LOVE THE SIGHT AND SCENT OF PETUNIAS? Then do what I do each August, and propagate your plants. Three stem cuttings in a 6-inch pot will quickly form roots at this time. Brought indoors before frost, and placed under lights or in a sunny window, the young plants will bloom and bloom from December on.
I know what some of you are thinking.
Kevin, can’t I simply bring my big container-grown petunia indoors for winter?
Yes, you can. Just prepare yourself for a cannonade of leaf-drop. And a Victorian death scene. For a petunia which has matured outdoors is bound to fail when it is introduced to the less-than-ideal conditions of the average home.
On the contrary, fresh, young plants — those acquired from the cuttings I mentioned earlier — are itching to grow! They have youth on their side, and can easily adapt to less-than-perfect conditions inside four walls and a roof.
Okay, my clay pot isn’t the least bit clean. But I’m not worried that disease will be transferred to my cuttings. The pot’s previous occupant was the very picture of health.
Bobble-head that I am, I forgot to take a picture of this next step: Fill the pot with damp, soil-less potting mix. A commercial peat-moss and perlite blend will work well. As always, be sure to allow a 1-inch opening between the surface of the soil and the rim of the pot to allow for water.
You’ll need to make 3 such insertions to accommodate the 3 stems. I arranged mine at equal distance, and in a “V” formation.
Proceed as above with the remaining 2 stems.
Keep the stems moist, but not saturated, throughout the rooting process.
Now step back and admire your professional potting-job. I say “professional,” because your arrangement includes a 1-inch reservoir for water. Amateurs usually pile the soil too high, which results in water spilling over the side of the pot.
While they are busy making roots, the cuttings will need to reside in a bright but sunless location outdoors. I set mine on the semi-shaded stand that holds my vacationing philodendron, ferns, and other shade-loving houseplants.
Alternatively, you could root the cuttings indoors. Give them a bright window or a position under fluorescent lights. Be sure to provide plentiful fresh, humid air by opening all of the windows in your home.
Roots will form in about 6 weeks. You won’t need to tug at the plants (as some gardeners recommend), in order to discover that roots have developed. Just look for signs of new growth.
In mid- to late-September, and well-before the first frost, bring the rooted youngsters indoors to a sunny south or east window, or even better — under fluorescent lights. As mentioned before, open all windows to provide a fresh, humid atmosphere. Water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry (stick your finger into the soil). And then water thoroughly, until excess drips out the drainage hole.
My own young petunias reside either beneath the fluorescents that light my kitchen counter (as above), or on the fluorescent-lit shelves in my Writing Room. Plants under lights require more food and water than their window-grown colleagues. These I feed with every watering, at the rate of one 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of room-temperature water. I reduce the food to one 1/4 teaspoon for window subjects. I’ve had great results with Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster (10-30-20) — the same formula that encourages my African violets to bloom and bloom.
When they are grown in a sunny window or a light garden, the plants will form buds in early December. These will open as sweetly-scented, pink, purple or white trumpets by month’s end. And with regularly deadheading, the flower-show will continue until late May, when the plants go on holiday outdoors.
In the winter window garden, purple petunias associate well with flowering bulbs and African violets (pictured above is my Music Room window; the petunia is located on the left-hand side of the broad windowsill).
Well. I hope this petunia-as-wintertime-houseplant tutorial was useful to you in some small measure. Perhaps you’ll let me know by leaving a comment. As always, an angel rings a bell whenever someone posts on this site.
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