KENNEWICK -- Which is better: Wave petunias or Supertunias?
It is almost like the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, the dueling lines of vigorous hybrid petunias available to gardeners.
Neither line of petunias resembles the wimpy petunias of the past that typically faded away as soon as scorching hot summer weather arrived. Wave petunias and Supertunias are heat tolerant, blooming all summer, even during hot weather. Both grow best in full sun with evenly moist, well-drained fertile soil. Neither requires deadheading to keep them blooming. Both are vigorous growers that produce oodles of flowers, outperforming the petunias of yesteryear.
Wave petunias and Supertunias need a steady supply of nitrogen as they grow. This may be supplied with slow-release fertilizer added to the soil or potting mix before planting or by regular feeding with water soluble or light applications of granular fertilizer.
Developed in Japan by the Ball Horticultural Co., the Wave series of petunias were the first vigorous, heat tolerant hybrid petunias to arrive on garden store shelves more than 15 years ago. Low growing and spreading, they initially were developed to be a groundcover type of petunia. Propagated from seed, they generally have a sizeable root system.
The Waves are great for use as groundcover type bedding plants or in containers. However, most cultivars are vigorous and can overwhelm and crowd other plants in container gardens. Because they're so vigorous, they can become a little leggy in late summer. If they do, cutting them back in early August will renew their appearance for the remainder of the season.
There now are about 55 different cultivars and five main types of Wave petunias. The classic Waves are five to seven inches tall and three to four feet in width. The Easy Waves form 1-foot-tall and 3-feet-wide mounds of color. The Tidal Waves with big flowers reach a height of two feet and a width of five feet and make excellent groundcovers. The Shock Waves are newer additions to the Wave line with smaller flowers and more restrained growth. They're better suited for smaller spaces. The Double Waves have double flowers and work well as "spillers" in containers and hanging baskets.
Marketed by Proven Winners, the Supertunias are newer arrivals at the garden store. There are about 30 Supertunia cultivars, most growing from six to ten inches tall and trailing to two to three feet in length. The Supertunia Vistas have a mounding, cascading growth habit, growing to two feet both in height and width.
The Supertunias are sterile and are propagated vegetatively from cuttings. They are not as vigorous as the Waves and work well in hanging baskets or mixed with other plants in containers. They're less likely to overtake and crowd other plants.
My favorite Wave is one of the originals: Wave Purple Classic. I also like the more restrained Shock Wave Pink Vein (light pink with dark pink-purple veins) and Shock Wave Denim (multi shades of denim blue-purple). Amongst the Supertunias, I especially like the SupertuniaVista Bubblegum (bright pink bubble gum), Supertunia Citrus (bright pastel yellow), and Supertunia Raspberry Blast (striped bright and lighter raspberry pink). One unique Supertunia is Pretty Much Picasso with violet purple flowers edged with lime green.
So when it comes to a showdown between the Waves and the Supertunias, I can't decide which is better. It's up to you to decide who is the winner for your garden. Look for both types at your local garden store this spring.
* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.