I love petunias, always have. I remember growing red multiflora types from seed years ago so I could have lots of them for the hummingbirds. They seem to love petunias too, especially the red shades. In fact, they like them so much that they often poke holes in the flowers as they go flying around them searching for nectar. I know some gardeners tend to look down their noses at annuals, but they definitely have their place at Happy Acres.
When the Waves first came out in 1995, I didn’t immediately grow them, mainly because the original color was purple. Once I did, I was hooked! The Waves are non-stop bloomers great for planting in beds or containers. Unlike older petunia types, the Waves don’t need pinching or deadheading to keep on producing flowers.
After Purple Wave was introduced, the plant breeders went to work and Wave petunias now come in several different types and lots of different colors. The original Waves are low and spreading. The Easy Waves and Shock Waves are a bit taller, and slightly less spreading. The Tidal Waves are the tallest and will climb if given support, but still spread nicely if allowed to sprawl. And then there are the Double Waves, which are short and more restrained in growth than the other Waves.
I’ve grown them all except the Doubles. They all make good container plants, and they’re hard to beat for season-long color. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds like them too.
The plants are pricey enough that a few years ago I started growing my own from seed. With a packet of 10 seeds going for $2.95, I figure I can grow my own for less than 50 cents a piece. This is about one tenth the cost of plants purchased at a nursery!
The seeds themselves are tiny, and usually sold pelleted to make them easier to handle. Even then they are only about 1mm in diameter. I sow them in 3.5 inch pots, putting the seeds right on top of pre-moistened soil without covering them. I give them a light misting to dissolve the pellet material, cover them with plastic wrap, and secure it with a rubber band. Then they go on a heating mat under fluorescent lights.
Kept at 72-76F, they begin germinating in just 4 days. Once they have germinated, I remove the plastic wrap and keep them close to the lights. I mist them or bottom water until they have established roots and are getting their true leaves. In the pot below, 3 seeds have germinated right on schedule, 4 days after sowing. Can you see the green specks?
Here’s one of the seedlings closeup. The particles of perlite (white specks) look like boulders next to the tiny plant!
Detailed growing information can be found here. I start the seeds a good 3 months before I plan on setting them out. Around here that works out to be February 1st. By late April they should be starting to bloom, and ready to plant. I’ll transplant them twice – first to a cell pack and then to their own 3.5 or 4 inch pots. When the plants are about 3 weeks old I’ll start fertilizing them every 2 weeks with liquid fertilizer that is diluted to half-strength.
If you’ve never grown petunias from seed, you might want to give it a try. With a little bit of time and patience, you can be doing the Wave yourself!