The Petunia Genus

Petunias come from the nightshade plant family, Solanaceae, and the genus is made up of 20 different species, all of which hail from South America.

Petunias are grown by experienced gardeners and beginners alike, as the trumpet-shaped flowers are incredibly beautiful, easy to grow, and come in many colors.

Petunias At A Glance

Petunias are probably the most popular bedding plant, grown across the world.

They have a long history of use in horticulture, and when Spanish explorers recorded its discovery in the 1500s, they didn’t think much of it.

They didn’t bring it back to Spain with them, as they couldn’t see a use for it, not even as an ornamental plant.

This is similar to the discovery of the Zinnia flower, and while it was overlooked then, it remains a very popular flower these days!

It was only when Napoleon’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, sent people to Argentina that this flower was collected, and it was officially named part of the tobacco, or nightshade plant family.

Petunias do well in the ground, in beds and borders, but they also look fantastic in containers, such as hanging baskets, pots, and window baskets.

Petunia Name Origin

The word petunia is French in origin (see also Petunia Flower Meaning), which is derived from petun, meaning tobacco, as it’s related closely to Nicotiana.

The Symbolism Behind Petunias

Petunias have some surprising symbolism. They tend to be complete opposites: either you find someone’s presence calming, and you want to be near them more, or you absolutely hate their guts, and something they’ve done has made you so angry you could scream.

They can also symbolize romance and hope.

This flower is the queen of mixed messages, so you do have to be careful when giving petunias as a gift!

Petunia Growing Requirements

Petunias can be perennials or annuals, and come in nearly any shade you can imagine, including deep purple (see also Black Petunia Care Guide), which looks almost black, white, pink, red, and yellow.

Some cultivars may even need specific growing conditions in order to keep their flowers looking a certain way, such as the night sky petunia, also known as the galaxy petunia.

These lovely plants are hardy in USDA zones 8 through to 11, and depending on when you plant them, may flower from spring all the way through to autumn.

The height of petunias can depend on the species. Some of them are the perfect bedding plant, only reaching about 6 inches tall, while others are capable of growing up to 4 feet high.

Petunias will thrive in full sunlight or partial shade, and only require average watering. They do need soil which features decent drainage, and stays fairly damp, with a good amount of nutrients.

Why Are Petunias Sticky?

If you’ve ever grown petunias before, you’re probably familiar with how sticky some varieties can be, especially if you’re removing spent flowers. 

The reason petunias produce sticky sap is that it acts as an insect deterrent, protecting the plant from insects which could feed on the foliage or the flowers.

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