Various types of petunias have been a fan-favorite in the garden for decades. This is an annual flower that blooms virtually non-stop from spring until summer, and traditional petunias hail from the Solanaceae family, like the Chinese Lantern Plant. They require constant deadheading and cooler weather to thrive and bloom. More recent cultivars, like wave petunias or plants that mimic the look of petunias are much more low-maintenance and carefree, especially hybrids.
The types of petunias you can get today come in a huge range of sizes and styles, including smooth or ruffled petals, single or double blooms, solid, striped, or veined colors, and different growth habits to suit things like hanging baskets or containers. Most petunias you buy today are hybrids that were specially developed for specific traits or purposes, like falling down the sides of hanging baskets, edging, or for creeping along the ground. It’s hard to go wrong when you have a few types of petunias in your garden, and we’re going to outline some of the most popular hybrids below.
Five Main Types of Petunias
Although there are dozens of hybrids available, all of the types of petunias on the list fall into these five main categories due to being crossed with or the other to create the hybrid plant. These are broad groupings for the most part, and there is some overlap. So, it’s common to find a specific type of petunia series described inside of two groupings or a different group altogether. Also, you might run into a petunia that claims to be in one of these five groups but has different growth habits that what you’d normally expect. So, you want to do your research on the types of petunias you pick out to ensure that they thrive.
Floribunda petunias usually get grouped right with multiflorus, and some, like the plants in the Wave series, also fall into the spreading petunia category. Hybrids of this category and multiflora-type plants usually bring out the best qualities of both, with a higher tolerance for rainy weather, big blooms, and increased disease resistance. They get between 8 and 15 inches tall with a 10 or 12 inch spread, but there are also compact cultivars. These types of petunias are usually not self-cleaning, so you’ll have to prune or deadhead them to encourage more blooms. They do well in containers, borders, and garden beds.
If you love splashy, big blooms in a huge range of bold colors, this is the group to choose from. They usually don’t produce as many flowers as other options on the list, but they make up for it with the sheer size of the blooms. They’re showy, large, and they grow to five inches across. They usually have a mounded, upright form to them, and they get get up to 36 inches wide by 15 to 24 inches tall at full maturity.
There are also cascading grandiflora types of petunias available, including those in the Super Cascade or Cascade series, as well as the Explorer series that doubles as a groundcover or the Explorer series. You may see these plants with flexible, long, trailing stems to them, and these ones are usually called pendula-type flowers. Dwarf cultivars are also popular, like the Limbo series that get between four and eight inches tall at full maturity. The Flash Sweetunia series is another to consider if you want something that produces more blooms than a traditional flower in this category while being more compact.
The blooms can be double or single, and this is one of the oldest types of petunias on the market that dates back to the 1950s. Some are fringed or ruffled, like the Daddy or Fluffy Ruffles series, and these are also called fimbriata types. However, there is a tradeoff for getting the larger blooms, with the exception of a few newer hybrid plants, they don’t stand up to hard rain very well. Also, they have issues with rot during humidity or hot days. Grandiflora is one category that also requires deadheading to keep them looking good. You’ll typically find these types of petunias with a range of colors inside a series, and there are mixed options. They do well in containers, hanging planters, or as a specimen plant in the garden.
One of the more recent categories to be recognized is Milliflora, and these are mini types of petunias that have single, smaller blooms that top out at 1.5-inches across. However, what you lose for size, you gain in numbers. These plants spend most of the spring and summer months covered in flowers, and they’re great for people who have a small garden.
They’re also self-cleaning, so you won’t have to deadhead them to keep them looking nice. The dwarf plants are much more compact than other options, and they have a mounding habit. They get roughly eight inches wide and tall. You can space these plants between four and six inches apart. They work very well planted in containers or edging flower beds.
This category produces a lot of flowers but they’re slightly smaller than the grandiflora ones at roughly two inches wide with a compact growth habit. They get between 10 and 12 inches tall, and this type of petunia spreads 10 to 15 inches. They may need to be pruned if they get leggy, and plants in the Mambo series can be a great choice if you need dwarf plants.
