Petunia flowers have become very popular in gardens around the United States. These flowers, which are low-lying annuals, are thought to be some of the easiest and most colorful garden plants around. They only require five to six hours of sunlight, well-drained soil, and only a bit of organic matter to grow successfully; beyond planting, they require very little maintenance. A member of the solanaceae family, petunia flowers contain hundreds of different varieties of blossoms – many of which are hybrids – but are frequently categorized into four separate groups. These groups are the multiflora, which are compact blossoms that grow in abundance, and mostly appear with a single head; milliflora are considered the smallest of the petunia groups and, like multifloras, grow in abundance; grandiflora – which are some of the most popular, and are frequently used in window boxes and hanging baskets – are some of the largest petunias, growing single or double heads that are roughly three to four inches in diameter; finally, there are hedgiflora – or groundcover – petunias, which are low to the ground and spread rapidly if left unchecked.
Until the late 1700s, petunia flowers were virtually unknown. In Europe during the early 1800s, however, petunias got a chance to become the beautiful, hardy plants that they are today. The appearance of the delicate white and purple flowers of some of the earliest varieties became a special project of both English and German breeders, who, after years of cross breeding, finally developed the large, colorful flowers that we see now. Given their beautiful appearance, petunia flowers have long been an inspiration to artists – the most popular, of course, being Georgia O’Keeffe. Her petunias varied in color and shape, but her most popular petunia image is that of a striking purple black flower painted over a soft pink background. Independent painters such Anita Putman, Janis Grau and Carol Phillips have also created many stunning images of this flower – some of which are realistic, still life portraits, while others take on a fantasy theme.
Petunia flowers are frequently given as gifts. This is due not only to their lovely looks, but because of the variety of ways in which they can be given, their ease of care, and their timeless symbolism. Petunias, when presented to someone, are often meant to express how soothing and comforting the giver finds the recipient to be. Although you may occasionally see petunias in traditional bouquets, many prefer to present them as potted plants, or cascading from hanging baskets.