My Petunias Are Wilting – What Causes Petunias To Wilt And Die

My Petunias Are Wilting – What Causes Petunias To Wilt And Die

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By: Liz Baessler

Petunias are extremely popular flowering plants that grow well in containers and as bedding plants in the garden. Available in very diverse varieties and colors, petunias can be found to meet just about any specifications you have. Whatever you want, you should have vibrant, beautiful blossoms all summer. But this may not always be the case. What happens when your petunias start to wilt? Sometimes it’s easily fixed, but sometimes it’s a sign of something serious. Keep reading to learn more about petunia wilting problems and what causes petunias to wilt and die.

Troubleshooting Petunia Wilting Problems

Wilting petunia flowers can mean many things. Maybe the most common (and easily fixable) is improper watering. Like lots of plants, petunias respond to a lack of water by wilting. Don’t just water them more, though!

Wilting petunia flowers can also be a sign of too much water. Always check the soil around your petunias before watering – if the soil is still damp, don’t water it.

Lack of sun can also lead to the wilting of petunias. Petunias prefer full sun and will produce the most flowers if they get it. They can survive in partial sun as long as they get 5 to 6 hours of direct light every day. If your petunias are in the shade, that might be your problem.

Petunia wilting problems can also be a sign of insect or fungal issues:

  • Aphids, budworms, and slugs like to eat petunias, opening up sores in the leaves that allow disease in. Lead slugs away from your garden with bait. Spray for aphids and budworms if you see them.
  • Certain diseases like white mold, gray mold, black root rot, and verticillium wilt can all lead to wilting leaves. Avoid disease by watering your petunias early in the morning so water doesn’t sit on the leaves and planting your petunias far enough apart to allow for good air circulation. If your petunias contract a fungal disease, remove the affected parts of the plant and apply a fungicide.

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How to Revive Petunias

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Dependable petunias (Petunia spp.) flower from spring through fall, providing a lush blanket of color in garden beds and borders. Although typically grown as annuals, petunias can grow as short-lived perennials in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. The plants sometimes become leggy and begin flowering poorly in midsummer. A timely pruning and continued basic maintenance can force fresh growth and bring your petunias back to their former glory.

Cut back lanky, overgrown plants to about half their height using sharp, clean shears. Petunias can develop weak, leggy growth halfway through summer, but shearing them back forces a new flush of more compact and healthier growth.

Monitor soil moisture, especially as temperatures warm. Water the petunias when the top 1 inch of soil begins to dry. Provide garden plants with about 1 inch of water weekly or enough to moisten the top 6 inches of soil. Water potted plants daily or when the top 1 inch of soil feels dry. Allow the excess moisture to drain freely from the bottom of the pot so excess fertilizer salts drain out.

Sprinkle 1/4 pound of 5-10-5 fertilizer over every 50 square feet of petunia bed at midseason, after you cut back the plants. Apply the fertilizer 6 inches away from the base of the petunias, and water thoroughly so it dissolves into the soil.

Spread 2 inches of mulch over garden beds to provide some insulation against midday heat. Mulch keeps the soil cool and conserves soil moisture, which helps prevent heat stress. Move potted plants to an area with some afternoon shade to protect them from the heat.

Pinch off dead petunia blooms as soon as they wilt to encourage further flowering and prevent weak growth. Pinch back any long stems to within 1/4 inch of a leaf to force the plant to branch and produce fuller growth.

Monitor the plants for aphids, slugs and snails, which feed on the foliage and can leave the petunias looking ragged and weak. Spray aphids with an insecticidal soap. Set out slug bait or traps to destroy slugs and snails that are feeding on the plants.


Are petunias perennials or annuals?

Although they are actually classified as tender perennials, they won't tolerate frost so they are commonly grown as annuals in most climates.

Sun or shade?

Bloom time:

Color and characteristics:

You can find them in just about any color, even black, as well as striped, veined, and speckled patterns. The variety of flower forms is also impressive, ranging from petite to palm-sized in single or double blooms with ruffled, fringed, or smooth edges.

Problems with Petunias

Petunias form blooms at the end of their stalks so continual clipping is necessary to keep them flower-filled all summer.

I was signing books at a local bookstore when a woman walked in with the ugliest hanging basket I’ve ever seen. Stringy, yard-long stems holding yellowing leaves cascaded over the rim of the pot. At the end of these leggy stalks were a few pitiful pink blossoms.

When petunias are in their prime, they are a mass of colorful flowers. But some gardeners end up frustrated that their plants become a tangle of long green stems with only some flowers at the end. Others find that their plants stop flowering mid-season, and the hanging basket that looked so colorful in May looks dreadful by August first. “Why do some people’s petunias look great all summer,” people question, “but mine become a mess by the end of July?”

Keeping petunias attractive all summer begins with knowing which variety you have so you can treat the plant appropriately. Next, some on-going maintenance is necessary in order to keep petunias blooming, especially if you’ve purchased a hanging basket that is already full and flowering in May. Finally, regular fertilization is important, particularly if the plants are growing in baskets or pots.

If you look at your petunia plants you will notice that they only form flowers at the END of the stems. So as the stems grow longer all the flowers are at the edges of the plants, with bare stems leading up to them. This is the case if you are growing the Wave, Super Petunias or regular ones.

