Petunias Stopped Blooming? It’s Not You, It’s Them.
I recently received this email from a client with a roof garden in Boston:
“Just got home . Garden is beautiful!! Thank you.
In contrast, our Cape containers look terrible. They (mostly petunias ) were pretty good all summer. Then all of a sudden they stopped blooming. I had been using a fertilizer in solution weekly. The product is supposed to stimulate blooms. I did it weekly for about a month—the last time I doubled the dosage.
Do you think that I over-fertilized? Any thoughts? Can you do magic on Cape Cod?”
While I am more than happy to do magic on Cape Cod I, unfortunately, cannot do magic with petunias. I have never succeeded with them long-term. Perhaps I am doing something wrong but it’s one reason petunias made my lecture “The 10 Most-Popular Container Plants – And Why You Shouldn’t Use Them.”
Petunias peter out, let’s be honest. They look gang-busters when you buy them in May and I think that’s why so many of us are seduced by their vibrant, brightly-colored little faces. We don’t look down the summer months and see that those same faces will resemble Grandma Moses. You can whack petunias back in July and hope that your hard-pruning will put the fear of God into them so they will bloom for your anticipated graduation/christening/bridal shower/first communion get-together. But that doesn’t always work. As I get older I get less sentimental. I am not interested in a plant that requires constant deadheading to look its best.
As my friend Kerry Mendez says “plants are not children or pets” we can get rid of them without guilt.
Which is what I do with petunias.
Out they go and are easily replaced with another colorful annual that will look even BETTER in August than it does in June. Are you wondering what that annual is?
The winner for the best petunias replacement is….LANTANA!
This is one of my favorite sun-loving annuals for the garden or containers. It comes in a rainbow of colors – pink, yellow, white, orange, red, lilac…even rainbow. I especially like the Bandana ® series from Proven Winners. Lantana is drought-tolerant and requires neither deadheading nor constant fertilizing to continue its prolific blooming. I’m a busy gardener so that kind of plant is a must-have for me.
I saved, what I think, is Lantana’s best feature for last. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies like crazy which makes working in the garden more entertaining. I have a Lantana standard in the garden and it is such a treat to see the hummingbirds up close and at eye-level. Takes my mind off the weeding.
So if your piddly petunias are making you second guess your green thumb, don’t.
It’s not you, it’s them.
Next time pick up some Lantana and feel good about yourself. You’re welcome.