Ruellia Short or Tall

In January, National Geographic reported that in order to ensure pollination, flowers make their nectar sweeter when they hear bees buzzing. “… within minutes, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind.”  (

When you observe bees flocking to the large flowers on native plants such as Mexican Petunia, think about the sound of the flowers humming to make that happen.

Ruellias are beginning to bloom now when many other plants have surrendered to summer’s heat. We have the 14-inch tall purple Mexican Petunia and the dwarf pink R. britannia. Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis, as it is often called, was first identified and named by the plant explorer Thomas Nutall.

The dwarf Katie/Southern Star series thrives as potted plants for zone 8 and are sold as annuals. But, when I started them from seed several years ago they were sold as perennials and indeed they come back every year from the root. 

Native Petunias spread slowly to form a colony and this year I divided the dwarf variety so they are now blooming in 4 beds. The dwarf’s  flowers are almost as large as the 2-foot tall variety. Ruellias are not bothered by insects or diseases.

Tall or short, Ruellia is easily started from seed. offers Wild Petunia seeds and says the plant can become aggressive. I have read that in numerous places but it has been polite in our gardens. offers the seeds of Southern Star/Kate dwarf Ruellias but only with white flowers. They call them Ruellia Brittiana Southern Star White and recommend direct sowing into the soil. 

Ruellias are shade and drought tolerant but I have found that they bloom more in sun with water.

Ruellias was named in the 16th Century for the herbalist-physician to Francois I, the King of France, Jean de la Ruelle.


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