Lavender blue Mexican petunias are easy to grow

Kim Harsanje, Columnist
Published 5:54 a.m. ET June 22, 2021

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The Mexican petunia or Ruellia simplex is a shrub boasting a profusion of Petunia-like, vibrant lavender blue flowers, two inches across, from summer to fall. 

Born solitary or in clusters at the tips of each purplish green stem come these very showy purple flowers that never stop blooming. Each flower blooms for only one day. 

They rise above the foliage in lance-shaped, glossy green leaves and the purple blooms are trumpet shaped. Very showy, they are attractive to butterflies, bees and other pollinators. They give way to bean-like pods which explosively dehisce mature seeds in all directions. 

Tough as nails, these Mexican Petunias tolerate heat, humidity and drought. It is a versatile plant that tolerates an extremely wide range of growing conditions. However, the fact that this plant is a survivor can become an issue in some areas.

In warm and moist climates and undermanaged areas, it can be invasive and take over native flora like in the state of Florida and Mexico. Since it reseeds easily it spreads by rhizomes or seeds, or even in water on floating pieces of roots which makes its removal challenging.

Of course here in Ohio our hardy zone gets cold enough to eliminate it unless it is wintered over indoors if desired. Therefore it is not a perennial in Ohio but an annual because it will not survive year after year here with our cold winters.

It grows up to 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide. It performs best in full sun to part shade and is virtually pest- and disease-free. You can cut back the stems for a fuller plant but deadheading is not necessary. The Mexican petunia is easy to propagate by cuttings, division and seeds and plants will spread by rhizomes. Native to Mexico, Western South America and the Antilles.

In our Master Gardener program and plant sale I have introduced these very easy and show-stopping Mexican petunia plants to add to any flower garden. Every gardener loves them because they have no maintenance required. They are the easiest plant I have added to my garden and they give, give and give all season.

Kim Harsanje is a Master Gardener with the Sandusky and Ottawa County Extension Offices of The Ohio State University.

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