase Donna! Doesn’t it do the soul good to have an arrangement from your own garden in these dark days! I also really enjoyed reading about Petunias. I must admit to always overlooking them when I buy annuals (the hybrids are sold as annuals here too). I have had experience of them looking so sorry for themselves after a downpour, which put me off. But since you say the humming bird hawk-moths like them I will have to find a sheltered spot for a container next year!

    1. Oh your hummingbird moths will love the petunias Cathy…and I am pleased you enjoyed the vase…it has been an interesting challenge that I hope I can continue. But even if I can’t, I know I will make plans for next year so I can plan on vases for 52 weeks.

  18. Lovely to read about all about petunias Donna – these are one of my favourite summer bedding plants. I tend to buy plug plants from the garden centre and sometimes struggle with them if we have a damp summer. I am very impressed with the lengths you went to in making your lovely vase this week – your neighbours must have wondered what you were to!The results were well worth your effort and hopefully will last for a while.

    1. Yes my neighbors just shake their heads puzzled. But I love it Julie. I only grow a few varieties from seed and also use plugs especially for front containers as they fill in faster.

  19. Aha, so that’s why petunia looks like tobacco flowers – they are related.

    I do grow the plants, but last year they didn’t do as well as other flowers. I like flowers that grow easily. For example, marigolds love my yard. And the nasturtium were happy. My snapdragons are still alive, despite snow and frost.

    I once tried impatiens from seed – I got a flower in late August. Learned my lesson to shop for most annuals in a plant nursery.

  20. Another great post. I enjoyed reading all about Petunias. I am going to try a black one next year called ‘ Black Velvet’. I love your mosaic and how brave to go out in the snow foraging for material for your vase and very nice it is too.

  21. I plant petunias every year. There are so many pretty colors to choose from. I should be more deligent in pinching them back next year. I should also try to grow them from seeds. Your flower arrangement is lovely. Have a nice week, Donna.

  22. I had no idea petunias are originally from South America. When I think of petunias, my dear friend Viv always comes to mind, this has always been her pet name for her daughters, now grown women, one with a wee petunia daughter of her own.

  23. Wow, I’m impressed with your arrangement–especially after getting as much snow as you did! Our snow is gone, and it was about 50F here today. I was out raking the leaves I didn’t get to in November! Petunias have a special place in my memories, Donna. When I was a kid, Mom and Dad allowed my sister and me to pick out one type of flower for their garden. My sister picked Pansies, and I picked Petunias. I haven’t planted them for years, but I do still enjoy them. Beautiful photos here!

    1. Thanks Beth and what a lovely memory…I wish we had warm weather here but it has been a cold December and any temps in the 40s has brought flooding to my garden….but that is our late fall. Now what will winter bring….

  24. I’m so pleased to see the pups wearing the marigolds around their necks. One very minor correction: they are decorated to honor Diwali, one of the most important celebrations of the Hindu year. As I mentioned to Donna when we discussed the picture: Wouldn’t it be something if police dogs (and maybe even policemen and women wore flower garlands–I know, I know. Very woo woo.) But couldn’t hurt. Might help. -:)) I WISH I were a petunia lover because they seem so easy to grow and mass like crazy. Can you believe the size of the seeds? Smaller than a poppy seed.

    1. That is the trouble with starting them from seed Susie…you can barely see the seed. And thanks for sharing the picture and clarifying the context too! I wish we honored our police with garlands…what a sight that would be!

  25. I love petunias, they come in so many colors.. We usually keep some in pots on the deck in the summer.. I love the shot of the dogs with the Marigold. So cute. Wonderful post, thanks for sharing.

  26. I do like Petunias especially the small flowered surfinia type but I buy the plants instead of growing them from seed. Didn’t know what they stand for though ;). Pretty seasonal bouquet, well done. Have a fab xmas 🙂

  27. I usually grow petunias every year in my front garden. they are a splash of bright colour for summer. but somehow this spring planting for summer has escaped me, so I will rely on my flowers that regenerate themselves and flower every year in summer. Your vase of flowers is lovely. Surely enough to brighten up a snowy day.
    Have a lovely week and thank you for stopping by my blog this week.

  28. Who knew the sweet little petunia was closely related to tobacco, tomatoes, deadly nightshades, potatoes and chili peppers; all in the family Solanaceae! I declare. Well, if anyone could tell us about it, it would be you. And I just LOVE your vase arrangements. You’re Magical, Donna!

  29. Petunias can be very attractive if used well, but I am only moderately fond of them and don’t plant them very much. One reason is I don’t have a lot of space in full sun. I think I prefer the Calibrachoa to Peturnias for that shape of flower.

