Mexican Petunia, Mexican Blue Bells, Florida Blue Bells, Desert Petunia, Etc.
Ruellia simplex C.Wright is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species of Ruellia. It was named and described by Carlos (Charles) Wright in Flora Cubana in 1870.
Ruellia brittoniana Leonard was named and described by Emery Clarence Leonard in the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences in 1941. Ruellis brittoniana is a synonym along with seven other scientific names for this species.
Plants of the World Online currently lists 357 accepted species in the Ruellia genus when I am updating this page on May 25, 2019. There were 249 when I updated on March 14, 2018. It is a member of the Acanthaceae Family along with 207 other genera (there were 183). Plant names change and some are added and removed. Botanists, horticulturalists, and taxonomists are working hard to go through many plant names making sure they are classified correctly. Many plants have had multiple scientific names and they are trying to correct that issue and new plants are discovered all the time. It is a continual work in progress.
My Ruellia simplex (Mexican Petunia) was given to me by my good friend and fellow plant collector, Walley Morse, of Greenville Mississippi. He brought me a nice pot full in the fall of 2011. I kept them inside in the sunroom over the winter then transplanted them along the wall next to the east sunroom. I decided that the area was too shady, so I moved them to the bed next to the west sunroom.
I planted them in several spots and they did very well.
Origin: Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean
Zones: USDA Zones 8a-11 (10 to 40° F)
Size: 36-48” tall
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Average to moist, well-drained soil.
Water: Average to wet.
Notes: Can be used as a marginal water plant.
I really like their very dark green, lance-shaped leaves with kind of a corrugated look. They can produce blue, purple, pink, or white flowers. Unfortunately, the only thing I didn’t like about mine was their pink flowers. I guess when Walley found his start he didn’t have a choice.
<<<<2013 IN MISSOURI>>>>
I sold the mansion in Mississippi and moved back to the family farm in mid-Missouri in February 2013. I gave up around 200 potted plants but brought quite a few with me, including all of the Mexican Petunia.
I planted two of the pots in the bed on the south side of the house. One on each side of the downspout on the southwest corner.
I planted the third pot in front of the chicken house…
The Ruellia simplex is native to Mexico, South America, and the Caribbean. They are perennial in USDA Zones 8a-11 and Florida has listed them as an invasive species.
The Ruellia simplex is not very particular about their soil. Although they will do well in average, well-drained soil, they also do fine in wet soil. Well established plants also have a moderate amount of drought tolerance.
They will grow in sun to part shade but produce more flowers in full sun. After they flower you can cut the plant back to encourage them to flower again.
Ruellia simplex can spread aggressively by underground rhizomes and from self-seeding. If it likes you and its conditions, be prepared…
The plants on the right and left of the Mexican petunia are Talinum paniculatum (Jewels of Opar) which were also given to me by Walley Morse.
I knew it would happen sooner or later but I wasn’t sure when. I had been away from here for many years. Mississippi didn’t get a frost until December, so October 25, 2013 was like a shock!
I was somewhat prepared, though… Knowing the Ruellia simplex wasn’t cold hardy here, USDA zone 6, I had already dug several pots and put them in the shed. I left the one clump in the south bed to see what would happen. Umm… I am writing this page on March 14, 2018, and I am a bit confused… I thought I brought three pots from Mississippi and there seems to be four or five pots in this photo. Hmmm… Maybe some of the clumps were too big for one pot.
Anyway, after a while, I moved these pots to the basement. They didn’t like that too well either.
I don’t remember what happened with the Mexican petunia in the pots but there are no photos beyond the above photo. I know this plant did very well throughout the summer of 2014 but didn’t return in the spring of 2015. I was surprised it came up in 2014.
When I took a few excess plants to Wagler’s Greenhouse on September 9, 2018, we were talking about plants and somehow the subject about Mexican Petunias came up. She said she had a few that she had had for a while. I told her I had brought some back from Mississippi but they didn’t work out here. I asked her what color the flowers on hers were and she said blue. She asked if I wanted a start, and of course, I said yes. She went to the bed where hers were, went inside and got a shovel, and proceeded to dig a few of the newer offsets. Their roots go pretty deep but she manages to get some that had a few roots. It was funny how she was digging with the shovel barefooted (she is Amish and women and children are pretty much always barefooted).
I brought them home and put all the three offsets she gave me in the same pot. It was September 9 already and I didn’t think they would make it through the winter in the ground. Since I had overwintered the plants Walley had given me inside in 2011, I figured they would here as well.
Still looking good on October 10, 2019. That was the day I moved all the potted plants into the house because an “F” was in the forecast.
The Ruellia simplex did just fine in my bedroom over the winter waiting for spring so it could be in the ground outside.
When temperatures permitted, I planted the Ruellia simplex along the right side of the porch in the north bed. They are doing fine, but I haven’t taken an updated photo yet.
I will continue adding more photos and information as time goes by to show how these plants are doing.
I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant.