If you've never grown flowers before, consider starting with petunias. Their bright, festive colors lift the spirits, and attract hummingbirds. There are many different types of petunias. They come in practically all sizes and colors, and new ones are developed all the time. They are easy to grow from seeds or seedlings. They do well in hanging pots, in container gardens, or as bedding plants. They look gorgeous with pansies, marigolds, zinnias and snapdragons, with tall flowers such as phlox right behind them. They make an excellent first flower for children to learn gardening. All they need is a lot of sun, moderate watering, and a little tender loving care. Use these tips to learn how to grow petunias.
Petunias need about six to eight hours of light per day. If you grow petunias indoors, be sure they have a window with southern or western exposure, or an energy-efficient grow light. These can be a little expensive, but last a long time, and are well worth the investment. Some plants do well with ordinary fluorescent lights. Different types of petunias have different requirements. If your petunias are in a hanging basket, be sure to rotate it regularly so that all sides of the plant receive light. If you have them in a container, be sure it has adequate drainage. Don't plant more than two plants per basket or container, and be careful not to overfeed them. Once a month is plenty. Use organic plant food and fertilizer such as TerraCycle or Espoma, or make your own plant food.
For watering, put your finger in the soil to see if it's dry. If you feel dry soil about an inch or more deep, they need watering. Give them a good soak every few days, not every day. Water outdoor petunias in the morning, before the sun gets to them. The more sun they receive, the more water they will need. They will also need more water as they grow. But be careful not to over water them. They need to dry out thoroughly between waterings, especially if they're in a container. Always check the soil with your finger.
Petunias need grooming. They look their best if you snip off the flowers as soon as they start to wilt and fade. This is called deadheading and is a routine practice with many kinds of flowers. The plants should look bushy and not too tall. They should grow out, spreading over the soil, not up. If the plants stop blooming or begin to look as if they are struggling to survive, carefully prune them back to about four inches high.
Petunias in baskets will look beautiful if you plant only one type and one color per basket. If you grow them in a container, put them with herbs. In window boxes and garden beds, they look great with coleus. Since they are annuals, you will need to buy new petunia plants every year. Experiment with different styles and colors.