POTUNIAS IN THE GARDEN
by Ruby Weinberg
Is part of your garden going to pot? I don’t mean cannabis but a display of ornamental plants in containers and/or hanging baskets. For this use, petunias have long been favorites. In fact, petunias are so ubiquitous that I’ve long avoided them.
Last year, however, I “discovered” POTUNIAS in a garden center. Immediately, I fell in love with them. They have luscious names such as Blackberry Ice, Lemon Drop, Lobster, Deep Purple.
I brought home two Papaya. For some silly reason, I purchased only these two. Returning to the center to buy more plants, I could not find any other. Sold out! Three or four trips to several other nurseries yielded no results, either, but I had my two POTUNIAS. They both have stunning peachy-red blooms.
In no time at all, the 4-inchers needed transplanting, and I up potted each into 12” clay pots. Without missing a beat, they sported uncountable numbers of blooms. POTUNIAS, I believe, will do all right with six hours of sunshine each day, but they sport many more blooms under longer summer hours of bright light. It is then that the foliage becomes all but invisible.
What makes these plants so unique is their compact, ever widening, mounded shapes. This is ideal for pot culture. In-the-ground specimens, I believe, would look smothered and not show off their compact shapes. POT IS THE KEY.
From my experience, the blooming plants can take fairly low temperatures. Being busy with my garden, I wanted to get them out from underfoot quickly even though the night temperatures were only 40-45 degrees—warmer during the day. On other nights, when a brief frost was expected, I threw a large towel over each plant. That did the trick. My POTUNIAS were unharmed. To my amazement, these plants seemed to like cool weather and they continued to bloom well later into the summer season.
Immediate attention to watering needs, sometimes once a day, keeps plant vitality for a very long time. However, allow the soil to dry before bringing out the watering can since constant wet conditions may be courting disaster.
It’s a good idea to use a slow release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, mixed in with the peat-based soil. Occasional watering with a foliar feed fertilizer also helps the plants keep their many blooms.
Another great thing about POTUNIAS is that they do not require dead-heading to look good. Pluck off a few every now and then, if you wish, but it’s not altogether necessary. POTUNIAS seem eager to please with uncountable numbers of open flowers.
Many old favorite annuals charm us with their natural, delicate blooms and like many wild flowers, are to be cherished. But every garden also benefits from having one area of high drama created by breeders who give us exciting new cultivars. Why not enjoy some of this?
**Photos by Martin Weinberg
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published April 05, 2011