Proper Pruning for Petunias—Keep them compact and blooming all season.

Petunias are beautiful, quick, and fun to grow. Here’s how to keep them pretty all summer.

Trude visited us the other day. She said, “John, you said you would tell me how to grow a well-shaped petunia, but you never did.”

I reached for the pruning shears and led her over to a nice plant that needed a bit of care. I handed her the camera and then cut a tip from a stem that was getting too long. “It’s sort of like giving the plant a hair cut.

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careful pruning makes the petunia plant stronger

I cut another tip and then another. Trude said, “I usually just cut mine way back in June or July after it gets stringy and stops blooming but it never does well after that.”

I replied, “I like to trim them every three weeks or so—just about when I notice that they are getting straggly. This does several things, it makes the plant more compact and therefore much stronger, it increases the number of leaves that are available to make food for the plant, and it furnishes more and healthier blooms. This sort of pruning also takes care of the need for dead-heading.”

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Give the plant a “haircut.” It will grow out quickly.

I pointed. “When the tips are removed, all of the growth that is developing on the stem will begin to grow out and develop. With good care, this growth happens quickly and the plant will be back in full bloom in a week or two.”

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cutting the tips will allow this new growth to take off and grow

Trude reached in and removed a dead bloom, “I always go through and remove all of these,” she said. She showed me the dead bloom.

“You didn’t get the ovary,” I replied. She looked at me with a question asked by raised eyebrows.

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merely pulling off the dead bloom doesn’t do the job. You must get the ovary containing developing seeds

I thought for a moment, “Here’s the concept,” I began…

This plant is an annual. It seems to know that it has only one season to grow and reproduce so it makes lots of blooms. When these blooms have been pollinated and when the ovaries are full of developing flower seeds, the plant’s chemical sensors relay that its job has been done. When the plant has made plenty of seeds, it doesn’t see a need for more. It’s sort of like a lady who had several children but wanted a daughter. She tried one more time and got twin boys. She said, “It’s time to stop.”

I pinched off a flower and set it in her hand. “Look closely at the lump at the bottom of the flower. This is the ovary where the seeds are formed. If you just remove the flower and not the ovary, you haven’t really accomplished anything.”

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The petunia bloom showing developing seed pot (ovary).

I finished cutting the tips from the plant. “If you just cut the tips carefully, you will accomplish the task of dead-heading and shape the plant at the same time.”

Here is the plant after I practiced proper petunia pruning procedures:

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A well-trimmed petunia plant will grow out quickly and produce many fore flowers

“To keep the petunia growing strongly, I like to give it lots of light and to feed it every couple of weeks with a well-balanced plant food. If your plant is in a Mother’s Day hanging basket, you may wish to put it in a larger container to give the roots plenty of room to grow.”

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Your petunia basket will grow better and longer if it is transferred to a larger pot

You may also want to read my article titled “The basics of pruning.”

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How to fix a water hose that kinks and leaks

Do you need a new water hose or do you need to try these simple directions to get the kinks and leaks out of your life? Watering plants and meditation go well together unless you have to constantly stop and unkink the hose. This is a simple concept and I don’t want to insult anyone, but I have noticed that a lot of people just never thought about it. Read on.

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Watering plants can be a good meditation experience. A kink in the hose will ruin it.

I find it annoying to have to stop and pull the kinks out of the hose but there is a reason for the kinks and there is an easy way to rectify the problem. So, I’m watering the plants, I have my mind out of gear enjoying solitude and quiet and the freaking water stops coming out of the hose. I turn and look.

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someone has left the hose in a dreadful state. I can’t get any watering done

The reason that the hose kinks up is that the hose is twisted. It gets twisted when we turn and move about while using it. This is natural. Some hoses have a stripe down one side. I used to wonder what that stripe was and then one day I slapped my forehead—“It’s got that line to help me get the twists out. Duh.”

So, now when I start getting kinks in hoses, I gently pull the hose out in a straight line, twisting against the kinks as I go. As the hose is untwisted the kinks disappear by themselves. And that’s all there is to it. Here’s the same hose after I untwisted it:

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Don’t try to take the kinks out one at a time but instead pull the hose straight and un-twist it against the direction of the twists. It will heal itself.

With that problem solved, I find that I need to tell the others who use this particular hose that if they are going to bend it to stop the flow of water, to do it somewhere besides the same place close to the user end. This habit will quickly break down the cording in the hose and cause the bend to become chronic and aggravating. This is a good and expensive hose which has been compromised by “hose abuse.” Oh, Well.

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Don’t take part in “hosal abuse.” This hose has been compromised by being bent at the end to stop the water flow. It begins to start doing it automatically and that will ruin good meditation time

The next thing is leakage. If the hose is leaking at the faucet (hose bib), don’t over-tighten it with pliers, but check the washer instead. A worn washer is the cause of a hose/faucet connection 99% of the time. Washers are cheap and easy to replace; just use a screwdriver or something like that to pry out the old one and then stuff in a new one. It will last for a year or two. I have seen lots of good hoses discarded for this reason and I have seen many instances where there was no washer at all in the fitting. The same thing applies if your hose nozzle is squirting more water on you than on your plants. Check it out.

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worn hose washers leak. Don’t keep tightening the hose, change the washer. This is the cause of most leaks.

One other tip—When you get a new hose, unroll it carefully instead of just pulling it out of the roll that it comes in. This will keep the hose from being twisted from the start.

I wrote a related article some time back about how to use your hose to fertilize your plants with a syphonex.  If you have a lot of ornamentals to care for, this will be a tremendous help.

Happy Gardening

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