All the Types of Petunia Wave

Well, this is original Wave Purple Improved, but honestly, it won’t look like this for long. Within a very few weeks, you’re going to have to put this modest pot onto a pedestal to show off the long, long, LONG trailing stems!

At first there was only Petunia Wave, full stop. Without a doubt the most exciting thing to happen to annual plants in decades, Wave burst onto the scene in the mid 1990s with a flood of publicity that, if anything, downplayed the beauty, flower power, and sheer ease of this spreading Petunia. Purple Wave was the original color, winning an All-America Selection and making headlines for its ability to grow 2 inches a day — tossing up new blooms every step of the way. (Before the Waves, Petunias spread about a foot wide. Purple Wave could tumble 4 feet from a basket within just a few months of sowing the seed!) Purple Wave also self-cleaned, eliminating the need to deadhead the spent flowers. It loved sun, heat, humidity, and was even willing to put up with a little drought.

Within a single summer, it seemed as though every American home had a basket of Purple Wave blazing on the deck, an urn spilling over with blooms beside the front walkway, and a frothing mass of color around the mailbox and lamppost. And why not? This Petunia was simply amazing. Skeptics became converts, and more Wave colors quickly followed. Then other Wave types appeared: Easy Wave, Double Wave, Shock Wave, and Tidal Wave.

Still the favorite of many gardeners, original Wave Misty Lilac offers a soft, watercolor wash of white, pink, and soft lavender.

So what are the differences between all these types of Waves, and which is right for your garden and container spaces? Well, the rule of thumb is that you can’t go wrong with any Wave if you want masses of blooms in full sun, all summer long. But here’s a quick primer about their subtle differences:

 Original Wave

Okay, they aren’t really called “Original.” Any Petunia Wave that doesn’t have a qualifying name in front of it (Shock, Easy, etc.) is probably an original Wave. This includes new Purple Improved — the classic color, now made even better by bigger and more flowers, beginning even earlier in the season — as well as all the other colors in the family.

Original Waves are “spillers” in baskets, windowboxes, and tall planters. In the garden, they are very low-growing. Just 4 to 7 inches high, they spread like crazy up to 4 feet long. (We’ve known them to push it to 5 feet, frankly!)

Easy Wave also has the only striped variety!

Bottom line: This is the Wave you want for fountainous, cascading, free-flowing, trailing color.

Easy Wave

So the only real complaint gardeners had about the Original Wave was that it was flat on top. (Well, what do you expect, with 4 feet of trailing stems?! But anyway . . . ) So out came Easy Wave, with a more mounded habit, about 6 to 12 inches high and up to 39 inches long. Easy Wave also boasted larger blooms — 3 inches on average — though the Improved versions of the Original Wave now have those bloom sizes, too.

Easy Wave may not sound much different, size-wise, from Original, but it really is. The plant forms a dense, bushy mound, and new blooms appear from the center as well as the ends of the stems, so it holds up well over its long season.

Electrifying Volt Mix really shows off the bold, clean colors of Shock Wave!

Bottom line: This is the Wave you want for billowy containers where you need a little height as well as lots of trailing beauty.

Shock Wave

Shock Wave’s watchwords are “more blooms, sooner.” The flowers are smaller than Easy Wave’s, averaging just 2 inches, but they are profuse. And they begin a few weeks ahead of all the other Wave families, extending your season. The plant habit is similar to Easy Wave’s: mounded and well-branched, about 7 to 10 inches high and up to 3 feet wide (or long).

Bottom line: This is the Wave you want for earlier blooms and many more of them over a long season. It makes a good companion to all other Waves in the container, because it starts early and fills in nicely. And the smaller blooms make the other Waves look huge!

Tidal Wave Red Velour washes across the sunny annual bed of some lucky gardener!

Tidal Wave

The most versatile Wave of all! Tidal Wave is known, confusingly, as a hedgiflora (a term usually reserved for roses), but all that means is that the habit is so flexible that you can use it as:

  • an upright, spreading plant for the annual bed

  • a trailing plant for baskets and window boxes

  • a climbing plant, with a little support

Generally speaking, Tidal Wave reaches 22 inches high and up to 4 feet wide, but if you space the plants farther apart in the bed, they will be less tall and more spreading. If you place them against a fence or other support, they can be trained to grow upwards, reaching several feet high (instead of trailing or spreading). The blooms are smaller — 2 inches on average — and very abundant.

As beautiful as roses but so much easier to grow, Double Waves give you a new texture for garden and container. Mix them with single Waves of all kinds to really show them off!

Bottom line: This is the Wave you want for versatile garden uses. It’s fun to play with!

Double Wave

Several varieties of Wave are available as double blooms instead of singles. These Petunias look like rosebuds and are breathtaking! Naturally, you won’t get as many flowers per plant, but they will be so petal-packed, you probably won’t care.

Double Waves are good choices for a mixed Wave basket. Show off these big beautiful blooms alongside single Easy Waves and smaller Shock Waves. Together they create a combination that looks very different, yet is entirely complementary!

Bottom line: This is the Wave you want for big, showy flowers with twice the petals of all other Waves.


Fly Me to the Moon is a 6-pack of plants containing Easy Waves in rich, cool colors. Yes, please!

Waves are available as seeds and occasionally as 6-packs of annual plants. They also pop up in a few annual plant combos, which really highlight their beauty too.

You really can’t go wrong growing any Petunia Wave, but by choosing specific  types, you will make the most of all your sunny garden and container spots!

About Sappho Charney

Sappho Charney is a garden writer living in Lubbock, Texas.

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