Pruning Petunias – Information On Cutting Back Petunia Plants

Pruning Of A Petunia Plant
prune petunia
(Image credit: Gardening Know How, via Nikki Tilley)

No plant fills a container or bed with glorious colors faster than petunias, the workhorse flowers of the summer garden. But, as is the case in so many relationships, your admiration for your petunias may fade as the first flush of blossoms die and the plant begins to appear leggy and straggly. Even if you deadhead furiously, clipping off all those faded blossoms, the stems just keep growing longer. Do petunias need pruning? Yes, they do. Read on for more information about how to cut back petunias.

Do Petunias Need Pruning?

Many gardeners view annuals as disposable, and simply don’t know how to cut back petunias. But cutting back petunia plants is essential to keeping them looking their best during their short stay in your garden. You must have noticed how, over time, your fabulous hanging petunia baskets suddenly look awful, with stringy, long stems dangling limply down the side of the pot. The leaves are yellowing and the few colorful flowers hold onto the ends of the stems like sailors climbing out of the sea on ropes tossed their way. This is especially maddening when your neighbors on both sides have petunia baskets brimming with bright flowers all summer long. Pruning petunias makes the difference. Do petunias need pruning? They absolutely do, and the difference between gorgeous hanging baskets and stringy-looking ones involves appropriate trimming of these plants.

How to Cut Back Petunias

It’s easy enough to keep your petunias attractive all summer long if you begin early with maintenance and keep at it through the life of the plant. Maintenance is especially important if you brought home a full and flowering hanging basket in late spring. Before you begin cutting back petunia plants, take a close look at them. Notice that the plants – whether they are the Wave varieties, Super Petunias or just regular ones – only produce flowers at the very end of the stems. That means that as those stems grow longer, you’ll have flowers at the very end of bare stems. For best results, start pruning petunias soon after you install them in your yard. Cutting back petunia plants is not hard. You need to clip a few stems every week. Start early, even if this means you must trim off stems that have attractive flowers on them. Whenever your petunia stems are eight inches long (20 cm.) or longer, begin the pruning schedule. If your plants are small when you buy them and the stems are shorter than eight inches (20 cm.), you can wait awhile to clip. Here’s how to cut back petunias. Each week, you clip three or four stems in half, making the cuts above a node. The petunia plant will then produce two new growing tips just below each cut, and those tips will begin flowering soon. Pruning petunias regularly from the time you buy them will keep your plants gorgeous and healthy.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.