The Petunia: A Beautiful And Intriguing Flower

Petunias are popular in landscapes across North America. Not only are they simple to grow, but they also come in many colors, making it easy to coordinate them with the rest of your yard and home. Petunias, however, are more than just a pretty face. They have an intriguing history and unique characteristics that will soon make them one of your favorite flowers.

The History of Petunias

What is now known as the petunia is actually a quite modern cultivar. Early petunias began appearing in gardens in the 19th century, but these all belonged to two species that were discovered in South America in the 1700s. One of these varieties had white flowers, and the other had purple flowers. Gardeners in Europe began crossing these early petunias with other flowers, which resulted in the creation of many different petunia varieties, all of which had unique colors and flower shapes.

Throughout the 1900s, gardeners and breeders used basic genetic principles to develop specific varieties of petunias. In Japan, double petunias, which featured much larger flowers, were developed. In Germany, unique color combinations, such as white flowers with purple rims, become popular. It took until 1953 for breeders to develop a true red petunia, and in 1977, the yellow petunia was developed.

Unique Facts About Petunias

The name "petunia" preserves a little of the flower's history. It comes from the root word, "petun," which was a native name for tobacco in South America. Petunias, especially the early varieties, are close relatives of the tobacco plant.

The unifying feature of all petunia varieties is the general shape of their flowers. They have a trumpet-like shape, with flowers that become wider at the edges and open in a slightly downward angle.  Some varieties have ruffled petals, while others have petals that are nearly flat.

Two main types of petunias are sold in nurseries and seed catalogues today. Multiflora petunias have numerous small flowers, while grandiflora petunias have fewer, but larger flowers. There are numerous sub-types and colors of both types of petunias.

If left alone, most petunia plants will grow tall and lanky. However, gardeners learned early on that trimming the plants back in the summer causes them to become fuller and develop thicker foliage, rather than longer stems.

Petunias make a beautiful addition to any yard, especially when you know a little about them. Plant your own petunia garden or ask a landscape specialist from a company like Wagner Sod, Landscaping and Irrigation Co., Inc to include one in your design. You'll enjoy sharing your petunia knowledge with guests who stop to admire their beauty.