On Gardening: ‘Supertunias’ pack more than 150 days of showtime performance


The commercial landscape world is where the proverbial ‘rubber meets the road’ scenario. We can all gawk at flowers in trial gardens and get a good indication of how they will perform at home, but shopping centers and city streetscapes may be the best indicator of all.

In fact, I told my audience at the Spring Home & Garden Show in Charlotte, N.C., that while I was in university cooperative extension in Texas, Mississippi and Georgia, my experiment station is now the shopping center. One of the attendees told me afterward they loved seeing the progression of flowers documented via photographs throughout the summer.

Take for instance Supertunia Bordeaux. I remember seeing large baskets of it over a decade ago at the California Spring Trials. Since then it has won dozens of awards at university trials across the country. There was certainly no intention of my color design guru son James to prove all the trials correct, he simply hoped this flower was as great as reported.

In the commercial landscape world where he has several hundred containers of every size and shape, including baskets, he does not want to plant in April and find fatalities in July. It is nearly impossible to find fresh plant material that will work in midsummer. James knows the owners or proprietors of these businesses expect a garden of flowers to say welcome as their clients approach the entry.

In recent years Supertunia Bordeaux has been a champ, as has Supertunia Vista Fuchsia, Supertunia Royal Velvet and Supertunia Daybreak Charm. These have withstood all the elements that the west Georgia climate can dish out over a long hot summer. Supertunias have proven they are up to the task of a 150+ days of showtime performance.

All of the plantings start with the best soil mixes James can get his hands on. If a company thinks they have one better he will give it a try too. He is almost always having a mini-soil mix trial. There are those with fertilizers, water holding material and even fungicides. In landscape bed versus container I assure you the added soil amendments have a created a welcoming paradise for the future plants.

Crews are out watering before guests show up at shopping centers. This is the time of a little pinching and pruning. Since containers are getting watered daily it stands to reason that fertilization is regular regimen. You can’t expect a thoroughbred racehorse of a plant like a Supertunia to perform without food.

Keeping them blooming until pansy planting time will most likely require you to cut them back at some point. This may be in July or August. Don’t be afraid to remove 20% as it will certainly pay dividends. They will survive the dog days and look good going into fall.

These petunias are so packed with flowers they can definitely dazzle all on their own. On the other hand, there are an almost limitless number of companions to consider allow you to create dazzling combinations in your favorite color scheme. While I have mentioned only a few, know that Proven Winners’ Supertunias come in single, double, mini, vista and mini vista, totaling over 30 varieties.

(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of, “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

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