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Petunias and Salvia
March 16, 2015

What a difference a week makes.

Pictured in a nearby field Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), a native grass.

Notice the upright habit, even after the rigors of winter.

Little bluestem is a clump forming, well behaved native, that grows to about three feet (1m.), taller in ideal growing conditions.

Just about all the snow has melted

There are piles, and areas protected from the sun, still signs of spring continue.

Besides the singing birds,

Deer are coming out to graze, I was privileged to watch six deer play and frolic, as they bounced around.

Pictured are the Red-winged blackbirds.

More and more, Red-wings are becoming the harbinger of spring.

In a week or two, they will become more of a nuisance bird around here, as they dominate the feeding stations (there are so many of them).

I have seen some American robins, but i have had a handfull all winter long.

Sandhill cranes are drifting northward.

Karen heard, and I spotted this pair as they slowly circled their way north.

I think the Goldfinches up this way are beginning to change as well.

And don't forget that wonderful fresh smelling air, and open windows.

Thank you Lord.

I conclude the short series on some of our favorite, or more popular annuals with 'Petunias', and 'Red Salvia'

If nothing else, it filled up a few pages.


Petunia (Petunia Group):

A tender herbaceous perennial in its native South America.

Zone Hardy in 10-11, so it may survive in a few locations.

I'm not a big fan of petunias, the foliage is sticky, and smells (just my opinion)

This garden favorite grows to one foot tall and can spread from one foot to about three feet (one meter).

Petunias are second only to impatiens in garden popularity as hybrids and cultivars continue to make this garden favorite even more popular.

Blooms May to frost, a mid season haircut is a must if you want your petunias to flourish in late summer and into fall.

Give them a good cut, and feed them to encourage new growth.

Without a trip to the barber, petunias peter out, and not in style.

Plant in full sun to part shade.

Petunias don't mind the heat, and tolerate dry conditions for short periods.

Try to water the soil, and not the foliage, as this promotes fungus and disease.

The hybrids are generally bushy to spreading in habit, typically growing 10-14” tall but spreading to as much as 2-3’ wide.

They feature funnel-shaped single to double flowers in virtually all colors except brown and black with some picotees and bicolors.

Common hybrid groupings include:

Grandiflora hybrids (large flowers to 4” wide), Multiflora hybrids (smaller but more abundant flowers to 2” wide) and Cascading hybrids (pendulous-stemmed varieties useful in hanging baskets or as ground covers).

Most flowers have some fragrance.


No serious insect or disease problems.

Deer resistant for the same reason I'm not a fan, smelly and texture.

Susceptible to root rot, gray mold, late blight and tobacco mosaic virus.

Watch for aphids, flea beetles, slugs and snails.

Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis):

(No picture)

Native species to much of North America.

Thick, deep-green, hairy foliage forms a dense spreading mound that comes alive with petunia-like lavender to lilac-blue flowers from July through Sept.

This plant puts on quite a show weaving throughout the garden while providing outstanding cover, ample nectar
and a great rain garden presence.


Host plant for the Buckeye and several other butterfly species.

Perfect for mass plantings in sunny, moist areas Long bloom period with lots of garden color.

A rare plant that is moisture and drought tolerant.

Easy to grow and pest free.

Outstanding cover for garden critters.

Long bloom means many nectar seeking butterflies.

Salvia splendens (scarlet sage, tropical sage):

Zone hardy 10-11.

Red Salvia may not be my favorite annual flower, but it is the most planted in my yard and gardens.

For these reasons.

If I had to plant just one kind of flower in my yard it would be Red salvia (Salvia splendens).

They attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

They are well behaved, come in various heights, to fill in every location, for borders, and even pots.

The native type is rarely used or described, though it grew from 1.5 to 8 m (4.9 to 26.2 ft) in height.

The most common selections are the dwarf sizes that go by names such as 'Red Hot Sally' and 'Salsa', and planted in mass, in gardens.

Taller cultivars can reach 3 to 4 plus feet in height.(1 to 1.3 m).

The various types typically have red flowers.

(Salvia splendens also comes in other various shades of red, purple white, and salmon).

Salvia bloom from May to killing frost.

Indeed, when other annuals are petering out, Red Salvia is hitting full stride.

In late summer and into fall, my salvia are at their peak.

Flowers attract and feed hummingbirds until they finally migrate in late september.

They offer food for the honey bees as they are busy stocking up the hives for winter.

The bright red color pops.

Did I mention, they are a hummingbird magnet?

Salvia splendens is a tender herbaceous perennial native to Brazil.

Growing at 2,000 to 3,000 m (6,600 to 9,800 ft) elevation where it is warm year-round and with high humidity.

Purchase plants, or sow your own seeds.

Sow seeds about eight weeks before last frost.

For best results, seeds must be sown on top of soil (no covering), as they germinate by light and moisture.

Moisten soil, sprinkle seeds on top, cover with clear plastic or place in a clear bag, and stick under a grow light or place in a south window.

For best results, seeds must be sown on top of soil (no covering), as they germinate by light and moisture.

Moisten soil, sprinkle seeds on top, cover with clear plastic or place in a clear bag, and stick under a grow light or place in a south window.

Of Note:

Scarlet sage is a clump-forming, tender perennial that typically grows to 1-4 feet tall on square, upright stems.

Features long-tubed, red-bracted, bright red flowers (to 2” long) in dense, erect, terminal racemes from summer to fall.

Oval, serrate, dark green leaves (to 3” long).

Cultivars are available in various shades of red, pink, blue, lavender, orange, white and bicolor.

No serious insect or disease problems, though the slugs in my yard find them very tasty.

Before I plant my salvia, I am usually well prepared and armed (organically) to battle the slugs.

Plant in full sun to part shade (more blooms in full sun).

A low maintenance plant with medium water requirements.

Like all sages, it is deer resistant (not proof).

Stems will root for you, and freely reseeds itself.

I understand downy and powdery mildew can be an issue, I have yet to experience that in Michigan.

I hope you learned a little something from the short series on flowering annuals.

And I hope I hit one of your favorites.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God bless.

"As the body needs physical exercise in order to remain in fit condition, man's spirit also requires the spiritual exercise derived when he confronts his problems and combats life's vicissitudes."

William Sahakian and Mabel Lewis Sahakian, describing the philosophy of Epictetus

Spiritual exercise is beneficial for this life, and for the life to come.

Let GOD be your spiritual trainer.

"For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe."

1 Timothy 4:8-10

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and forever!"

2 Peter 3:18

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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