In order to keep the plants full, bushy and not “stemmy” – you need to clip some of the stems each week. Ideally, this will start when you buy the plants and take them home, but unfortunately many people are hesitant to clip stems on a plant that looks good. Trust me, if the stems are already eight inches long or longer, you should start from week one. If you are starting with small plants that have stems less than eight inches, you can wait to start pruning.

Once an annual plant has produced a number of seeds it considers its job done, and stops flowering. So to keep regular petunias filled with colorful blossoms all summer, clip the stems just underneath the wilted flower right after the bloom fades.

Every week, clip three or four stems in half. The plant will produce two new growing tips (which will start to flower soon) just below each cut, so if you do this regularly from the start you will keep the flowers over the entire plant.

Be sure to water petunias that are planted in the ground deeply every four or five days remembering that a deep soaking less often is better than a little every day. Don’t hand water: you’ll get bored long before the soil has been deeply watered. Use a sprinkler or soaker hose. Fertilize every three weeks or use a combination of organic and time-release fertilizer when you plant. (The organic fertilizer becomes available to the plants just about the time when the time-release product has released all it’s nutrients.) If you are using a liquid fertilizer that isn’t organic, be sure to water the plants well before you fertilize, and let the plant become well hydrated before feeding: never fertilize a thirsty plant.

Deadheading only has to be done on regular petunias that form seeds. Varieties such as Wave and Super Petunias don’t make seeds so you don’t have to deadhead. Deadheading is CLIPPING THE STEM below the spent flower. I stress the stem because you can’t just pick off the wilted flower – you have to remove developing seeds that are BELOW the flower. If you use scissors to clip the stem below the wilted flower you will be clipping off the seeds, and the plant will flower more in pursuit of making more seeds.

What should you do if your plant is “stemmy” or has stopped flowering? Clip the stems back by 2/3 and fertilize. You could clip all at once, or do a third at a time (randomly over the plant – clip a third every week or 10 days) so that the plant isn’t cut back all at once. Either method will mean that the plant will take about three or four weeks to start blooming well again.

You can also root the ends of the stems you clip off – cut them to 8″ long and put them in fresh, damp potting soil after coating the stems with rooting hormone. Keep the pots out of direct sun but in a light place, and keep soil moist. Your cuttings should root in two or three weeks. After they start to grow, pinch the tip off to make it branch out, plant or pot it up and begin to fertilize regularly.

Comments (16)


Too much water. Your pots may look dry but I'll bet there's plenty of moisture below especially if they're of any size. Cut back on the water.Petunias don't like to be kept constantly wet.

A plant will recover in a few hours from a wilt from lack of water but it is sure death if you overwater.

How jam-packed are the pots? Problem with buying those lush, gorgeous full pots in May is that after a month or so they peter out because there is just no room for root growth.

You could try to divide the plantings, re-planting half in the pots and filling with good potting soil and fertilizing. It should perk up, but problem is it will probably take a couple weeks to perk up - not the best option during high summer when you want those prime displays.

Other than that, no suggestions for you, really, other than save the containers and make your own plantings next year (no, I'm not being humorous, I'm dead serious - you'll save *a lot* of money by DIY on planters once you invest in planters/pots you like, and because you won't over-stuff them the plants will thrive the whole season).

How do you keep petunias from getting stringy?

Have you ever thought about how do you keep petunias from getting stringy?

It is important to understand that if your flowers are not properly cared for, they can turn into a tangled mess.

This can actually be a very common problem with your flowers and it is certainly not a fun thing to deal with.

We have some simple techniques for keeping petunias from getting stringy and it is one of the easiest things you can do.

Start by purchasing the best soil possible. You can get ready made mixes that are filled with sand, coarse gravel, or potting soil.

Whatever you choose, make sure it is very well put together. Fill it to the top with water and make sure it has been slightly moistened.

Add some fine aggregate gravel and allow it to settle for a day or two. Then, move your flowers in slowly. Try to move them about once a week.

This will help keep them all aligned and allow them to spread more evenly. While moving the flowers in slowly, it is also important to pay attention to their roots.

Water the plants just as often as you would for the rest of your garden. However, make sure that your pots are not sitting in standing water.

Remember, it is a lot easier to over water than it is to underwater. Water the plants evenly and try to move them around once a week. It is important to give your petunias some air as well.

Fertilizer is very important. In fact, most people do not give their plants enough fertilizer at all. Always fertilize your plants thoroughly, especially the leaves and stems.

If you have been consistently fertilizing your plants, make sure you periodically check their nitrogen levels. The fertilizer you used should not have a huge nitrogen load.

Check this at least every three weeks and it is really recommended that you check them every couple of weeks. Failure to do so can lead to the use of fertilizer products that are too strong and can hurt your petunias.

Sometimes, your petunias can become susceptible to a slight excess of heat. Try to keep them away from direct sunlight if you are not growing them in containers.

You can get out a thermostat and watch the temperatures for an hour or so before it gets too hot. When you get a really hot day, it is a good idea to move the plants a bit to cool off.

It is important to remember that your flower beds should be constantly attended to.

Having your garden properly cared for is very important. With proper care, you can ensure that your plants will bloom and the beauty will last for years to come.

Watch the video: Why Are My Petunias Turning Yellow?


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