There’s a common misconception that romance is dead. Well, I’m here to tell you that, in the plant world, it’s very much alive – in the unlikely form of the Petunia!
You might have read that in disbelief. After all, the Petunia is a bit of an everyday flower, how could that possibly be linked to love and stuff? But, did you know that Petunias can also symbolise the desire to spend time with someone because you find them peaceful and relaxing to be around? If that’s not an indication of love, I’m not sure what is! But, with AMORE™ QUEEN OF HEARTS you can actually SEE the love in every flower!
The history of the Petunia
Part of the Solanaceae family, the Petunia is a relative of a whole host of plants that you may not expect, from tobacco and tomato, to chillies and deadly nightshade.
The Petunia was discovered in the 1600s by Spanish explorers in South America. In the local language, the flower was called ‘Petun’, and it was actually considered ugly by natives. Can you believe that?? Nevertheless, the explorers brought a sample back to Spain. But it was generally ignored until around 300 years later, when more Spanish explorers were sent to Argentina, and sourced more samples of the plant. It’s like being in a meeting at work where everyone ignores your idea, and then does it a year later!
Anyway… it wasn’t long before breeders all over Europe had the same idea, and they began travelling to Argentina and crossing their own samples to achieve more colour variations and larger flowers. In 1932, Japanese breeders created the first consistently double flowered Petunia, which caused a real stir! Since then, breeders have been competing for the best, biggest and most colourful Petunias that can be created, whilst cementing it as a staple plant for patio containers and window boxes right across Europe!
How are Petunias bred?
It takes a keen eye to breed Petunias. Most modern day breeding focusses on F1 hybrids, this means that they are selectively bred by cross pollinating two parent plants. It can take a lot of work and expense to get it right.
With Petunias, breeders first select a plant that has desirable characteristics, then they repeatedly cross it with itself until they achieve a ‘pure’ line of plants that all have these desirable characteristics. If they repeat this same process with another Petunia, they can cross pollinate these ‘perfect’ plants, and create offspring that (hopefully) have both of the selected traits.
It’s not always successful, and sometimes breeders want more than two traits in a new variety, making the process even more complex.
The discovery of Petunia AMORE™ QUEEN OF HEARTS
Although many were seeing stripes in the petals of the plant, it took a different outlook to ‘read between the stripes’ and see the love-heart as this particular plant’s unique signature.
Why are Petunias so popular?
Petunias are popular with gardeners year on year for several reasons:
- They’re easy to care for. Aside from a sprinkle of water and a rich feed every now and then, Petunias don’t need much attention. They’re relatively drought tolerant plants too. So if you’re a keen traveller, your elected plant carer will only have to water them every few days during your absence!
- They come in a range of colours, almost every colour of the rainbow I reckon! Petunias are available in red, pink, white, purple, burgundy, and almost-black shades (although the latter is rare). These flowers can also be obtained with patterned flowers; shapes can include stars, hearts, veins and much more!
- They flower dramatically and range in habits from mounded to trailing. They’re perfect for use as bedding plants, in pots, in window boxes and in hanging baskets.
- They repel pests. Petunias are said to repel tomato hornworms, aphids, leafhoppers, squash bugs, and asparagus beetles from having a chomp at your plants.
- They attract pollinators. While not being as attractive to bees as other flowers, they also attract hawk moths and hummingbirds (depending on your location). Of course, extra pollinators in the garden is great for booting our fruit and veg crops too!
An alternative Valentine’s gift
Not only is the Petunia AMORE™ QUEEN OF HEARTS a more discreet and unique profession of your love – it’s a longer lasting gift, too. A bouquet of cut roses last, at most, a couple of weeks. However, a baby Petunia AMORE™ QUEEN OF HEARTS can be handed to your loved one, grown on to flower into the summer, spreading love all along the way!
Would you buy these flowers as an alternative Valentine’s Day gift? Let me know in the comments section!
You can also listen the The Plant Based Podcast’s special episode asking two plant companies how they create new varieties (including Danziger, creator of the Petunia AMORE™ QUEEN OF HEARTS). Listen here.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook.