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Mexican Bluebell Ruellia simplex

Previously known as:

  • Ruellia brittoniana
Phonetic Spelling
roo-EL-ee-yuh SIM-plecks
Description

Ruellia simplex, or Mexican petunia, is a herbaceous evergreen perennial of the Acanthaceae family. It is sometimes named Ruellia brittoniana, but R. simplex is preferred, as it is the name first given to the plant when described in Cuba. Mexican petunia is a vigorous (some say aggressive), shrubby, woody-based plant is that is easy to propagate by cuttings, division and seed. While it seeds freely, keep in mind that some cultivars are sterile ('Purple Showers'), in which case they may spread by rhizomes. It typically grows to 3 to 4 feet tall in the wild, but only to 2 or 3 feet tall in gardens. Mexican petunia prefers medium to wet soil that is fertile and well drained and full sun to partial shade, although flowering is best in full sun. That said, Mexican petunia is a tolerant plant willing to grow well in boggy wet conditions, soil that varies from wet to dry, high heat and humidity, and once established, does well in drought conditions. It is seldom damaged by deer. The flowers are quite dramatic, but each flower blooms for one day. Cut back stems after flowering to encourage new flowers. 

Mexican petunia plants will spread by rhizomes and self-seeding in the garden and have aggressively naturalized in South Carolina, Texas and Hawaii. Notwithstanding its excellent flowering attributes, this species is currently listed as a Category One invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council (FEPPC) because it has been found to invade natural areas and displace native flora in the State of Florida.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Plant Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. Once established in the wild, plants are very difficult to eradicate. Plants may spread invasively by self-seeding and rhizomes. Seeds persist in the soil.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Chi Chi'
  • 'Katie'
    slightly salt tolerant
  • 'Purple Showers'
'Chi Chi', 'Katie', 'Purple Showers'
Tags:
#showy flowers#perennial#deer resistant#herbaceous perennial
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Chi Chi'
  • 'Katie'
    slightly salt tolerant
  • 'Purple Showers'
'Chi Chi', 'Katie', 'Purple Showers'
Tags:
#showy flowers#perennial#deer resistant#herbaceous perennial
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ruellia
    Species:
    simplex
    Family:
    Acanthaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts butterflies.
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    deer resistant
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Perennial
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Mounding
    Multi-stemmed
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Flowers are followed by bean-like pods (to 1” long) which explosively dehisce mature seed in all directions.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Purple/Lavender
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Long Bloom Season
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Trumpet
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    1-3 inches
    Flower Description:
    Five lobed, petunia-like, lavender to violet flowers bloom from the upper leaf axils in loose purple-stemmed clusters. Flowers freely but each flower blooms for only one day. Flowers typically bloom from May to September.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Elongated, linear, willow-like, dark green leaves (6 to 12 inches long) that are often tinged with purple. Evergreen for winter interest.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Plants branch from the ground into several woody-based stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Houseplants
    Pond
    Landscape Theme:
    Rain Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Border
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Hummingbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Wet Soil