Any of many species of flowering plants in the genus Petunia, in the nightshade family, which originated in South America. The innumerable varieties of showy, trumpet-shaped flowers are immensely popular. There are two types: the compact, erect sort seen in summer garden beds, and the sprawling, long-stemmed sort seen in hanging baskets and window boxes. From early summer until frost, petunias bloom profusely with single or double blossoms; crisped, fringed, or ruffled flowers; and spectacular hues from pure white to deep crimson or purple, speckled or veined in contrasting colours. Leaves are soft, flabby, and covered with fine, sticky hairs. Technically perennials, petunias are most often grown as annuals.
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Petunia is a trumpet shaped, widely-cultivated genus of flowering plants of South American origin, in the family Solanaceae. The popular flower got its name from French, which took the word petun 'tobacco' from a Tupi-Guarani language. Most of the varieties seen in gardens are hybrids (Petunia x hybrida).
The origin of P. x hybrida is thought to be by hybridization between P. axillaris (the large white or night-scented petunia) and P. integrifolia (the violet-flowered petunia). P. axillaris bears night-fragrant, buff-white blossoms with long, thin tubes and somewhat flattened openings. The species was first sent from South America to Paris in 1823. P. integrifolia has a somewhat weedy habit, spreading stems with upright tips, and small lavender to purple flowers. It was discovered in South America by the explorer James Tweedie, after whom the genus Tweedia is named, who sent specimens to the Glasgow Botanical Garden in 1831. Many open-pollinated species are also gaining popularity in the home garden. A wide range of flower colors, sizes, and plant architectures are available in both the hybrid and open-pollinated species.
Some botanists place the plants of the genus Calibrachoa in the genus Petunia. Botanically speaking, tobacco, tomato, potato, and petunia are all in the family Solanaceae.
Petunias are generally insect pollinated with the exception of P. exserta, which is a rare, red-flowered, hummingbird pollinated species. Most petunias are diploid with 14 chromosomes and are interfertile with other petunia species.