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Time to sing praises for award-winning petunias
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
We can complain about the lack of rainfall this year, but we can't complain about the beautiful and fragrant petunias that are blooming everywhere we turn.
Even though they all have been photogenic, this year's All-America Selections winner Opera Supreme Pink Morn is catching my eye.
If you knew how hard it was for a new petunia or petunia series to get established in today's competitive market, then you would know how special the Opera Supreme Pink Morn is.
The Opera Supreme series boasts eight color varieties: Blue, Coral, Lavender, Lilac Ice, White, Salmon and the award-winning Pink Morn. Pink Morn is iridescently hot-pink with a rich, creamy center that spreads outward.
The Opera Supreme petunias are vigorous and trailing. They are heavy bloomers, and the plant produces a lot of branches for a lot of flower power. This trailing habit makes them well-suited to large hanging baskets and window boxes. If you have the opportunity, use them to cascade like a bougainvillea over a wall. The look is absolutely stunning.
Whether you choose Opera Supreme Pink Morn or some of the Waves, many of which have garnered their own All-America Selections awards, pick a site in full sun. This is a location with at least six hours of sun daily if you want to have beds that will stop traffic. They will grow adequately in part shade, but they will not bloom as well.
As good as these new petunias are, don't expect wonderful success without proper bed preparation. Take the time to work in 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of about 8 inches. As you do this, add about 2 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer per 100 square feet. I prefer a 12-6-6 formula with minor nutrients, but that's just me. The petunias will never know the difference if it's something close or balanced, but do use a slow-release form of nitrogen. It's a good idea to give them a light application of fertilizer about once a month during the growing season.
After planting, water deeply and apply a good layer of mulch. In a year like we are having, the mulch is critical to keep out weeds, moderate soil temperatures and prevent moisture loss through evaporation.
Space most petunias about 10 inches apart, but spreading petunias like the Opera Supreme, Wave, Surfinia and Suncatcher need about 20 inches.
Plant them in bold drifts in a sufficient quantity to make a landscape impact. Combine them with other tough plants like lantanas, verbenas and salvias. Use them in large mixed tubs, and let them fall gently over the rims.
Don't be afraid to give the petunias a light trimming or shearing to stimulate new growth and blooms well into fall.
I certainly don't know what kind of petunias your garden center has, but I do know that after all the new flowers that have been introduced in the last five years, petunias are still among the best. This year's-All America Selections winner Opera Supreme Pink Morn will have you singing over your landscape.