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Proctor's Garden: Grow perfect petunias

Petunias are bred to fill different roles in the garden and in pots.

COLORADO, USA — I've always loved petunias but I'm growing more these days since I've noticed that they are rarely bothered by Japanese beetles. 

To grow great petunias, you've got to understand them. There are two major categories; those grown from cuttings and those grown from seed. 'Bubblegum' is the ultimate in petunia grown from cuttings. Its biggest advantage is that it's sterile. It sets no seed and wastes no energy producing them. This also means it doesn't need deadheading. 'Bubblegum' and its related "supertunia" sisters are vigorous and ideal as cascading petunias.

Seed grown petunias need constant deadheading to keep them blooming. It's a sticky business. They also need pinching--from the very start--and periodically throughout the summer to keep them branching from the center rather than turning into a straggly mess. It's not too late to pinch them if you didn't when you first planted them. Pinch out the growth tips at the end of the stems. otherwise you end up with a sad single stem with a lone flower at the top.

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Novelty petunias are lots of fun and very eye-catching. 'Ca-Ching Cherry" is red with yellow stripes, while 'Amore' is yellow with five hearts on each flower. They are not sterile so they need vigilant deadheading. They also need to be pinched to keep them bushy.

Double petunias are quaint and charming and would make a Victorian lady swoon. 'Purple Pirouette' resembles a frilly Victorian frock. 'Valentine' is a luscious pink and looks like a carnation. 'Blue Cascade' is deep purple and has a trailing habit. They are seed grown so they all need deadheading and periodic pinching. 

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Petunias are bred to fill different roles in the garden and in pots. Some form a tight mound and some are trailers. If a particular petunia isn't performing as you'd hoped, replace it with a variety bred to do the job you intended.

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