Ten years after escaping from Foxworth Hall, the surviving Dollanganger children - Cathy, Chris, and Carrie - attend the funeral of their adoptive father, Paul Sheffield, who took them in. They are still traumatized by their grandmother's abuse and their mother's betrayal, which led to the death of Carrie's twin, Cory. Meanwhile, their grandmother, Olivia, is an invalid after having suffered a stroke. Corrine has avoided all contact with her children and begins to renovate Foxworth Hall so she can take full ownership of the mansion.
Cathy has become an aspiring ballet dancer, Chris is in medical school, and Carrie is enrolled in an elite high school, but is constantly bullied for her small size. Cathy meets and is attracted to Julian Marquet, a fellow dancer. On their first date, he invites her to go to New York with him to try for a leading role in Romeo and Juliet, which she accepts. Later that night, Cathy and Chris admit that they still have feelings for each other and give into their passion, making love. However, Cathy insists they must find others to love and live normal lives. The conversation reveals that Cathy was pregnant with Chris' child, conceived from their first sexual encounter while they were imprisoned, but miscarried. Although Chris says he can never love anyone but her, Cathy leaves for New York with Julian the next day with hopes of starting afresh with him.
Chris begin a relationship with Sarah Reeves, the daughter of his boss at the hospital where he works. Cathy's relationship with Julian quickly deteriorates as he shows a dark and abusive side. When she attempts to leave, Julian threatens to kill her and Chris. He drops her during ballet try-outs and injures her leg, ruining her chance of getting her desired role. She manages to sneak away to see Chris graduate from medical school, but denies anything is wrong when he sees her black eye. Cathy returns to Julian after he shows regret for having abused her and helps her get the role of Juliet by putting glass in the original dancer's shoes. Cathy agrees to let Carrie stay with her and Julian to escape the relentless bullying at school. During the ballet, Chris catches Julian touching Carrie and a violent confrontation ensues. Julian drives off and Cathy goes with him. Cathy reveals she is pregnant with Julian's child, which causes an already erratically driving Julian to have an accident. Julian dies and Cathy is injured, but alive. Ten months later, after the birth of her son, Jory, Cathy opens her own ballet school.
Carrie meets and falls in love with a local minister named Alex, who proposes. Carrie is unsure about being a minister's wife, recalling their grandmother's statement that all ministers are evil, but Cathy tells her to forget the past and look towards the future. Carrie encounters Corrine at a charity gathering and invites her to the wedding, but Corrine denies Carrie as her daughter. The next morning, Cathy and Chris find that Carrie has committed suicide by consuming poison-laced doughnuts (the same technique that was used to kill her twin). Cathy vows revenge on their murdering mother, despite Chris warily trying to talk her out of it. She hires Corrine's husband Bart Winslow as her attorney, under the guise of reviving the Sheffield estate, with the intent of seducing him. Bart is instantly attracted to her and they begin an affair.
Pressured by his boss, Chris proposes to Sarah and she accepts. However, the day before the wedding, Chris admits to Cathy he still loves her and doesn't want to marry Sarah. Cathy tells him that while she still does love him, she wants him to move on with his life, as their relationship can't lead to anything. Despite this, the two irresistibly end up sharing a passionate kiss. Sarah walks in and, horrified, ends her engagement with Chris, who is fired from his job as rumors of the incestuous relationship spread.
Chris asks Cathy to bring Jory and start a new life with him in California, where no one will know them. However, Cathy reveals that she is pregnant with Bart's child and intends to finish what she started. Chris decides to go with her to finally confront their mother and they sneak into Foxworth Hall on the day of Corrine's Christmas party. Cathy encounters her grandmother and confronts her about her religious hypocrisy and abuse towards her and her siblings. Undeterred, Olivia tells her that while she can abandon the family she will nevertheless forever be "the devil's spawn." During the party, Cathy reveals her identity and her mother's crimes to the stunned guests. Corrine's initially denies everything, but Bart is suspicious and Olivia refuses to defend her. Corrine finally admits to everything, but insists she never intended to kill Cory or have the children put in the attic, defending her actions on the basis that her father would have rejected her and left all of them out of his will. Cathy then publicly reveals her pregnancy caused by Bart.
Corrine blames Olivia for forcing her to put the children in the attic. Olivia counters that the children are abominations and didn't deserve to be born. She gives Corrine a trunk of her old possessions, which when opened reveal the skeletal remains of Cory. Corrine has a mental breakdown and sets the bed and her mother on fire. Bart rushes in to save Olivia, but they both die in the flames. Cathy and Chris escape and watch Foxworth Hall burn to the ground.
Six years later, Cathy and Chris are now married and happily living in California with Jory and Bart Jr. under the surname Dollanganger. Corrine is institutionalized and deemed incompetent to stand trial for her crimes.Heather Graham as Corrine Winslow
Ellen Burstyn as Olivia Foxworth
Rose McIver as Cathy Dollanganger
Wyatt Nash as Christopher Dollanganger, Jr.
Bailey De Young as Carrie Dollanganger
Ellia English as Henny
Nick Searchy as Dr. Reeves
Whitney Hoy as Sarah Reeves
Dylan Bruce as Bart Winslow
Will Kemp as Julian Marquet
Helen Nasilski as Marisha Marquet
George Korov as Ravil Isyanov
Stephanie Kim as Yolanda Lange
Ross Philips as Alex Conroy
Skyler Vallo as Lacey St. Morgan
Megan Easton as Ashley
Molly Hagan as Miss Calhoun
Gabriel Bateman as Michael
Talitha Bateman as Emma
Lifetime announced plans to adapt the second book in the Dollanganger series in January 2014, just before they aired Flowers in the Attic. Production for the movie was rushed and actress Rose McIver, who portrayed Cathy, began filming in February 2014, two weeks after she attended her first audition, leaving her unable to read any of the novels before portraying the role. Immediately after filming was completed in March McIver began work on the television series iZombie.
A new character, that of Chris's love interest Sarah, was created for the movie and some portions of the book, notably the sexual relationship between Cathy and her adoptive father, were removed in order to condense the book for film. Of this choice, director Kayla Alpert stated that “After doing incest, we decided we didn’t need pedophilia on top of it" and that some of the book's plot had to be condensed for the movie.
In its original televised airing, Petals on the Wind was watched by 3.42 million viewers, and had a rating of 1.2 in the women 18-49 age demographic, down 37 percent from the 1.9 earned by Flowers.
Variety reviewed the film, stating that it "looks and feels like a rush job, but improves on its predecessor in nearly every way." Common Sense Media rated Petals on the Wind at three stars, writing "Soapy, sudsy, and scandalous, this take on the much-beloved (and much-reviled) V.C. Andrews book is a lot more fun than Lifetime's previous Flowers in the Attic." The AV Club gave the movie a rating of B-, as they felt that it "largely skews a bit underbaked to meet the promise of its own third act, and lacks the strength of Ellen Burstyn as its central figure, but there’s enough of the all-out V.C. Andrews flavor to make this installment worth a look for those who want to catch up with a family of soap people 30 years in the making."
On September 16, 2015, it was released as a single-disc DVD. It was later re-released on June 23, 2015, with Flowers in the Attic as a "Double Feature." On November 10, 2015, it was included in a "4-Film Collection" with Flowers in the Attic, If There Be Thorns, and Seeds of Yesterday.
On the premiere of Petals on the Wind, Lifetime announced the production of the two following books on the Dollanganger series, If There Be Thorns and Seeds of Yesterday, both set to premiere in 2015.