Gardening – How to Grow Wave Petunias

By Joe Owens

White wave petunias in hanging baskets.

White wave petunias in hanging baskets.

During my time as a greenhouse owner I had numerous customers come to my place looking for something easy to grow that would be hard to kill. Obviously, with any plant, there is the potential to not meet some of its need and cause it to stop living, but over time I realized there was one that was preferred over most others, the wave petunia. This easy growing plant is a great starter plant for any novice flower gardener.

A white wave petunia hanging basket. Notice how compact and full the plant is as well as the profusion of blooms.

A white wave petunia hanging basket. Notice how compact and full the plant is as well as the profusion of blooms.

Habit

The wave petunia blends the habit of the petunia and a trailing vine plant. The flowers are characteristic of the original petunia, in multiple colors of white, pink, red, purple and yellow. These flowers bloom profusely throughout the growing season and do not require plucking the way a traditional petunia would.

Wave petunias come in several varieties: trailing, mounding and spreading types. They are good for containers, hanging basketsand will do fine planted directly in the ground. The trailing types will spread two to three feet, so plan your growing application accordingly.

Wave petunias prefer a full sun location. They will tolerate partial sun, but do not do well in the shade. Heat is not a problem as long as you water and fertilize them sufficiently. You can check the soil with your fingers and if it is dry there is a need for attention.

A pink wave petunia basket just beginning to bloom. Notice the deep green foliage.

A pink wave petunia basket just beginning to bloom. Notice the deep green foliage.

Growing from seed

Wave petunias can be grown from seed, using a seeding tray and soil less mixture. The soil less mixture is preferred because it does not harden when wet and make the seeds fight for a place to grow. It is preferred to get palletized seeds, those which are coat to allow them to be handled easier, as the seeds are tiny and difficult to work with by hand.

These type of plants will fall into what is known as a bedding plant. Your local greenhouse, garden center or nursery will classify these as such because people treat them just like other ones such as Impatiens, Marigolds, Geraniums, standard petunias and other flowering plants that fill flower gardens across the world.

This is a small seedling from seeds that dropped out of a mature plant from the season past.

This is a small seedling from seeds that dropped out of a mature plant from the season past.

Growing from cutting

The wave petunias will have fine, hair like fibers along the stem that can develop into roots when placed in contact with potting soil or dirt. In fact, cuttings of wave petunias stuck into dirt, watered and receiving sufficient heat (50-60 degrees) will sprout roots in 7-10 days. A word of warning, though, this is only intended for growth at home as doing this for commercial purposes would be a copyright violation for the developer of the variety.

Fertilizing

Wave petunias are heavy feeders, meaning they like the fertilizer to be given frequently. In one of the reference books I used when growing for resale I read about an experiment at a producer of liquid fertilizer where the petunias were fed two-three times the recommended amount of liquid fertilizer and thrived from the experience. Perhaps you should stick to the manufacturer’s guidance and only fertilize every 7-10 days.

This is the blooms that came from the plants that developed from seeds that dropped from plants last season.

This is the blooms that came from the plants that developed from seeds that dropped from plants last season.

All plants in this picture are wave petunias that developed from seeds dropped from the plant during the previous season.

All plants in this picture are wave petunias that developed from seeds dropped from the plant during the previous season.

Why is it important to feed wave petunias? Won’t they just grow since the weather is warm and I keep them watered? Yes, they will grow, but you will see the signs of malnutrition, which included faded color in the blooms as well as a yellowing in the leaves and stems. Remember, this is a fast growing plant, which required plenty of food to make the plant remain healthy looking and prosper in its push for floral glory.

Wave petunias are one of the best plants at telling on you when you neglect theri needs. You don’t want this humbling experience, so take care of your obligation be feeding the plant regularly. Trust me for the reward the plant gives this is not too much to ask.

Companion plants

I would put just about anything in a hanging basket with a wave petunia. The thin to keep in mind is that the wave petunia wants to use all the space, so you need something just as vigorous or the wave petunia can choke it out. I have used trailing verbena, ostespermum, Dracena (spikes), geraniums, Ipomea (sweet potato vines, the flower variety), million bells nd more to combine nicely with these favorites of every gardener.

This is another white wave hanging basket. These plants were watered each day with a water soluble fertilizer.

This is another white wave hanging basket. These plants were watered each day with a water soluble fertilizer.

Care

I sold a whopping amount of wave petunias in everything from a four pack to single 4 inch pots and quarts up to large hanging baskets. There really is no end to the possibilities with these plants.

When I grew the “waves”, as I called them, I would pinch the branches off as they begin to get long on the first set of vines so the plant would become stockier. You can see a plant that is unattended at the local garden center or big box store, as it will have thin little vines that are easily broken by handling or the wind. In contrast, plants that have been pinched will weather the summer much better, sustaining all but exceptional wind and storms.

Example of a wave petunia not pinched correctly. Notie the long, lanky branches that cause the plant to be asymmetrical.

Example of a wave petunia not pinched correctly. Notie the long, lanky branches that cause the plant to be asymmetrical.

Wave petunias will grow fast and become root bound within a short time, so if you buy individual plants, make sure to provide them with a pot that has plenty of growing space. If you will take your plant out of the pot about six weeks after you start growing it you will find the roots have wrapped around the bottom of the pot and filled in all the available space. If this happens you can take a knife and cut the bottom half of the roots off the root system to allow for more growth space. Don’t worry, this will not kill the plant, but actually will invigorate it.

A purple wave petunia basket.

A purple wave petunia basket.

Also, as the plant matures it will require more fertilizer to preserve the dark green color you desire. Be careful to put the petunia in a well-drained pot as too much water will leave the soil wet and turn your plant yellow. If this happens hold off on watering and get the plant in full sun to dry it out.

Wave petunias can be found all over the place in the spring and fall, covering many places with a beautiful carpet of color. They are a favorite of landscapers because two or three can easily cover a 5-6 foot diameter area. They are hearty, growing continuously from mid spring until killed by frost.

Enjoy the experience of planting wave petunias, perhaps the easiest flower you will ever grow.

© 2011 Joe Owens

(Editor’s Note: A version of this article was published on Hubpages.com in 2011.)

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this article! I just planted a few wave petunias and I’m curious: what do you mean by pinching off the stems? Thanks!

    Best,

    Sunny

    • Hello. When the plant grows shoots will develop from the stem. If these stems grow untouched they will be thin and lanky, with not as much foliage. When you pinch the branch at the tip it forces more shoots to begin laterally, which fills out with more leaves and makes a fuller plant. I hope I clarified some. If not let me know and I will try to explain it further.

  2. Joe, I’ve never been much of a gardener, but have always enjoyed a little yard work. This was helpful for me and my wife.

  3. Robert Bailey says:

    Bob says:
    Have grown them for years and start them from each years seeds. I start in Feb. under 6 sets of fluorescent lights close to the plants 12 hours a day, and raise the lights as the plants grow, but close to the top of the plants.

  4. Dear Joe,

    I’d like to know what is the different of wave petunia that are grown from seed vs the plant are grown from cutting? what kind of plant will be better?

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