Flower garden and landscape

History of selection of the best varieties and hybrids of petunia


I began to grow annual flowers in the garden and on the balcony over 20 years ago, but I will never forget my first petunia, which I planted in the country along the path. Only a couple of decades have passed, but one wonders how much the petunias of the past differ from modern many-sided hybrids! In this article, I propose to trace the history of the transformation of this popular flower from a simpleton into a real queen of annuals, as well as consider modern varieties of unusual colors.

History of selection of the best varieties and hybrids of petunia

The history of petunias - from wild ancestors to modern hybrids

Like many flower growers, I clearly remember that in the recent past, petunias had the characteristic form of "gramophones" of pink-purple, a strong aroma similar to the smell of fragrant tobacco, slightly sticky foliage and erect stems more than 40 centimeters high.

The most intensive breeding of petunias was in the West. And Soviet flower beds and gardens were mainly decorated with petunias, outwardly similar to those that were grown in European gardens and parks in the 19th century. In appearance, such varieties had much in common with their wild ancestors - white petunia (whole leaf) (Petunia axillaris) and purple petunia (Petunia violacea).

It is from these two natural species that grow in South America that all modern varieties originated. By the way, the petunia violacea was distinguished by small violet flowers, while the whole-leafed petunia had large white flowers.

Since the petunia has not one, but several wild ancestors, the scientific name of this garden flower hybrid petunia. In this regard, even if you purchase seeds of a variety, not a hybrid (F1), on the back of the bag with seeds, in any case, there will be an inscription in Latin petunia hybrida (petunia hybrid).

Moreover, the study of the genome showed that modern petunia has most of the genes from white petunia, 10% from purple and the remaining 10% - a mosaic interweaving of genes.

It is hard to imagine, but the cultured hybrid petunia has been around for over 200 years. In the early 1800s, wild species of petunias were brought to Europe, where serious breeding work began on them. As a result of the efforts of breeders in Germany and Britain, specimens were obtained with flowers larger than those of wild species and intense flowering. However, the shape of the inflorescence and the color of the flowers still remained similar to the wild species: white, violet and, resulting from crossing, shades of lilac, pink and purple.

Interestingly, wild violet petunia attracted bees mainly as pollinators. White specialized in nocturnal insects, such as, for example, moth butterflies and others.

By the way, the flower in the form of a gramophone is ideally correlated with the anatomical structure of butterflies, whose long proboscis can penetrate deep behind the nectar, and the strong smell of flowers, amplified at night, is an additional bait for pollinators. But breeders, of course, were focused not on insects, but on improving the decorative qualities of plants. Therefore, modern hybrids have flowers with a wider pharynx and a relatively short tube.

Read also our material. How not to get confused in the varieties of petunias and choose the right one.

Unfortunately, as a result of the selection, petunia partially lost its unique aroma, and many modern hybrids are completely odorless. I well remember how in the evenings flocks of hawks circled near my first petunias, and you can rarely see butterflies and bees near today's. Nevertheless, thanks to hybridization, today we have a rich variety of all kinds of shades.

Until the 50s of the 20th century, all varieties of petunias were presented in only three colors: white, purple and shades of pink. At today's garden petunia, the color palette is almost complete, and we have the opportunity to grow flowers of virtually all shades of the rainbow. The only color that the breeders have not yet managed to achieve is true blue and sky blue.

Note: the closer the shade of the flower to the natural species, the more hardy the plants are, even if they are combined by one variety series. According to Western researchers, petunias with red and yellow colors are more genetically weak.

According to my personal observations, the violet colors of various lines (Easy Wave, Explorer, etc.) are more stable and resilient, more bushy and bloom more abundantly compared to other flowers of the same series.

Ampelic petunia Picobella Red.

Red petunias - varieties and hybrids

For those who have just recently taken a great interest in floriculture, red petunias are an absolutely ordinary occurrence. However, in order to achieve a true red color, it took the breeders more than a hundred years. The first pure red petunia was launched for sale by the famous American company Pan American Seed only in 1953. This petunia was called Comanche and belonged to a series of multiflora (multiflorum).

But since Western novelties came to us very late, I well remember the time when it was incredibly difficult to buy real red petunia, because it was given out as raspberry and purple colors sold under fictitious names with the word "red".

But as soon as professional seeds became available in our country, it became possible to acquire real red colors of western selection. Today, red color can be found in almost any line of hybrids. It is usually indicated by the word Red. A slightly different shade of red may also be indicated. Coral or Scarlet.

Usually red petunias are monophonic or have a contrasting white neck deep in the flower. In bush petunias, red-flowered specimens are found in such popular series as: Mambo, SUCCESS! ® 360°, Duvet, Bravo, Eagle, Falcon other. These lines form low spherical bushes, 20-25 centimeters high, covered with large flowers of 10-12 centimeters in diameter.

