Monday, October 18, 2010

Petunia


The plant that started it all
Last year few Petunia plants bought mostly from the roadside nurseries surprised me by flowering profusely. Especially a plant with red flowers with streaks of white bloomed continuously for around 2-3 months. My wife was impressed and added few more colors like dark blue, purple, pink, lavender and white to the collection. The plant remained on the top of the shaded compound wall receiving sunlight only for few hours in the morning. I thought of collecting the seeds and then try my hands at raising a second generation of petunia plants.


Petunia flowers stay in bloom for a very short period of 3 to 4 days. Like most plants, regularly removing the spent flowers encourages the plant to flower in abundance. At the base of the wilted flower the seed pod forms, initially very small but later swell to a size of a small peanut. When the seed pod turns light brown carefully pluck it without squashing the pod. Place the pod on the sheet of while paper and break open the pod. Very tiny sand-like black seeds will spill out. In this manner, over a course of about 3 months I collected seeds of 5 to 6 different colors and placed all of them in used kids coloring bottle as shown here. Then I forgot about them for another three months till the rainy season started in June.

Green Seed
Dried Seed Pod
Seed Pod and Seeds
My Seed Collection box one for each color
When I sowed the first batch of Petunia seeds I did not have much hope - I mean here is a seed which is so small it would just decompose and melt away. And that is exactly what happened when I could not find any sign of sprouts even after a month. Then I came across this wonderful article 'All about PETUNIAS - By Shehzad Ahmed'. After reading that article, I realized the mistake I did first time. I had sowed the seed too deep and also I had placed the container in shade.

After being a little wiser by first failure and reading the above article I was ready for the second batch. This time I took two waste Styrofoam containers and filled it up with mixture of mostly coco peat and small quantity of compost. Sprinkled the Petunia seeds lightly all over the surface, spread using fingers and pressed them gently. Most seeds were still on the surface but I left it like that. Both the containers were then placed in the direct sunlight. It was the month of July and the monsoon clouds hovered over Bangalore every day. Occasional rain and cool but sunny days would have done the magic. Within 7 to 10 days of the sowing I could see numerous sprouts from both the containers. I was extremely happy and did not want to move the container - it was placed on the rim of flower pots outside my house. 

Seed Starting Container
7-10 days
As the fate would have it one day a stray dog got curious about the container and knocked it down and tried to rip it apart. But for timely intervention, all seedlings would have been destroyed. I could manage to recover half of the seedlings and also the container.

After being wiser more, I moved the containers to the top of the compound wall were it received sunlight most of the day during monsoon. As coco peat retains water very well, I had to only water occasionally when the coco peat felt dry. The seedlings started to grow fast. In the containers I had sowed seeds of different colors in separate sections and had marked the section. However as the seedlings started emerging and covering the containers and the puppy's knock mixed up some of the section, I lost track.


20 days
(The container that survived dog attack)
20 days

So after about a month, as the seedling started developing 2-3 set of leaves and overcrowding the container, the seedling were transferred to small plastic pots filled with mixture of soil, coco peat and compost. Remaining excess seedlings were all transferred to a single large broken plastic container and made it sort of a nursery for the Petunias to be moved to separate container when available.

About a month
(you can see the color code papers)




In about next two weeks some of the plants started blooming. By another 4 weeks all the plants started to have multiple flowers and to my surprise few plants had mix of the original colors. 


6-7 Weeks





So in about 8-10 weeks all the plants started blooming fully. Some plants have the original colors of the mother plant and some darker or lighter shades. And some are mix of two different colors. All in all, in this second generation I was able to see much more colors that the first. And of course, everyone favorite red with white streaks has made a comeback but with smaller flower size.


8-10 Weeks



New mixed color variety
New mixed color variety
The nursery basin
The Favorite is back! 
It is now the 3rd months and the compound wall is splashed with Petunia colors. We can see how well it catches the attention of the neighbors and the passerby :)