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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - August 31, 2004

From: Philadelphia, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care of non-native, hybrid petunias
Answered by: Stephen Brueggerhoff

QUESTION:

I have a beautiful Petunia Tiny Tunia Violet plant which has been flowering nicely (in sun and shade environment). Suddenly, a few days ago, it began to look like it's dying--stalks all dried out. Is this normal? I have kept it moist. Should I cut it back and will it bloom next year? It is a perennial, isn't it?

ANSWER:

Hybrid garden petunias should be watered regularly, placed in well-draining, compost enriched soil. The plant may be responding to too much water; stem die-back like you have described is the result of a vascular problem, resulting from roots drying out from too little water, or root rot from too much water. The roots may also be affected by a soil fungal pathogen. If the roots die, then there is no nutrient and water delivery to the stems/vegetative tissue, causing the vegetative tissue to die. If the soil is remaining moist, allow the soil to dry out a bit and water sparingly. You may have to propagate vegetatively if the plant is in continual decline. You can reference this website for more information about petunia horticulture.
 

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