Caring for Supertunias®
How to Keep Your Supertunias looking great all season long!
Here are some basics to help you succeed with a great garden! The three big points are: Sun, Water, and Fertilizer/Nutrients. These are the three things you must keep in mind to have the best performance from your Supertunias.
All petunias want a full day of sun because the more shade they are planted in, the fewer flowers they can produce. Think of it this way, for Supertunias sun = energy – they need this energy to keep producing more flowers, because flowers require energy to produce. The more energy the plant has the better the flowering. We recommend AT LEAST 6 hours of full, hot sun a day for best results. So from 10:00am – 4:00 pm minimum for best results. With sun and Supertunia more is almost always better!
Plants like consistent water. They can tolerate a little more or a little less, but the key is to be consistent. The more they receive their needed water on a regular basis the more reliable they are in producing new flowers. This is why things get dicey when someone forgets to water and plants become very dry, or if someone get carried away and makes the plant soggy – those extremes are harder for the plant to deal with than regular watering. When the plant is stressed by the extremes, they stop producing flowers and just try to survive – you never want your flowers to have to make that decision! Have a regular day every week that you water, and as the season progresses and you need to water more often, have a few regular days every week, always trying to be consistent. NOTE: The amount of water a plant needs is always changing. In spring when there is rain and cool nights they just need enough water to keep them moist. As the summer progresses (especially in pots) the heat, sun, wind, and pot size all cause the plant to need more water. Then as fall settles in and night temperatures get cool again you’ll see plants stay moist longer with each watering and need less water overall.
If sun = energy, and water must be consistent, then fertilizer = food. It is hard to get up each day and produce 50 new flowers without ever having breakfast. Think of how hard it would be to go to work without any food for a day or so. Fertilizer is essential for Supertunias to do well and they need fertilizer like we need food – everyday. So does that mean you need to fertilize every day? No. Because to a certain extent where your plants are located or planted has a big effect:
Planted in the ground:
They have it easy, they have unlimited space to grow and if they can’t find the food they need they can send their little roots out farther to find it. Think of the average garden plot in your yard as a bank, there is almost always some water and some nutrients available for loan, so it provides a bit of a fudge factor when watering and fertilizing. As a result, plants planted in the ground can do with a bit less fertilizer and water than plants in containers.
Planted in containers:
This is a bit more complicated because in a pot the soil "bank" is gone. There is only so much room in a pot for soil and only so much water that can be held by the pot and saucer, and there is no place to go when fertilizer or water runs out. Also potting soil is usually an artificial soil that does not have all the nutrients and good qualities of garden soil. Potting soils make it necessary to provide ALL nutrients to plants, as most do not have nutrients already in them. So plants in containers need to be babied along by providing for their needs and that means regular watering and complete fertilizing.
What kind of fertilizer should I use?
Actually any number of fertilizers will work just fine, but there are some differences.
Many folks love organic fertilizers like fish emulsion, blood meal, bone meal, compost tea, etc and they work well – they do not provide supercharged levels of nutrients, but they do supply a lower level of a balanced diet. Most organic fertilizer needs to be reapplied every 3-4 weeks to keep fertilizer levels where plants need them all season. Usually an organic fertilizer needs to be mixed into the soil around the plant and not just scattered on the soil surface. Why? Because all organic fertilizers require soil bacteria to break them down into small enough bites that your plants can take them up – most of the time there are always plenty of helpful soil bacteria to do this. Because bacteria are needed; in the spring organic fertilizer may take a few weeks to breakdown, so make sure your plants get enough food early in the year!
This sounds bad, but it is not in most cases. Non-organic fertilizer are plant food in its ready to eat form, so you don’t need as many bacteria and the results are more immediate. However, you need to make sure your fertilizer is a ‘balanced’ fertilizer, just like humans need a balanced diet. How can you tell? Read the label and see what is in the fertilizer before you buy. It is a bit like taking vitamins, a good multi vitamin provides all needed vitamin & minerals, the same is true for a good fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer should supply all of the following (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) – These are the three numbers on the front of many fertilizer bags, they usually show up like this 18-6-12, or 14-14-14. It is just a simple way to show what the percentage of each are in the fertilizer. BUT…
That’s only part of the story, you also need all the other nutrients (calcium, magnesium, sulfur, boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, zinc and nickel) and that is where reading the back of the label comes in handy. Check for these nutrients as well and you if they are there – you have a balanced fertilizer! Remember, for plants living in containers, they have no way to get these essential parts of their diet unless you supply them!
Proven Winners has great some great plant food that you can find on this page: https://www.provenwinners.com/catalog/plant-food
How often do you need to fertilize with non-organic fertilizers?
It depends on how you apply them, here’s a quick reference:
|Supertunia® Lavender Skies Petunia|
Here’s a general calendar for caring for your Supertunia all season!
April – Or whenever spring comes in your location.
- When you buy in the spring, buy a slow release fertilizer to top dress the basket or container. If you plant your own basket, incorporate some of the slow release fertilizer in the soil as you plant. Follow the package directions.
May - fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer once every two weeks.
- Mix up the fertilizer and water the plants just like you would if you were using clear water. It normally takes a good half of gallon of water to really water a 10" wide basket or raised container.
June - as the weather starts to get warm to hot, fertilize weekly, again with a good soaking.
- If the weather turns really hot as it sometimes does in Late June you may need to fertilize every third watering. By now the Supertunia is really growing and starting to tumble down from the basket or fill out across the flowerbed.
July - is when the cutting back occurs.
- Around the 4th of July, (after your big party) get some of the slow release fertilizer that you bought in spring and re-apply across the top of the planter. By now with July's heat you should be watering at least every other day and begin to fertilize every other watering. I know it sounds like a lot, but if you want a plant to grow like an elephant and be the most it can be, you got to feed it like an elephant!
- At the same time, trim back some of the longer branches just enough to bring the plant back in line with the bottom of the pot or basket. Don't remove too much at the maximum cut back 20% of the branches or 1 in five shoots. You can also just give it a general light trim. Your plant will be out of flower for a few days, but will come back stronger than ever.
August - is, hot, humid, & sometimes with monsoons. Keep up the water and fertilizing.
- Again, if the plant starts to look straggly remove a few more branches but never more than 20% or give it a general trim as before.
September - The plants should still look good, as you start to back off the watering and the feed
- Shape the basket with the last pruning of the season. Hopefully this will now carry you through until frost!
NOTE: For folks in the deep south – your calendar will likely start & finish earlier. For the deep south most Petunias struggle in August heat and humidity, as well as the afternoon rains, so expect petunia season to end usually in late-July or mid-August. To extend your season, move planters under protection from rains, but make sure to keep them in the sun for best flowering.