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New Petunias Demand Attention This Year
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
MillionBells is the name for an exciting new group of petunias making their debut this year. They may be the most beautiful of all the new petunia family from the past five years.
MillionBells is not yet listed in Hortus Third or The Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. They represent the first of this genus of the family, petunia calibricoa. They are being introduced to us by a firm called Suntory who gave us the Surfinias, and my favorite verbena, the Tapiens.
In a basket or container, it looks as though it must have a million bell-shaped flowers. They thrive in bright sun and are heat tolerant but are touted as being the most tolerant of lower light conditions. I have not grown them under these conditions.
The MillionBells group comes to us vegetatively propagated and therefore guaranteed to be pure. They are well suited to containers and planter boxes where their cascading habit can really perform. They will perform equally well in the border with perennials or planted with evergreens as a backdrop.
Three colors should be around this spring: cherry pink, trailing pink and trailing blue. The trailing blue actually looks light purple and gets darker toward the center with a bright yellow throat. The cherry pink also has a yellow throat giving it a two- toned and very attractive appearance.
Ball Seed is introducing their own series of vegetatively propagated petunias, and they should catch the fancy of petunia lovers everywhere. They are called Berlin Bells and have petite flowers with ruffled edges. Look for Berlin Bells in pink blush and in purple.
Fantasy Pink Morn won the All-America award a couple of years ago, and now the Fantasy series with its 1 to 1 1/2 inch flowers have really caught on. New in the Fantasy series for 1998 are Crystal Light salmon, Carmine and Sky Blue.
Another petunia called Prism Sunshine has garnered top honors for 1998 as an All-America winner. Prism Sunshine has numerous improvements with the most significant being flower color. Past yellow petunias for the most part have not been very popular.
Prism Sunshine is a single grandilflora with creamy yellow flowers that neither fade nor blushes pink under stressful garden conditions.
The deep green foliage contrasts with the large 3- to 3 1/2-inch pastel yellow flowers. Prism Sunshine plants are vigorous, flowering freely throughout the growing season.
Prism Sunshine plants may spread from 15 to 20 inches in the garden depending on the availability of nutrients, sunlight and moisture. They too are adaptable to container gardening, and combine well with other annuals particularly those with blue flowers like salvias.
Plant petunias in well-prepared beds that have had 3 to 4 inches of a good organic compost or landscape planting mix incorporated. Mix in a slow-release fertilizer during preparation. Apply a pine bark mulch to retard weed growth, keep soil cool and prevent moisture loss through evaporation.