Fragrant, colorful and almost trouble-free, petunias (Petunia spp.) are a favorite with home gardeners everywhere. This is especially true for moms who want to garden with their children. The brightly hued, fast-growing flowers are a hit with little ones who want to see quick results in return for their gardening efforts. Fortunately, children who tend the most common hybrid petunias aren't likely to get stung by bees.
Although bees may be initially attracted to the bright colors of petunias, they aren't likely to linger on the flowers. Hybrid petunias don't produce a lot of nectar, and neither do most of the species' plants. Most hybrids are bred from such species as Petunia axillaris, which features long necks suitable only for pollinators such as hummingbirds. Those petunias that do have bees as pollinators, such as Petunia integrifolia, feature purple flowers with short, broad necks. And although both hummingbirds and bees do pollinate petunias, they are only likely to do so if there aren't any other nectar-rich flowers nearby.
Bees are attracted to flowers that have broad petals, so they can easily alight on the petals. For this reason, they are less likely to hover near slim-petaled petunias. Honeybees are attracted to blue and purple flowers, but they can't see the color red, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. If you want to keep honeybees away, try planting red petunias. You can also make it less likely that your petunias will attract bees if you plant narrow-throat varieties.
All species in the Petunia group are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. They are frost-tender, so many home gardeners grow them as annual plants, letting them die when cold weather arrives and planting new ones again the following summer. Petunias grow best in average, well-draining soil and in full sun or part shade. They tend to grow leggy as the summer progresses, so home gardeners should cut them back around mid-summer to stimulate re-blooming. Deadheading also helps petunias bloom more profusely.
Petunias attract bees to some extent, but they also attract hummingbirds. This is likely to fascinate young children who witness the seemingly effortless flight of these birds. Like bees, hummingbirds aren't likely to linger near the flowers, as they too will probably depart for more nectar-rich blooms, but even a brief visit from a hummingbird is sure to delight. Petunia exserta, which is native to Brazil, is the only known petunia species to be pollinated by hummingbirds in the wild, according to master gardener Donald Mitchell's Hummingbird Gardener website.
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