Reviving Potted Petunias

How to revive leggy potted petunias that are looking spindly. Pruning your petunias can bring them back to looking full and lush once again. Super simple and you get a bonus from them if you choose!

Learn how reviving potted petunias can make for more beautiful blooms all summer long! About mid-summer petunias can start to look very spindly and sad. Give your petunias a good prune, a bit of feed, and plenty of water. Refreshing your spent, leggy petunias brings them back to their full glory for months.  Petunia maintenance 101. 

Reviving your potted petunias and other annuals that may look like they are ready to give up the ghost. Refurbishing potted annuals is not hard but the rewards are more luscious blooms for the rest of the summer through Fall.

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I bought these large hanging potted petunias at a wholesale nursery in May.  They were big and luscious, full of purple and white petunias.  Diligently I watered and fed with an organic liquid plant food over the next weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeousness they added to my side porch.

But after a while I noticed they seemed to be suffering, looking wilted and pathetic.  I watered some more, thinking that maybe I just wasn’t keeping up with their needs.  After all, we were having an early heatwave and it was dang hot!  (which I love)

Reviving Potted Petunias

No matter how much I watered they did not bounce back.  I checked for spider mites (nasty little critters) and other infestations but they were clean.  Just ugly.

basket of leggy petunias that need reviving

The Problem

I felt the soil and noticed it was like a brick. The petunias were not only root bound but the soil used for the hanging basket had turned into a rock.  This can happen when peat moss is used in container mixes. It compresses and becomes a brick.

The soil has become what is called hydrophobic. This means it resists absorbing water thus the plants don’t get what they need.

Thankfully this is simple to fix.

To avoid this situation when I pot up my own hanging baskets I don’t use peat moss, I make sure there is plenty of substance added to my potting soil to keep it loose and free draining.  Additives like perlite (the little white pebble-looking things in good potting soil) works wonders. For my complete DIY Potting soil recipe, visit this post

The Fix for Bedraggled Petunias

Give the plants a good soak.  Take a Garden knife shove the blade down into the moistened brick of soil in the pot.  I wiggle it to make holes throughout the solid chunk of soil.

Reviving your potted petunias and other annuals that may look like they are ready to give up the ghost. Refurbishing potted annuals is not hard but the rewards are more luscious blooms for the rest of the summer through Fall.

I add some fresh good quality potting soil then water it in so it filters down into the spaces I created with the knife.

Reviving your potted petunias and other annuals that may look like they are ready to give up the ghost. Refurbishing potted annuals is not hard but the rewards are more luscious blooms for the rest of the summer through Fall.

Get Tough

I cut back this petunia plant severely.  All the way to the rim of the pot.

If you are just doing a refurbishing prune-up (many annual potted plants may need one about mid-summer) and they don’t look as sorry as these specimens, you can cut back to about the bottom of the pot and it is enough. You can use those cuttings to start more Petunias if you like, I show you how here.

But reviving potted petunias that have gotten this sorry need a more drastic haircut.  So I whacked them off to the rim of the pot.  I figured it was do or die.  As awful as they were looking it could only go up from here.

Reviving your potted petunias and other annuals that may look like they are ready to give up the ghost. Refurbishing potted annuals is not hard but the rewards are more luscious blooms for the rest of the summer through Fall.

Patiently Wait

I hung them back up and kept up with watering and feeding.  My roses climbing the porch posts were in full bloom and stealing the show anyway so the petunia baskets just showing a bit of green was not a huge loss for the time being.

What do you think happened?  Did they kick up their toes and call it quits?

Well, you be the judge.

Reviving your potted petunias and other annuals that may look like they are ready to give up the ghost. Refurbishing potted annuals is not hard but the rewards are more luscious blooms for the rest of the summer through Fall.

This transformation from pathetic stubby stems to gorgeous blooms took about 3 weeks and they continued to grow and bloom the rest of the summer.

So the moral of the story…. don’t be afraid to prune up if you need to revive or refresh your potted petunias (or other annuals).

Reviving your potted petunias and other annuals that may look like they are ready to give up the ghost. Refurbishing potted annuals is not hard but the rewards are more luscious blooms for the rest of the summer through Fall.

No need to do such a drastic complete prune back if you keep up with it from day one. Deadhead regularly and cut back at least a third of the stems every other week, even if they have buds on them.

This will keep the petunias from only blooming at the ends and you keep it lush and full of blooms from the top.

In this video, I show you step by step.

revive leggy petunias vid post

Many of the Supertunias from Proven Winners don’t usually need this kind of pruning as often but it keeps them looking the very best too.

I wish you all bounteous blooms in your gardens.

Leggy petunias getting pruned to revive them

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10 Comments

  1. Hi Pamela
    thanks for the Petunia revival article will do it! How do I revive my Fusias? one hanging basket is nearly over ( I am in YVR) and scraggly staolks are making me feel oh hell and I paid so much! I do water and fertilize them all my baskets and very diligent about that part
    if you can help me/advise about the Fusia plants will be grateful
    thanks

    1. I am shooting in the dark but here are some suggestions. Make sure you are not over watering, that can cause them to wilt and look scraggily so just be sure the pots are draining well. You can shear them back like I did the petunias and you should get a lusher growth as it could put out even more stalks.
      Check to be sure you don’t need to refresh the soil. It can get to where it won’t hold anymore nutrients and the water passes through to quickly. I hope this helps. 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for a prompt response – Will try out and check the problem that u mention-Thanks once again
        cheers

  2. Today’s post came as the most opportune time!y. Yesterday I spend some time cleaning-up my potted petunias. They were looking pathetic despite all the love I have given them! There were browned seed pods on many of the stems. I was considering trying to separate the plants, but was afraid to traumatized them too much, even though they are surely headed for the compost pile if they don’t soon perk up! I will certainly give your techniques a try! Your petunias look fabulous!

  3. I cut back my petunias too. They say not to cut back after the end of July. They always come back beautifully!

    1. I supposed they say not after July as many don’t have enough of a season for them to begin again, but I rarely follow rules. 🙂 I am thinking of putting these petunias in the ground and getting some Fall friendly flowers going in the pots instead. So many other things are blooming around my garden we won’t really miss the hanging pots for now and when everything is looking rather sad in the garden the pots will be filled out.

  4. It was so hard to cut the flowers off BUT I did brave it. Little over 2 1/2 weeks with lots of watering and plant food they are thriving once again. The funny thing is they came back all one color whereas before they were multi colored.

  5. This is wonderful to know. We have been throwing ours away and buying new ones. This will save us some $$$. Pam Panozzo

  6. Read with interest. I really don’t care for petunias but it seems like all that’s being sold this year. I have Supertunias but not impressed. Not supposed to have to deadhead them but they do need it. I’ve had them for 2 weeks & they’re sad. Watered them and all the water dripped out. The weather has been odd (cold & then hot) so I finally bought more plants yesterday (more petunias!!). If I’m buying from a nursery (expensive), I don’t think they’re using the right kind of soil. I’ve done the same in the past with other plants – aerate the soil. My 2 week old plant needs a cleanup already. I don’t have a garden so everything is on the deck (I miss digging in my garden!).

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