Ampelic red petunias

Ampelic petunias also do not lag behind the bush, and among them you can find many red ones. The most amazing deep shade of saturated red is the novelty of recent years - petunia Easy Wave Red Velor. She, in addition to coloring, is distinguished by an amazing silky texture of petals, literally glowing in the sun. At the same time, I want to note that despite the fact that this petunia is included in the ampel series, its shape of the bush is closer to cascading.

Tidal wave red velor - red version of one of the most popular ampel hybrids with silver colors Silver (Tidal wave silver), which flower growers loved for the most powerful long-climbing bushes. The Tidal Wave Red Velor hybrid has the same powerful lashes and plentiful flowering. And the flowers themselves are similar to the above hybrid Easy Wave, Red Velor very unusual deep dark red color and silkiness. This petunia requires a large amount of land to show itself in all its glory.

Red shades are included in many other ampel and semi-ampel series: Explorer scarlet, Opera red, Picobella red, Ramblin red, Shock wave red other.

In some hybrids, bright red colors combine with white in one flower. For example, in the form of alternating red-white rays (Tango red star, Falcon red and white) or a white rim on a red background (Merlin red picotee, Frost, Hulahup).

Terry petunia Duo red.

Terry red petunias

Among the terry series, red petals bloom only in two hybrids, and in both this is not the saturated red color that occurs in non-double ones. Large-flowered terry petunia Valentine has salmon-red flowers with corrugated petals. Another series Duo red smaller terry flowers are light red in color with a light raspberry hue.

Red petunias in design

Red petunias are very often used in urban landscaping, because their bright defiant appearance immediately attracts the eye. But in gardens, red shades are best used sparingly. This color has a stimulating effect on the nervous system and can be fed up during the summer with daily contemplation of it on the site.

Red petunias will be appropriate, first of all, in the front zone. Moreover, the addition of bright yellow flowers to them will only enhance their expressive effect. In order to cool down the fiery red ardor a little, it is better to add plants with silver foliage (cineraria, dichondra, plectrantus, etc.) or plants with small white flowers (bacopa, alissum, gypsophila, etc.) to such petunias.

Next to the red, petunias with white or beige ivory flowers also look good. It is better not to add annuals with blue and violet color to the company to red petunias, since such combinations give the impression of being heavy and gloomy.

Terry petunia Valentine.

Yellow petunias - varieties and hybrids

More than 20 years after red, the first yellow petunia was obtained by breeders. In 1977, a new hybrid with yellow flowers was launched for sale by a major American company Goldsmith Seeds and was called Summer sun ("Summer sun").

But breeding work to improve the new shade continued, and in 1998 a new yellow-flowering petunia appeared Prism sunshine, which won prestigious awards in the field of selection of Fleuroselect and American Award as "the brightest, lush and abundantly flowering."

This cultivar was perceived as a breakthrough, since earlier varieties of yellow petunias had rare bushes with modest flowering of pale yellow flowers. But today there is a brighter yellow petunia hybrid Lavina yellow star with cascading bush form.

Nevertheless, the same rich yellow tone, as, say, with marigolds and sunflowers, has not yet been found in petunias. Usually, yellow petunias do not grow as bright as they appear on advertising pictures.

Among ampelous petunias there are also specimens blooming with yellow flowers. Formerly popular petunia Baby duck yellow for unknown reasons, disappeared from the sale, but in the ampel series Easy wave appeared very similar to her Easy wave yellow with numerous medium-sized pale yellow flowers and a flowering bush form.

Original yellow-green color distinguishes bush hybrids with large flowers Debonair lime green and Sophistica lime green. The latest cultivar also has an incredibly interesting variation. Sophistica Lime Bicolorblooming huge flowers in which yellow-green is fantastically combined with raspberry.

I would also like to draw the attention of gardeners to another hybrid with the presence of a yellow color "Bathed Ingrid"whose seeds for some reason are much cheaper than many other hybrids. And the color of the flower is very unusual. In the center of beige inflorescences is a mesh pattern that changes color, which can be yellow, brown and even pinkish, but from a distance such flowers look almost yellow.

Yellow Petunia Sophistica Lime Green.

Yellow petunias in design

Yellow petunias look very cheerful and create a sunny mood in any corner. This shade is one of the easiest to create all kinds of combinations. In the best way, yellow hybrids will look in the company of plants with flowers of violet and blue color, whether it be petunias of violet varieties or any other annuals (lobelia, alissum, ageratum, brahikoma, etc.).

Plants with red flowers (for example, hybrid verbena or pelargonium) in the company with yellow petunia will create a feeling of solemnity, and will never be ignored. Pink tones in combination with yellow flowers are the key to creating a gentle romantic atmosphere.

Ampel pink diasia and clouds of pink alissum are perfectly combined with large flowers of yellow petunias Easter bonnet peach and other pink and purple annuals.

Yellow petunia Easy Wave Yellow and snapdragon.

