Our Colorful Winter Standard

Dannette Hunnel

Petunias are the standard winter flower here in metro Phoenix. Petunias are a cheerful, colorful plant with a light, pleasant scent. They are great in the ground, in pots, or as a hanging plant. Petunias are a vigorous, low-growing plant that spreads.

Plant them from late October through mid-February. It takes no soil amendment for these flowers to thrive. Simply break the bottom dirt off the starter plant to give their string-like roots some room to stretch out, and pop them in the ground. Water new plants five minutes twice daily for the first two weeks, then cut back to once daily. This is usually good for the remainder of the winter. By March 1, as the heat rises, increase watering by a minute or two. In mid-April, it’s back to twice daily. It’s best to soak the ground rather than spray petunias so as to avoid bruising their delicate blooms. Should we encounter rain through the winter months, reduce watering for a few days, as petunias like wet but not soggy soil. When temps drop to 35 degrees or less, cover petunias with burlap or old sheets nightly, then promptly remove by 9 a.m. so the plants can benefit from daily sun. The trick to keeping the petunia bright and billowy is to pinch the spent flowers off weekly. In early spring, give plants a little boost by applying a simple over-the-counter time-release fertilizer. Mix fertilizer well in water before sprinkling so as not to “burn” or shock the tender blooms.

There are a few varieties available, from small blooms to large. With exception of color, they are pretty much the same in characteristics and require the same sort of care. The smaller variety hold up well in our winter winds and rain.

Petunias make a great accent plant, too! They are excellent at the base of a palm tree, in a flowerbed, or in a pot mixed with other upright plants.

As the standard winter plant, you can wait until after the holidays to still do some planting, or if something you’ve already planted doesn’t make it through the winter, then petunias are your back-up plan for a quick pop of color to your yard.

As long as you continue to pinch and water, petunias will bloom until the temps reach 90 degrees. As the heat rises, petunias will get weak and spindly; the leaves are soft and droopy. They are non-perennials, so they will need to be pulled by summer. Enjoy!