Surfinie or hanging petunias
Petunias are annual and perennial plants, originating in Central and South America, introduced into cultivation in European gardens starting from the beginning of the 19th century; the varieties we find in the nursery are all hybrid, originating from the crossing of some species, including Petunia axillaris and Petunia integrifolia. In the 1900s a Japanese nurseryman succeeded in bringing together the strong flowering of the largest flower varieties with the vegetative vigor of the small-flowered and climbing species; the result of this brilliant combination is surfinia: a vigorous and resistant petunia, which falls in cascade and blooms throughout the summer.
The flowers of the hybrid petunias and those of the surfinie they are almost identical, of varied color, from the pure white, to the intense violet, velvety, of tubular shape; also the foliage is very similar, oval in shape, covered with a typical almost invisible down, which is clearly perceived to the touch, and makes the foliage sticky. This allows us to distinguish a hybrid petunia from a surfinia It is only and exclusively the shape of the plant, in fact the petunias constitute small, compact bush shrubs; the surfinie instead they are hanging, more or less vigorous depending on the variety, and can produce floral cascades up to a few meters long.
How to grow surfinia
These plants are easy to cultivate, and do not require large quantities of land, which is why they find their place in the garden, in the flower beds, but also in the pots on the terrace, or in the geraniums.
They should be planted in a fertile, cool, decidedly very well drained soil, as these plants fear very much the excesses of watering and the water stagnations; the best area is set in partial shade, with a few hours of direct sun every day, but they also grow well in full sun, even if in this case they need some more watering.
They are sown in seedbeds in February-March, then keeping the seedbed in a warm place, or small plants sold in nurseries are planted at the end of April or May, when nighttime minimum temperatures are certainly above 10 ° C.
From April to September-October, they are watered only when the soil is dry, also providing fertilizer for flowering plants, every 12-15 days, mixed with the water used for watering.
They are plants that require little care, and that recover quickly if we forget to water them, or if we sporadically allow ourselves to water them excessively; the important thing is to quickly remedy the mistakes made, and allow the soil to come back fresh and light.
If the plants suffer damage due to bad weather, or if we find them excessively elongated or with few flowers, a clear pruning is very useful, which shortens the plants by about half: we will stimulate the production of new branches and prolong the flowering.
Generally the plants clean themselves, in the sense that the withered flowers or ruined leaves tend to dry up and fall; in the event that the withered flowers remain on the plant it is advisable to remove them, to prevent them from acting as a vehicle for rot or fungus.
These plants perish visibly on arrival of cold, and generally replace them from year to year; in the areas, however, with a mild winter, it is often the case that the plants of the previous year re-sprouted when spring arrived; to avoid then having a thin and stunted plant, remember to repot it, with fresh and rich soil.
Pests of Surfinie
The slightly hairy foliage of the Surfinie is often attacked by insects; if the climate is very dry and our waterings are scarce, our plants will easily be attacked by mites, which will cause discoloration of the leaves and the deterioration of the whole plant.
On the other hand, when the climate is very cool and humid, like early spring or autumn, it may happen that the surfinia are attacked by aphids, which quickly spread over the buds and fresh shoots.
To avoid the attack of these insects, if we grow surfinie in pots, we can insert in the soil of the systemic insecticide and acaricide tablets, which will dissolve with each watering, spreading in the tissues of the plant: this type of insecticide lasts for months and keeps even the caterpillars and other pests are far away.
If watering is excessive, surfinia tends to be affected by root rot, which can ruin the whole plant; usually we tend to water these plants only when the soil is dry, avoiding to leave stagnant water in the saucer. This means that in the spring we will water about once a week, but in full summer we will water more often, even every day if necessary.
Surfinia: The friends of the surfines
Despite the existence of surfines of all colors, it is always nice to plant two different types of essences in the same vase, to obtain a colorful and joyful balcony.
These plants are very vigorous, so it is important to avoid accompanying them with very delicate flowering plants, such as impatiens or vinche (catharanthus roseus); we try to place plants that have similar needs in the same pot. Often with the surfinie the geraniums, the bidens, the verbenas are put to stay; try a combination with the solanum, which in addition to having similar cultivation requirements, also belongs to the same family as surfinia, the solanaceae.
The best impact for surfinia is obtained by placing the plant in a large hanging vase, in this case it is good to place only surfinie in the container, to allow the plant to develop freely.