By Amy Grant
Easy to care for and great for use as coverage, ruellia plants offer unique beauty to landscape areas. So, what is ruellia and can this Mexican native be cultivated in our own home garden landscape? Keep reading to learn more about growing ruellia.
What is Ruellia?
Ruellia flowers are 2-inch long funnel-shaped blooms growing on a perennial shrub. Originally native to Mexico, it is now found in the Southwest United States, naturalized in many areas. Ruellia flowers from mid spring through the first frosts of fall with purple or blue blooms (on occasion red or pink) on purple stems.
The widely adaptable Ruellia brittoniana, also known as Mexican petunia, Mexican barrio, Mexican bluebell and most commonly wild petunia, has an equally spreading habitat of about 3 feet with low drooping branches and linear serrated leaves of a variegated purple hue.
Care of Ruellia Plants
Not only is ruellia an evergreen, but it is a relatively hardy variety despite its penchant for warmer temperatures. Although the care of ruellia plants indicate thriving in very warm climates, these wild petunia plants can actually survive winters in the 20’s and 30’s. Ruellia flowers will generally die back at the foliage tips below 32 degrees F. and all the way to the ground in the 20’s. However, upon a return to more seasonable temperatures, the ruellia wild petunia will bounce back with as much vigor as before.
When thinking about the care of ruellia plants, you will want to keep in mind that the wild petunia aggressively self sows and care should be taken to contain the plants. Due to this self-sowing, the plant makes an ideal container or planter specimen serving to impede the rampant spread likely to occur when directly planted in the garden landscape.
Requirements for Growing Ruellia
An ideal location for growing ruellia is a site with full sun exposure. Although ruellia flowers are highly adaptable and may do well in shade, expect fewer blooms due to the lack of sunlight. Growing ruellia plants appreciate regular water but again the tolerant plant can withstand drought conditions in prepared soil.
This upright to spreading perennial can be propagated via seed, vegetative cuttings or root divisions and should be trimmed to tame the self-seeding, rampant growth. Also, remove any frost damaged foliage to prevent any further damage or insipient disease.
Care of ruellia plants is best in USDA hardiness zones 8b through 11. Ruellia flowers may be planted year round in all zones and used either in container gardening, as mass plantings or ground cover where they are terrific attractors for butterflies.
Some varietals of wild petunia include:
- ‘Chi chi’ – variety with pink flowers
- ‘Icicles’ – type that blooms all white
- ‘Baby Katie’ – dwarf variety only about one foot tall with purple flowers