One big advantage of picking out this type of petunia is that the flowers self-clean and the flowers will drop off without you having to pick them. They also do better in rainy planting zones than the grandiflora group. They can have single or double blooms, and this group’s history dates back to the 1950s as well. They give you the broadest color range possible, and the plants grow back quickly. They do well in garden beds or mass plantings.
5. Trailing or Ground Cover
The final large group for petunias is one that grows and spreads very rapidly to cover up to 10 square feet in your border or garden bed per plant in one growing season. They top out at four to six inches high, and some are better known as spreading or hedgiflora-type cultivars. They’re also very drought and heat tolerant, and they don’t require you to deadhead them. The Tidal Wave series is a very popular option, and it produces a very lush and thick ground cover as it grows.
You’ll also get several different Wave series cultivars in this category. They offer a creeping growth habit that makes them stand out when you plant them in hanging baskets as the vines will trail over the edges and spill downwards. If you’re planning on designing a blooming container for the balcony or patio, you can use trailing types of petunias as filler and spiller plants. They do well in pedestal pots, hanging baskets, and in mass plantings along paths, in borders, or in hard to reach spots in the yard.
11 Types of Petunia Hybrids
As of the time of writing this, there are 35 known species of petunias, and most of them are commonly grown around the United States. They’re only hardy in the wintertime in zones 9 to 11, so most people tend to grow them as annuals. Every variety we’re going to talk about has:
- Attract pollinating insects and hummingbirds
- Bloom over an extended period
- Produce trumpet-shape, colorful flowers
Outside of these three big points, each genus has a bit of variety to it. Plant breeders keep expanding on this to develop exciting and new types of petunias that have beautiful flowers, increased disease-resistance, and dwarf habits. The following hybrids are all great picks for your garden:
1. Cascadias Rim Magenta (Petunia x hybrida ‘Cascadias Rim Magenta’)
The parents of this type of petunia come from South America, and this plant offers a stunning look with dark flowers and lush green foliage. It actually has flowers that are so dark they look black, especially when you offset them with the foliage coloring. They also have creamy yellow outlines to help them stand out even more.
Even though most people tend to go for brilliant and bold colors when it comes to their flowers, this one manages to be very appealing with darker shades. Whether you’ll like it or not depends on the design you’re trying to pull off in your yard or garden. If you want something that sticks out a bit and forces you to do a double-take, the black look of these blooms with the bright yellow outline do a fabulous job.
Like many different petunia cultivars, you can easily have this one outside in zones 10 and 11. If you grow it in zones 2 to 11, stick to keeping it a potted plant so you can move it inside when it gets cold. It thrives in filtered light and partial shade, and it’ll get up to 16 inches high. Despite this height, it’s still considered to be a compact and manageable plant to have.
2. Fortunia Early Blue Vein (Petunia x hybrida ‘Fortunia Early Blue Vein’)
You’ll find that some cultivar names are very specific to the plant characteristics they identify while others are very off-track. This type of petunia falls into the latter category as they don’t seem to have a prominent, or any for that matter, blue veining on the petals. It could have been on the earlier plants and it’s been bred out as they continued to cross this plant, but there are no blue veins today.
Instead, you’ll get flowers that are a stunning pure silver color with deep purple centers. Also, since it grows best in different planting zones and both long and short growing seasons, you can expect this type of petunia to start blooming much earlier than most other cultivars in the spring.
Since the parent plants come from South America, you can expect this petunia to add some vivid coloring to your garden. You can plant it outside in zones 10 and 11, or you’ll have to plant it in a container in zones 2 to 10 and bring it inside when the temperature dips. It can get between 8 and 11 inches tall.
3. Limelight (Petunia x hybrida ‘Limelight’)
While there are many species of petunia that grow naturally in the wild and have a very distinct appeal, hybrid cultivars are usually the ones that gardeners want. Limelight is an award-winning cultivar that has lime green outlines that frame a magenta-colored flower. This is a very eye-catching color combination. Lime and magenta are two colors you’d rarely see together in any other setting, but they work surprisingly well on this flower. Also, this is a newer cultivar that only came to the market in 2013, so there’s a good chance you’ll get it before your neighbors do.
