Petunias: A Case Study

There was a time when I had written off petunias. They seemed to be such a bother.

To keep them blooming, you had to deadhead them all the time. And they were so sticky, it wasn't like you could just idly walk by them, reach down and deadhead a few with a quick pinch and then continue on to whatever else you were going to do. Once you deadheaded a few, your hands would be all sticky until you washed them.

And double-petunias? It seemed like every time it rained they ended up looking like little wads of crepe paper, and not in an attracive way.

But then one spring day back in 1995, like many gardeners, I discovered the purple Wave™ petunias. We were all ga-ga over them, even though they came in only one color, purple. They never needed to be deadheaded! They just grew and grew and grew, and flowered and flowered and flowered.

We called ahead to garden centers and nurseries to see who had them. We paid a premium price for them, as we gently extracted a few plants from a flat. Remember how they would be all tangled up in those flats because of how they grew? Oh, wait, they still do that, but now they sell them in those six packs, and while they still get all tangled up, they are at least all your plants that are tangled up together.

To me it seemed like the Wave™ saved the Petunias from near extinction, at least in my garden.

I'm not saying I'm planting them all over the place or that I've joined their fan club. I'm just saying I generally buy a few Wave™ petunias to plant here and there and in a container or two every year.

Now I find out that in addition to regular Wave™, there are now Shock Wave™, Double Wave™, Easy Wave™, and Tidal Wave™ petunias. And they have their own website. And we all know they come in many more colors than that original purple

Suddenly, I'm getting all excited about petunias for next spring. The few I planted this year, four plants to be precise, or was it six plants, isn't going to be enough. I'm going to need a lot more!

Now, what other annuals could use a "wave" like boost?

How about Ageratums? I've always wanted them for their blue flowers, but they just seemed to do nothing and then dry up in my garden.

Or maybe Stocks, Matthiola incana? I'd love to have better performing stocks, wouldn't we all? And the flowers are supposed to be very fragrant, but I've not had much luck with them.

It's a good thing this season is starting to wind down, as suddenly, I feel like doing a whole bunch of research into a lot of flowers that I've never had much luck with, to see if there are some new varities I should be trying.

Yes, I'm already thinking about next year, when I'll have my best garden yet.


Earth Girl said…
I have never noticed any discernible fragrance from Wave petunias, but the old fashioned petunias in the historic garden stop visitors in their tracks with their sweet heavy scent. Just like roses, can they please start breeding fragrance back into petunias?
Diane said…
I love petunias but have never deadheaded them - the stickiness is off-putting. Luckily, their blooms burn out at about the same time as my will to keep the containers alive. My question is, has anyone made a true orange or yellow petunia yet? I'm waiting anxiously!
Stocks have their strongest scent at night, so maybe you were sniffing them on the way out the door in the morning. I would like Stocks to hold their scent all day & be more heat-resistant. The latest annual to get the "Wave treatment" is Angelonia. It has performed spectacularly this year in containers & even more so in the garden. My mom & I will be get more of them next year. I highly recommend them.
Entangled said…
I'm with Earth Girl on wishing for modern fragrant petunias. I grew some fragrant ones from mistakenly labeled seed - still don't know what they were really, but they weren't the California Giants they were supposed to be. Anyhow, fabulous fragrance, but long floppy stems that needed pinching all the time.

I bought some fancy Ageratum$ from Proven Winner$ (or similar brand) a couple of years ago. I didn't think they were noticeably better than the more common ones so didn't buy them again.
Anonymous said…
I planted a lot (too much) petunias this season. They are beautiful but they give off an unpleasant scent if you leave the spent blooms there, especially after the rain. The spent blooms also stick to the deck. However I still like petunias a lot and I might try the million bells next year.
Anonymous said…
Like you, though I love their many colors and bloom shapes, I'd given up on petunias for containers because they're just too "sprawly". :) But your Waves look amazing -- I've seen them many times, but have never tried them. Now I'm thinking they may be just the thing for a small railing planter! Thanks.
Anonymous said…
Another thing I noticed with the wave petunias this year in my garden is the butterflies they attract. The older varieties weren't crazy about my hot & dry summers either.
EAL said…
My purples from Proven Winners had a lovely scent this year. Anyway, I am a huge petunia fan I also use the Tidal Wave silvers, grown from seed by a neighbor. No scent, but they are awesome growers.
Ageratum-you need to consider the Blue Horizon (I think that is the name). They are tall and graceful. Also grown by my friend.
Rock rose said…
Your last sentence, I'm sure, is the sentiment of all gardeners.
Anonymous said…
This year I tried Proven Winners Supertunias which have outperformed Wave in my garden. I don't know how they would like Indiana, but they loved the Oklahoma heat. I might post about them later.

And, yes, I'm already dreaming of spring.~~Dee
I had to laugh when you described shopping for petunias - you distilled and articulated it so well!

I thought I was a lonely little petunia shopper in a a non-gardening world patch.

Thanks for writing so many posts that I can relate to so I know I am not an isolated gardening weirdo...
Kathy said…
The petunias that are fragrant, are definitely more fragrant in the evening. But the ones with the most fragrance are the sprawly old fashioned ones that need frequent deadheading and pinching back.
mr_subjunctive said…
Personally, I'm curious about what the next variety of Waves will be named. Seems like they'll be running out of possibilities soon.

Maybe Permanent Wave (which would have to be a perennial)? Goodbye Wave? Rogue Wave? Katrina and the Waves? Radio Wave? There are still definitely options, but none of them sound very sellable.

'Course, I wouldn't have thought Tidal Wave sounded so hot, either, and yet.
Shibaguyz said…
My memory of petunias are the masses of them my mother grew in her garden. Our chickens used to peck the blooms off in one little nip. Made mom so mad! LOL Maybe you could train chickens to do your deadheading work for you??
garden girl said…
Hi Carol, it's too shady for petunias here. I've been tempted to try million bells or super bells though - I hear they bloom respectably in part sun. Maybe next year!

Impatiens are my petunias, since they actually bloom in all our shade.
Rose said…
Carol, I've already moved on from the Waves and am into "Supertunias." I suppose they are just a variety of the Wave, but they perform better than any of the others in my containers. The "million bells" are great, too. I've been wondering if anyone plants "ordinary" petunias anymore.
Anonymous said…
...enjoy your blogs, Carol, and I've added yours to my list of favorites. Come visit at
I look forward to joining in your 15th bloom days too.
xxx Jane
Yes, I too am looking forward to next years garden already.