Petunia (pe tu’ nia), a plant of the nightshade family, is a favorite in flower beds and window boxes because of its easy culture, abundant flowers, and its pleasing fragrance. It grows best in rich soil and with plenty of sunshine. The petunia belongs to the same family as the potato and tomato. It grows wild in South America. Through cultivation and selection many kinds are now grown. The flowers of some varieties are small and trumpet-shaped. They may be not more than one inch across. Others range up to more than six inches across with their edges fringed or ruffled. Many are completely double. The petunia’s flowers may be plain white, lavender, rose, deep red, or purple. Some of the cultivated varieties are marked with spots, pencil lines, and broad stripes. The plants range from tiny compact bushes to large spreading vines two or three feet long. The foliage is dark gray-green. The surface of the leaves is covered with downy, sometimes sticky hairs.
Petunias should be planted in sunny, open soil in May or they may be started indoors in April. In planting care should be taken to select a particular type for a special purpose. If high-quality seed is sown, most of the plants will come true to the type specified. If poor seeds are selected, plants of many types and colors result.