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On Gardening: African Sunset offers a most rare color for the garden

April 18, 2016

The African Sunset petunia reaches 12 to 24 inches in height with a spread of 32 inches.

Petunias have always been among my favorite summer flowers and when African Sunset made its debut as an All-America Selections Bedding Plant Award Winner in 2014 I couldn’t wait to give them a try. Despite my affection for these flowers, not since the Sanguna Atomic Blue petunia came out has another variety captured my attention in such a way.

If you have seen African Sunset or grown it then you know it is the rarest of orange color. To me, it has hints of deep coral in the orange, and I would love to partner it up with some blues for what might be the ultimate complementary color scheme.

We got African Sunset in for our spring plant sale and were sure to save some for the garden. As luck would have it, our batch got absolutely hammered by a torrential rain and looked like they were ready for the dump. A short time later there they were being planted in our Mediterranean Garden looking just like they did before the rain.

Being able to withstand such conditions and bounce back was among their traits being touted as All America Selections Winners. Now as for my perspective goes the proof was in the pudding — they do bounce back.

You will find them reaching 12 to 24 inches in height and mounding but with a good spread outward to 32 inches. In the garden you will want to space them around 24 inches apart. They were promoted as having flowers that reached 2 1/2 inches wide but by far most of ours are 3 1/4 to 3 1/2 inches making the show even greater.

Select a site with plenty of sun to get that really showy performance. African Sunset and all petunias you may want to try, perform best in fertile organic rich soil that drains freely. If this doesn’t describe your garden soil, then take the time to incorporate 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of about 8 inches. As you do this, add about 2 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer per 100 square feet. It’s a good idea to give petunias a light application of fertilizer about once a month during the growing season.

You’ll most likely want to plant petunias at the front of the border, but with 24 inches a possibility they definitely open the door for mid flower border applications. We are using ours in our Mediterranean Garden growing them in large decorative containers that might best be described as olive jars. The garden is a riot of colors as it is situated between two buildings one which is a golden yellow and the other a similar coral orange. In the containers, we are growing the silver-blue leafed cardoon which is the perfect backdrop for African Sunset petunia.

In the landscape African Sunset may be the ultimate artist plant to try. Blue salvias and ageratums would be my first partnerships to try as well as purple gomphrenas and Amistad salvia. Consider also using in front of lime green coleus like Wasabi or King Tut papyrus.

I assure you spring is headed your way if it hasn’t arrived already. As you shop for plants keep your eyes open for a petunia in an orange like you have never seen before, it will be African Sunset an All-America Selections Bedding Plant Award Winner.

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