The average height for this type of petunia is 10 inches high, so it makes a great houseplant or potted plant that you can put on your balcony, window sill, patio, or set along the pathways. You can grow them outside in zones 10 and 11, but it can grow in any zone from 2 to 11 as a potted plant. You just want to bring it inside when the weather cools at the end of the summer. It’ll need roughly six hours of sunlight per day during the spring and summer months.
4. Mini Rose Blast Pink (Petunia x hybrida ‘Mini Rose Blast Pink’)
This type of petunia has a slightly confusing name. While the blooms do show a hint of pink, it’s not a full-on blast of the color. There’s also no resemblance at all between this cultivar and the open, flat blooms that roses have with the weaving, intricate petals that sit close together. However, it is a single cultivar that produces a huge amount of blooms that virtually cover the plant and hide the darker green leaves. Since the pink color isn’t as overpowering, the blooms give off an air of dignity.
This is a slightly shorter type of petunia that won’t get over eight inches high on a good day, but it spreads out to create a well-branched structure that makes it look like a floral arrangement. You can easily mistake this plant for a bouquet of flowers, and you can put it on top of your dining room table or coffee table without an issue. Like many options on the list, this one grows well in zones 10 and 11 in bright sun or part shade.
5. Potunia Plus Red (Petunia x hybrida ‘Potunia Plus Red’)
Petunia botanists got the name right for this type of petunia. This cultivar has a red coloring that it enhances to a whole new level. The parent plants come from South America and get roughly a foot tall with a foot spread. However, once the blooms open, the whole pot becomes covered in brilliant red blooms. You’ll get roughly 10 trumpet-shaped blooms per plant each season, and they all get arranged against a darker green foliage that makes them look like a bouquet.
This petunia will thrive as a single houseplant, or you can plant it in combination with less showy petunia cultivars like Prism Sunshine. Due to the drought tolerance this plant has, you can grow it in zones 10 to 12 with little water. However, it also makes a fabulous indoor houseplant that you can sit on your windowsill to enjoy the bright colors.
6. Prism Sunshine (Petunia x hybrida ‘Prism Sunshine’)
When you’re looking to add a new flowering plant to your garden, this plant has to meet or exceed certain criteria. It should blend very well with the other plants you picked out, and this is what makes this type of petunia stand out. The blooms on this plant won’t make you do a double-take or have a huge fragrance. The flowers have a yellowish-green color that is slightly odd, but it works well in some garden designs. This is where this flower stands out.
This cultivar was a crossbred from two petunias that come from South America. It keeps the parents’ preference for tropical conditions, and it’s hardy in zones 10 and 11. If you choose to grow it indoors, it won’t matter what zones you live in. The Sunshine averages between 10 and 12 inches and it does well in full sun and partial shade.
7. Purple Pirouette (Petunia x hybrida ‘Purple Pirouette’)
The first thing that comes to mind when you see this purple type of petunia, is a kaleidoscope of colors. The splashes of purple are offset by a white background, and it’s very stunning. These are the cultivar types to grow in the center of your flower beds to be a specimen plant. Since this plant gets roughly 15 inches tall and towers over petunia cultivars, this allows it to stick out and show the deep purple color. However, it also attracts pests when it’s in bloom. One big pest, the tobacco budworm, has developed a taste for the flower and will go miles to land on this plant.
You can grow this type of petunia in full sun or partial shade since the parent plants come from the Amazon rainforest. Zones 10 and 11 are suitable for outdoor planting while potted plants can thrive in other planting zones as long as you bring them inside in the winter.
8. Suncatcher Pink Lemonade (Petunia x hybrida ‘Suncatcher Pink Lemonade’)
You’ll put this plant in your shopping basket due to the pretty sunrise-hued glow, and you’ll add this trailing petunia to your list because it has mildew resistance and it flowers very early. It’s native to South America, and this is a nursery hybrid. It grows in zones 10 and 11 outside or in pots in zones 2 to 11. It can get up to 12 inches tall, and it gets partial shade to full sun.
