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How to Fix Leggy Petunias and Fill Them Up

Petunias can be some of the most eye-catching summer flowers, but as the season wears on they can also start looking a bit sad. Today I share what to do to fix leggy petunias, so they’ll look beautiful and full all summer long!

I sure had some good, and some bad, petunia years. Sometimes they seem to stay all alone complete and beautiful, and within a few weeks they seem to get really scraggly-looking. I had one particular type I just couldn’t keep up with a couple of years ago and they made me almost swear off petunias completely because they looked so disastrous, but luckily I learned it wasn’t the petunias, it was me. It turns out my petunias need only a proper pruning. Here’s how to fix leggy petunias and make them look fuller this summer, if yours look a little sad.

First of all, here are my petunias that I’ve been kind of neglecting for the past few weeks in anticipation of this post. It’s pretty common for petunias to look like this by this point in the summer.

Tips to Help You Fix Leggy Petunias

Lots of Water

It’s no coincidence that my best petunia years have been the years where we’ve had a ton of rain. I’ve actually never really had to develop great plant-watering routines because my plants have always mostly been watered naturally by the rain. Every once in awhile, like this year, we’ll have a dry spell and these are really the beginning of the end for my beautiful petunias. Although I’ve done a pretty great job of keeping up with the watering overall – if I do say so myself – it’s just not enough for the petunias. During these really hot and dry spells, petunias in containers may actually need to be watered more than everyday. Twice a day is probably what you’re looking at for best results.


Most annuals require daily summer deadheading to look their best, so petunias are likely to be one of the bunch’s most vulnerable when it comes to deadheading. However, if you want to fix leggy petunias and make them look more complete, simply removing the spent blooms won’t cut it down. Here you can see a bloom spent beside a new bud that is about to bloom any second now.

To properly deadhead a petunia, you also need to remove the entire seed pod from the plant. This is the tiny little green nub that remains after you remove a spent bloom.

As the seed pods get a little bit older, they’ll start to turn brown, so look for the brown nubs as well. The whole stem below the little nub will turn brown as well and you can just clip that whole section off.  The nubs and stems don’t come off as easily as the spent flowers do, so grab a pair of garden shears to make the job easier and cleaner.


One thing I didn’t know early in my experience with petunias is that petunias really require daily pruning to remain complete and more compact. If you don’t prune your petunias, at the very end of AKA leggy petunias you will often end up with long, empty stems with a floral or two.

Every few weeks, you’ll want to prune your petunias, scraping the top 1/4-1/2 of every stem in your vine. This may feel a bit tough to do, especially when it’s all in full bloom, so feel free to prune just a few of the longest stems a week, and a couple of others next week. That way you are going to have some stems in full bloom and others that are always regenerating themselves.

When you go to prune your petunias, try to leave at least a few leaves on each stem, and trim just above a “node”, which is the spot where a pair of leaves meet the stem.

As you can see, I removed quite a bit, but I’m left with a really healthy looking little plant full of fresh new leaves and very little of the crispy brown leaves and stems that were covering the old plant and making it look so sad.

Follow Up Steps to Fix Leggy Petunias

After you’ve finished your pruning steps to make your petunias fuller, within a few weeks, things should start looking pretty fantastic. If your environment is really hot and dry, you will want to keep up with your current watering routine on an ongoing basis and make sure that at least every 3 days you are deadheading correctly. If you start seeing a few long, lanky stems again falling out of reach, it’s time to start pruning!

If you’ve ever wondered how people can still have stunning, large petunia planters well into the fall months, this is what they’re doing!

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