The Petunia

How Do You Throw A Party In Space?… You Planet!!!!

Another wonderful market filled with many new vendors and our wonderful clientele.  Many new people were out shopping and all people respectfully followed the guidelines that have kept us all safe.  The weather too was delightful, although there were many who suggested a fall like feeling especially first thing in the morning.  Although the temperatures have been a little lower than norm and a respite from the mid thirty heat wave that we had previously endured, summer is far from over.  A question brought to my attention certainly sparked some interest regarding one of the most popular summer flowers available.  This delightful woman was concerned with a failure of the petunias in her hanging baskets and despite loving attention continues to plaque this poor hanging basket.  Even research done by herself failed to point to a single culprit or a ready answer.  Although the petunia is very hardy and has few pest and diseases there are a few things that can affect them.  Research has provided me with a few ideas and of course a wealth of interesting information on this highly attractive and popular plant.

The Petunia was first discovered by the French in the mid 1700s in South America but it was a far cry from the plant we enjoy today.  It is a member of the family of the Nightshade family.  This family also includes plants like tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes and the chilly pepper to name a few.  The Incas believed that the fragrance of the Petunia wards off monsters and evil spirits and made a magical drink from the buds of the flowers.  The Petunia became popular in Europe in the 1880’s and in the early 1900’s Japanese and German botanists created what we now know as the Petunia we know and love.  With the advent of garden centres in the 1950’s the Petunia became a favourite flower in the North American market place.  The Petunia as with all other flowers has meaning, if one is inclined to put stock in this other than it being a beautiful gift to receive and to give.  It can mean that you are comfortable with the person you give it to and wish to spend time with them or it can mean anger and resentment which I personally don’t think many people actually give gifts to people who invoke such feelings.  It was also believed that they only thrive in positive energy and will not in a place of negative energy.  The Petunia is also is a long lasting cut flower which I will be investigating immediately as some of the colours that have been developed are stunning!

But back to the problems that can develop with the plants, one of the basic and most influential problems is the amount of sunshine that the plant gets.  It needs at least 5 or 6 hours of full sun.  If it does not receive this it will become spindly   This will require a pruning and move to a place that will give it this basic requirement.  Water, if it is in a basket should be frequent while if it in a border or as ground cover, a weekly deep watering should suffice.   Watch for a drooping of leaves for guidance, once watered it should bounce back nicely as it is quite drought resistant.  It should never become water logged, it needs good drainage.  If planted in the ground it should receive a balanced fertilizer higher in phosphates that in nitrogen,  that being the middle number.  Bone meal is an excellent choice at it slowly releases the required feed, is organic, inexpensive and has the balance needed to ensure proper growth and flowering.  Pruning is another matter as midsummer the plant may become spindly and should be cut back to encourage branching and new flowers.  Some people tend to just pull off the spent blooms however I find that this will not encourage new blooms as the sole purpose of a plant is too produce seed and then its basic function is done.  Removing the seed pod at the branch will be revitalizing to the plant.  Few pests in the way of bugs will do damage or spread disease these being thrips, aphids, slugs and the bud worm caterpillar.  This last one you will not see but it will affect plants in late June and July and then disappear.  The evidence of its being there will be black droppings and small holes in the leaves.  As this woman and I have determined her problems plant if probably the cause of a viral or bacterial problem which was either spread by insects or earlier in its life by the soil it was planted in, soiled hands or infected cutters or surfaces that it came in contact with.  Damage to the plant can allow it to become infected as well as the holes left by insects feeding upon the plant. Little can be done once the plant is infected.  One can remove the plant or seemingly infected parts but by then the disease like mosaic or verticulum wilt.  Do not put this soil or foliage in your compost.  Soil that contains these pests must be sterilized if it is to be used again and try to keep the leaves and flowers dry when watering as this could spread it too if the Petunias are in boarders or are ground coverage.  I hope this helps.

Samantha Nason
BS Ranch & Greenhouses
250 547 6567 • samanthanason@hotmail.com

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