(Named from petun, the Brazilian name for tobacco, to which Petunia is allied)
Everyone has some room for Petunias because they are the most profuse flowering of any annual. Few other annuals produce so many of such large flowers. The colors have been improved to such an extent that there are now varieties to please us all. Recently nearly clear blues have been produced; the deep, rich purples and violets are superb; the light pinks are dainty; the whites are showy; the striped sorts are fantastic; the giant doubles are marvels of the breeder’s art; the frilled sorts are popular-but why continue farther) The Petunias are altogether satisfactory. Petunias as cultivated are hybrids between several species, hence the name Petunia hybrida.
Note that the catalogs list trailing as well as bush sorts. The former are incomparable for the hanging basket, garden and window. The more compact varieties are unexcelled for beds by themselves, or as wide edgings for other plantings. Steep banks which furnish a difficult mowing problem may be planted with Petunias.
The writer will never forget their use in the “Garden of the Heart,” in Central Park, New York City. The rock walls rise on several sides of the garden and into the chinks of these rocks Dr. Southwick had sown Petunia seed; the resulting plants have continued to self-sow there year after year. The flowers are small and the colors not especially good, but as a whole, the effect is worthy of admiration.
Seeds of Petunias may be sown in a sunny window or hotbed in March, or in the open soil in May. The plants should always stand 9 inches apart. As the seeds are very fine, great care is necessary in sowing and in resisting the temptation to allow more plants to grow than will develop properly. Someone has said that the way to get the best single Petunias is to sow the best doubles because the seeds of the latter do not produce all double flowers. The slowest and smallest seedlings are more apt to be doubled than those that germinate rapidly and grow quickly. The better sorts of Petunia seeds will frequently cost more than the ordinary and inferior strains, but they are worth the difference.
Petunias prefer full sunlight but will bloom in partial shade. They will thrive in rather dry soil if this is well enriched, and also upon soil either too rich or too poor for most annuals if the moisture conditions are right. Thus one may see that the Petunia is the most adaptable.