Black petunias - varieties and hybrids

The first black petunia was received by breeders much later than most other colors - only in 2011. On sale such a petunia could be found under two trade names Black velvet ("Black cat" and "Black Velvet").

The last name reflects well the velvety surface of the petals, which in reality are not completely black, but have the maximum dark violet-purple color. With good lighting it can really seem black.

Despite the fact that such a petunia looks fantastic, the creators claim that a similar color was obtained by the method of traditional selection, without the use of genetic engineering. Since black is unique to petunias, this novelty has been described as “a revolutionary breakthrough”.

Together with a plain black petunia, a vegetative hybrid was launched for sale "Phantom", in the color of which, along with black, there were bright yellow stripes. This mystical petunia won a gold medal at the international competition Fleuroselect Industry Award, striking the jury with a unique contrasting color.

Later, other hybrids appeared that were almost black in color. Debonair Black Cherry - black with bard shimmer and Sophistica blackberry - with a slightly lighter color than the Black Velvet petunia; both hybrids are distinguished by large velvety flowers and a spherical shape of the bush.

Black petunia "Phantom".

Black petunias in design

Most flower growers buy black petunias for the first time out of curiosity, and only after the acquisition they wonder where to place an unusual plant in the garden. At the first presentation of the hybrid "Black Velvet", the flower was presented under the motto "Black fits everything!". And, indeed, partners for black petunias are much easier to pick up than for some other colors.

So, for example, the combination of black and white works very well, therefore, to refresh the gloomy petunias, it is better to add small white flowers (verbena, alissum, bacopa, gypsophila, euphorbia and others). This shade is also great with yellow, pink and orange. However, the main questions arise when arranging compositions with such petunias in the garden.

When choosing a suitable place, it should be borne in mind that from afar a dark color is practically not "readable" and flowers of black petunia are best viewed from close by. An important point is that the color intensity of the Black Velvet petunia changes throughout the day, and at dusk these flowers simply “disappear”. The main scope of black petunias is the use of these flowers in the garden as an original accent.

"Blue" and "blue" petunias - varieties and hybrids

Blue or blue petunias are worth mentioning separately. True blue petunias of cornflower blue or blue, like forget-me-nots, currently do not exist. Therefore, do not rely on the designation of the hybrid as blue "(Blue) and" blue "(Sky Blue).

Usually violet grow from petunias called blue, and violet-lilacs grow from blue. In some hybrids, both purple and lilac flowers may be present on one bush, since as they bloom, they change color and burn out in the sun.

Of the new products among blue petunias, you can pay attention to the hybrid Easy Wave Lavender Sky Blue. The bush form of this cultivar is ampelous, the flowers are rather large with a silky texture. The inflorescences present a pleasant mild aroma. On the bush, flowers of different shades of purple and lavender are simultaneously observed. Moreover, during cooler weather and with weaker lighting, the color of the flowers becomes darker.

Other ampelous petunias that are classified as blue: Opera Supreme Light Blue and Ramblin sky blue.

Among bush petunias I especially want to highlight a hybrid Merlin blue morn. This is a multi-flowered compact petunia, reaching a height of 25 cm with a large number of medium-sized inflorescences. The color of the flowers gradually brightens from dark purple along the edge to almost blue in the center.

Other bush petunias of the "blue" (lavender) color scheme: Limbo GP Sky Blue, Ultra sky blue, Dreams sky blue, "Aladdin" sky blue.

Petunia Easy Wave Lavender Sky Blue.

Blue petunias in design

In the best way, petunias of shades of purple are combined with plants that have yellow and orange flowers or foliage. Therefore, from flowering annuals to "blue" varieties, it would be nice to add stunted snapdragons, turgia, nemesia, gaugera, etc.

Also, decorative and deciduous plants with orange and yellow foliage, such as numerous hybrids of coleus and morning glory sweet potatoes, will also serve as an excellent complement. The addition of white to purple petunias gives rise to severe cold combinations that will have a refreshing effect on a hot summer day. Other petunias of white color, as well as annuals with a scattering of small light flowers, can become partners of violet petunias.

Orange petunias - varieties and hybrids

Orange petunias appeared on sale only in recent years. In 2014, the Japanese company introduced a hybrid, called African sunset ("African sunset") Using traditional breeding methods, obtaining orange color from petunias was not possible, and then one of the companies resorted to tricks by launching the sale of transgenic orange petunia, bred for scientific purposes, without GMO labeling.

But at present, this variety is banned for sale in Europe, the USA and Australia, and only the remains of old deliveries can be bought from us.

Details about the scandal that erupted around this petunia can be found in the article Where did the orange petunia disappear, and what varieties can it be replaced?

Other salmon-colored petunias that can be found on sale: Eagle salmon, Picobella salmon, Duvet salmon, Ez rider deep salmon, Ramblin peach glo, Easy Wave Coral Reef, Amore Mio Orange.

Orange and salmon petunias look great in container compositions in the garden and on the balcony in combination with annuals of yellow or purple colors.