Photo Credit:  Reprinted with permission from Dr. Jerry Parsons, plantanswers.com
“The ‘Laura Bush’ is a cross of an old fashioned petunia with VIP petunia (Petunia violacea) seed from a plant exposition in Germany.  As a Texas SuperStar, it is the most cold tolerant, disease resistant, heat tolerant and prolific reseeding hybrid petunia grown with violet blooms that almost glow.”
OLD FASHIONED PETUNIAS –
COLORFUL, VIGOROUS AND
EASY TO PROPAGATE


July 24, 2008


By Jean Wofford,
Victoria County Master Gardener


Edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Photo Credit:  Victoria County Master Gardener Charla Borchers Leon
“Vigorous and heat tolerant, an old fashioned petunia like this light lavender with white throat has been known to spread from seed into pure white, soft pink, dark pink, and a very bright fuchsia petunia plant from flower bed to flower bed and almost anywhere in the yard.”
The petunia has been, without a doubt, one of the most popular annual flowers ever to grace our gardens, porches and patios.  Whether edging a flower bed, covering a bare area or spilling out
of a container or hanging basket, petunias help keep our gardens colorful all summer.

A Bit of History

Petunias, as we know them today, are a far cry from those that first appeared in 19th century gardens.  All petunias are based mainly on two species that were discovered in South America in the mid 1700's and early 1800's.  They were introduced into Europe in the early 1800's.  The popular flower got its name from the French, which took the word “petun”, which means tobacco, from a Tupi-Guarani language. 
The seeds were probably brought from Europe, along with immigrants, to help remind these brave people of the homes they were leaving behind. 
Appearance
The early petunias were spindly and rather small flowered, but even then, breeders started
crossing them in an effort to get the beautiful bright colors we know today as “Heat Wave and other varieties.
Petunias are members of the solanaceae, or nightshade, family which strangely enough include
relatives like tomatoes, potatoes and tobacco.  Some are suited to containers for their flowing or draping patterns and some are better suited for gardens due to their more upright growth pattern.

Old Fashioned Petunias


Most of the petunias seen in our gardens are hybrids, or have been bred to appear as they do.
However, my interest is in the “Old Fashioned Petunias”.  Let me tell you about these bright,
drought tolerant, disease free, all summer blooming little jewels…and how I came to have them in my garden.
• Where on earth did I get them ?

Several years ago, on a trip to the Antique Rose Emporium near Brenham, I found and bought a
one gallon size petunia.  It was a very light lavender with a white throat.  There was nothing bright or showy, just brought back memories of my Mother having these in her garden.  Since I do like unusual plants, and this definitely was one since I had never seen it in a nursery, I bought it just to try.

I brought this petunia home, planted it in a flower bed and just sort of kept an eye on it.  Before too long, I found another petunia coming up in another bed.  But wait!  It was not lavender at all, but snowy white. It had a light fragrance and it also did something I found to be unusual. It reseeded, and when the new plants started to bloom they were in different colors.
 
What has happened since then?

Over the years I have watched this unruly little bloomer come up all over my yard, not always in
a flower bed.  It can also take root in the grass.  As it blooms and the bloom dries, the very fine seeds blow in the wind.

This year, I have several colors and all from this one gallon of light lavender. They are pure white, soft pink, dark pink, lavender and a very bright fuchsia.  I have no idea why I have so many different colors when I only started with one!  The fragrance is absolutely delightful when I go into my back yard.

Easy to Propagate


If I am lucky enough I could find a dried petunia with seeds ready to be removed and put into a small pot.  Since that luck has not come my way, I have to wait until the seeds are distributed by Mother Nature.  I find small petunia plants growing almost anywhere in the yard.  I dig them up and either put them into another area, pot them as gifts or leave them alone.

They are so easy to move and rarely do I lose one.  Actually when I was starting my little yard out in the country, I dug some up, put them in a box and into the trunk of my car.  The next day I remembered them, removed them and planted them.  These plants are now blooming happily in their new location.

Growing Conditions


Petunias like to have full sunlight.  They are considered to be drought resistant and should
only be watered when the soil is dry to the touch.  They need to be in a well draining area. Snails and slugs could possibly be problem pests but can be easily controlled by using a snail and slug bait or trap.

Feeding

I have sort of played with the feeding of my Old Fashioned Petunias.  I really can not see any
difference with the plants that are fed regularly and the ones that are rarely fed.  When I do feed them, I just use a hose-on water feeder - or every now and then I will use some fish emulsion. Recommended fertilizer for petunias could be 19-5-9 slow release or an equivalent organic fertilizer at the rate of 2-3 pounds per 100 square feet of bed area applied once every month or two during the growing season.

‘Laura Bush’ Petunia

The latest petunia that has received very high ratings is a cross from an old fashioned petunia. It is designated a “Texas SuperStar” plant and is named 'Laura Bush'.

Introduced in 1988 by horticulturist Greg Grant as a cross between VIP petunia (Petunia violacea) seed from a horticulture exposition in Germany and old fashioned petunia, it is the most prolific reseeding hybrid petunia ever grown with fragrant violet colored flowers that practically glow. It is more cold tolerant, disease resistant and heat tolerant than most modern hybrids. The plant has a spreading growth habit with deep violet, medium size flowers.  Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg (www.wildseedfarms.com) is the exclusive distributor of 'Laura Bush' petunia seed.  Pink and purple variations of the ‘Laura Bush” petunia have been introduced more recently by Extension horticulturists Dr. Jerry Parsons and Dr. Larry Stein.

Bloom time is from spring to frost, so get one in the ground and enjoy it!
Photo Credit:  Victoria County Master Gardener Jean Wofford
“Fuchsia-colored old fashioned petunias pop out around the bed of yellow coreopsis in Master Gardener Jean Wofford’s raised flower bed.”
OLD FASHIONED PETUNIA

• Excellent summer flowering annual
• Vigorous heat tolerant plant
• Has fragrant flowers
• Requires minimum care
• Thrives in full sun
• Grows 24" tall and 36" wide
• Blooms spring until frost
• Used in beds, containers, or as a reseeding annual

'LAURA BUSH' PETUNIA

• Cross from Old Fashion Petunia with VIP seed from Germany 
• Prolific reseeding hybrid
• Cold and heat tolerant
• Disease resistant
• Fragrant violet, pink and purple blooms
• Texas SuperStar designation
• Seed available at
wildseedfarms.com