Petunias are renowned for three reasons; they’ve been around forever (known since the mid 1700s at least), they’re generous bloomers and there’s a petunia to suit every season. Bellis, on the other hand, may sound more sexy and less common, but are precisely that, a sexy common daisy species. These companions reap relatively effortless rewards, perfect for low maintenance gardeners too busy or impatient for the more ‘uppity’ plants of the floral kingdom. Both can be planted now, preferring full winter sun, where they will grow and establish themselves, bursting into colour in spring.
The petunia’s trumpet-shaped blooms have a spicy scent and come in a variety of colours, including bi-coloured and double varieties. Although bellis’ colours are limited to white, red and various shades of pink, their single-stemmed blooms vary from the more common looking daisy with a single layer of elongated petals to the multi-layered pompom-looking variety. The larger flowering Bellis form more pom-pom like flowers of about 2cm in diameter, without much of a yellow centre.
There’s always a Petunia to suit your needs: ‘Grandiflora’ have larger blooms, spread well and best planted in autumn and winter in summer rainfall areas. ‘Multiflora’ have masses of smaller flowers and are suited for planting in spring and summer in summer rainfall areas, their smaller flowers being more tolerant of rainfall, the same goes for ‘Millifloras’ (thousand flowers), which have small but prolific blooms.
Petunias behave best in full sun, needing at least six hours of full sun daily, perfect for those hotter areas of your garden, especially along a north-facing wall. They must have well-draining soil, particularly in a container. Avoid replanting in the same bed as previous petunias to give the soil time to recover.
Once established, the trick with petunias is to let the soil dry out between watering. Too much water makes plants leggy with too many leaves and few flowers. They hate soggy soil.
An initial dose of fertiliser will be rewarded, as will a folia feed high in potash. If plants become too leggy just nip the plant back to encourage more branching and a neater shape. Deadhead fading blooms to encourage more flower growth and a longer blooming period.
Historically known as Bruisewort, for its healing abilities in treating minor injuries like cuts, bruises and joint pain, Bellis is not just a pretty face. Its spoon-shaped leaves provide a lovely bed of green ground cover from which their bright disc-like blooms stand out singly and proudly. Bellis need full sun and well draining soil. An initial boost of compost and slow releasing fertiliser is all the pampering they’ll need. Water once a day until established and less frequently thereafter. Some deadheading will be required and you will want to remove the lower leaves which die off periodically.
Osteospermum better known as the Cape or African daisy. A wonderful indigenous plant requiring lots of sun and minimal watering. A low growing evergreen shrub with daisy-like blooms that come in a variety of colours, the hardiest of which have a deep purple or blueish centre fading to white petals.