Ruellia simplex: Mexican petunia

Family: Acanthaceae
Common name: Mexican petunia, Texas petunia, Mexican bluebell, Britton’s wild petunia, Britton’s wild, Creeping ruellia, Wild petunia

Mexican petunia are not related to the actual Petunia plants, but their bright blue or purple flowers look similar to Petunia flowers. These ever-green, flowering plants can grow to a height of 1 meter, forming large clumps of stems with beautiful flowers during the flowers season.

The stem is erect with a tinge of red or brown, well-branched with long, lance-shaped leaves. These beautiful, long leaves are 20-25 cms long with a beautiful, slightly raised venation.

Flowers are trumpet-shaped, 5-7 cms long and about the same diameter at the top. Petals look very flimsy and tissue-like, 5 in number, fused at the base to form a long corolla-tube.

These plants love full sunlight and bloom well almost throughout the year, in warm, tropical weather. As their name suggests, these plants are native to Mexico and South America, but are now grown as ornamental plants in all countries.

They have also escaped cultivation in some places, and has become an invasive weed, growing near lakes, marshes, ponds, and ditches where they have good availability of water. These plants are moderately drought-tolerant, through the profuse flowering takes some toll on the plant. Hence they require regular watering and fertilization when grown in home gardens.

Mexican petunia flowers attract birds, bees and insects with its nectar. They produce long, brown fruits that split open on maturity releasing the seeds for over 2 meters. There are variants with pink, white and blue flowers; and also a dwarf variant that only grows to a height of 30 cms. Common variants are Katie, Purple Showers and Katie.

All these variants bloom profusely, filling your garden with butterflies and bees, that also help pollinate other plants. The dwarf variants are ideal for hanging baskets and pots, their long leaves falling over the sides, the entire plant filled with beautiful flowers.

Mexican petunia flowers only last for a day, but the sheer number of flowers make sure that your plant is always pretty. They are fast-growers and can stand fluctuations in weather and light. Once the stems become tall and leggy, they can be pruned to encourage new growth, and keep the plants bushy. They are not very prone to pests and other infections, making them a favorite among gardeners.

Propagation is from seeds or stem cuttings.