  30. Yep, they’re actually tender perennials. There really aren’t very many true annuals, that I know of. Godetia and Bread Seed Poppies come to mind right off the top of my head. Your petunia photos are so luscious I can almost smell that sweet, spicy fragrance.

  31. Yes, I do. I prefer to grow them from seed and every spring I have pots of petunia seedlings on the windowsills. Of the different varieties I love those that are resistant to rain and do not drop their heads down.
    A Merry Christmas Donna!

    1. That’s what I love about all the petunias is that there are ones for any type of conditions just about…i look forward to seeing your containers full next year Nadezda.

  32. I love petunias, and used to have them every year, but my growing season is quite long and they never lasted the whole run, by end of August they would look rather sorry and straggly and even though I might have snipped and pruned a bit here and there it didn’t really help. So I moved on to other plants. Mind you, last year I had 5 Calibrachoas for the first time, said to not need any deadheading, but I had to deadhead mine, they looked awful after a week or so, the dead flowers didn’t fall off and just stayed on so the work was just the same, just more difficult as the flowers were so tiny. I will definitely have petunias again, but they are more a spring and early summer flower in my garden, and I need to replace them with something else for the period August to December 🙂
    Thanks for all the nice information Donna, as always your post is a treasure-trove of things to know!

    1. So glad you liked the post…and I always find your garden season so fascinating Helene. That is why your garden is so full of flowers…lots of work keeping all the flowers blooming in succession.

  33. Donna I’m glad to see these featured -perfectly lovely and made for that stone planter. Petunias had a renaissance since my youth when they were regarded as frumpy but a few years ago I was at a nursery and followed my nose to a purple-veined trailing petunia that won me over. Since then I’ve tried all sorts of weird colour combos but really if if does not trail and waft perfume I’m not interested. Hoverflies love them too.

  34. Lucky you Donna, winning a couple of give aways. Looking forward to seeing the blooms from the bulbs you received. I love petunias and usually buy them ready started. I’ve grown them from seed but as I don’t have a greenhouse or indoor space to start them early they never mature the same as the ready started ones.

    1. Even with my indoor space they are hard to grow for me Linda….So far 2 of the 4 bulbs are growing a bit so I expect sometime in late January or February I will see some welcome blooms.

  35. It is funny but I never cared for petunias until we bought our summer cottage in Maine and I needed a hardy flower for our window boxes. They were perfect…I used to buy coral colored ones that were so pretty against the white boxes and grey siding. 🙂

  36. Donna
    All the bad press we get here about annuals almost had me giving up on them. I made up my mind that it was nonsense and although I now buy them in late Spring as plug plants, I did in Aberdeen grow them from seed including the fabulous Petunias. They performed really well in a sunny position but gave up the ghost long before the Begonias did. Although I wont plant as many annuals as I once did, you have encouraged me to continue with these beauties.
    Have a great Christmas.

  37. I didn’t know that petunias were actually a tender perennial, until I actually had some come back the next year when I lived in NC. I was very surprised! I love petunias. I had some sprouting wild in my garden this year. I didn’t plant them, but I’m glad for whatever bird did! I had a tiger moth come that loved them. Congratulations on the things you won! That’s awesome! The kit is beautiful. Enjoy!

  38. What beautiful arrangements you create, Donna! This one just shouts autumn. I have been planting petunias for years, but I really didn’t know much about their history–thanks for all this interesting info. And I do appreciate the tips on growing them; some of mine tend to get leggy in the summer, so perhaps I’m watering them too much. I love the new Supertunias and use a lot of them primarily in containers. ‘Raspberry Blast’ is one of my favorites as well as several others that I buy every year–when I know a plant is going to do well for me, I’m not about to change things:)

    I have been waiting for snow here to join in on your Seasonal Celebrations, but nothing other than a dusting so far here. Now Christmas and a new grandbaby are keeping me from blogging–I might be a latecomer to the party.

    1. Nice to hear you love petunias too Rose….and love to have you link in with Seasonal Celebrations when you are ready. I have the wrap up coming up on Monday and can add you anytime.

  39. I haven’t grown domesticated petunias in years but I always loved them. They feel soft to the touch and I actually like their scent. I should add some to the garden. The first time I saw a hummingbird moth it was hovering near a hanging petunia. Pure magic.

  40. I am so impressed that you braved a foot of snow to find the contents of a lovely bouquet! Very well done!

    As for petunias, I love them and grow them every summer. I did not know that over-watering could make them leggy; I thought they just did that naturally if I failed to pinch them back. I especially love the older varieties of petunias that have such sweet fragrance, though it is getting harder to find them!

    1. Definitely they get leggy later in the season especially as it cools down, but mid-season it is more related to the watering. I also find the old-fashioned ones harder to find as plants Deb so I try to grow those if I can find the seed. I should try to save some seed too.

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