In Great Britain, you simply can’t go more than a few yards ithout seeing a basket or window-box of Petunias, whether it’s outsider a bungalow or a pub!
Did you know though, they weren’t always so welcomed. Back in the 1500s, most British people believed they were a symbol of the demonic powers of satanism, ooooh gosh! Thousands of years later, they’ve become the nation’s most loved summer-bloomer.
But, let’s look at how a lanky plant become the candy box of colours it is today…
Part of the popular Solanaceae family (which includes Tomatoes and Aubergines), the very first species discovered was Petunia axillaris, hunted down by Spanish explorers in South America in the 16th century. Petunia axillaris is low-growing and covered in fragrant white blossom.
After a large gap, another Petunia species was founded, in 1831. Petunia violacea was found by Scottish explorer James Tweddle. He brought the plant back from the Americas to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. It wasn’t until later in the 1800s that breeders began to experiment, wanting to create types with larger petals and in a many more colours.
Alas, you can now grow a Petunia in almost any colour of the rainbow! There are double blooms, star-shaped blooms, striped blooms, and that’s just the start!
A petunia’s only demand is a sunny spot. They’ll grow in most soil types. The flowering season can stretch from late June to September, and beyond.
One key development in the last few years has been the wave of hybrids between Calibrachoa and Petunia. Calibrachoa initially entered the market and a filler for baskets and pots, but could also hold their own as a specimen. The colour spectrum and combinations available were like a horticultural sweet shop too.
The triumphant ‘BeautiCal’ hybrid of Petunia and Calibrachoa (x Petchoa) sports a bushy petunia shape, yet with large Calibrachoa-looking flowers. There’s no compromise on weather performance either!
Fragrance is usually hit and miss with Petunia, despite the early finding Petunia violacea having a strong sugar scent. However, BeautiCal have both colour, fragrance and flowering performance in abandon!!
I truly think this new hybrid will become the plant of choice for baskets, window boxes, planters – whether in public or private locations!
Find out more about the series on BeautiCal’s Instagram page 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 – and writes a plant-focused Substack called Grow This, Not That.