9. Surprise Lime (Petunia x hybrida ‘Surprise Lime’)
White petunias do best in moon gardens because they offer a nocturnal fragrance with glowing petals that attract moths and hummingbirds. They have very delicate chartreuse throats that make it interesting in daylight, and it keeps the flowers from looking washed out during the day. It grows in large mounds with a trailing habit, and it gets between 12 and 18 inches high. You want to grow it in full sun to part shade.
10. Sweetunia White Merlot (Petunia x hybrida ‘Sweetunia White Merlot’)
If you’ve ever seen a lamppost bedecked with hanging baskets that are covered in flowers, you’re most likely looking at the Sweetunia White Merlot. These are low-maintenance flowers that do well in harsh conditions, including smog, and it covers every inch of the flower with blooms. This is a nursery hybrid that grows in zones 10 and 11, and it tops out at eight inches high. It grows best in full sun or partial shade.
11. Wave Blue (Petunia x hybrida ‘Wave Blue’)
The final type of petunia on the list is one that displays a single color while most petunias go all-out with eye-catching combinations. Just like Potunia Plus Red did with a bold red hue, Wave Blue does with a brillant blue color block. Blue is prevalent in this flower, but the blooms can look more purple than blue in the sunlight. One other enticing feature on this plant is how it branches out and arches over the edges of the pot. It won’t stay confined to the pot you have it in.
So, you can easily grow Blue Wave in hanging baskets and enjoy splashes of purplish-blue coloring in the morning hours. It’s an award-winning cultivar that can get 10 inches high, and it grows well in partial shade or full sun. You can group it with Purple Pirouette and Potunia Plus Red to get a stunning arrangement.
How to Use Types of Petunias
Generally speaking, any flower that isn’t poisonous and tastes pleasant is an edible flower. It is very nice to look at, and it’s common to add various types of petunias to cakes, sugar them for decorations, or add them to candy. But, before you go into your garden and pluck these flowers, make sure you’re getting them at peak times to avoid a bitter aftertaste. Before you pluck the flowers, you should:
- Allow the flowers to stay in the garden if you have asthma or allergies as the pollen can make these conditions worse.
- Grow your flowers organically, and make sure there are only natural pesticides or insecticides used.
- Make sure the flowers you pick fall into the edible category. There are some flowers that look like edible ones that can give you an unpleasant reaction.
- Pick the flowers in the early morning after the dew evaporates or in the later afternoon hours when the weather cools a bit. This will give you fresher flowers.
- Finally, pick your types of petunias at their peak and not when the flower is starting to wilt or half open. The brightest and prettiest blooms will taste the best and look the best gracing your food items.
Petunias are very popular to use as a garnish in desserts or savory dishes. The flower’s color enhances how pretty the dish is, and it makes it look pleasant to the eyes. They won’t add a lot of taste, and there are no health risks of eating several.
Petunias are hugely used as garnish in desserts and various other savory dishes. The color of the flower enhances the beauty of the dish, and makes it look pleasant for the eyes. They don’t add much taste to the dish however, you really want to be careful when you eat them as they’re members of the nightshade family.
When it comes to medicinal usage, petunias are very popular. It helps to treat diseases like diabetes, eczema, asthma, or the flu.
Petunias are versatile annuals for the most part, and the flowers are very widely used in borders, color masses, and seasonal groundcovers. You want to plant them in sunlight as they won’t grow well in shade. They don’t need any specific soil, but the pH range should sit between 6.0 and 7.0. You can dry them and use them in flower arrangements, or they look nice pressed.
No matter if you like your type of petunias to be a solid color or a rainbow of fun hues, you have options on the list we picked out for you. There are hundreds of cultivars to consider, but the 16 types of hybrids we showcased can easily fill in your flower bed, border, or hanging basket with ease. As a bonus, they make a stunning potted plant.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.