Take a Garden Tango with Brazilian Petunia

Ruellia elegant
The Brazilian Petunia

This happy plant is blooming now and thriving in the Terrace Garden located near the Visitor Center. The pretty red blooms attract hummingbirds which are often spotted in the Terrace Garden in the late afternoon.

As the common name would suggest, this plant is native to South America, and specifically Brazil and Argentina. In the United States, it thrives in zones 8-11 and performs best in full sun with moist, rich soil. However, Ruellia will grow in part shade or in somewhat dry soil. This short-statured perennial will grow to be 1 to 2 feet tall while getting 2 to 3 feet wide. It should be noted that in our Gardens, this plant is growing much larger and fuller! This hardy plant is able to withstand a light frost, while also being very tolerant of hot and humid conditions.

The stunning, red, tubular flowers are very attractive for butterflies and hummingbirds. In fact, Brazillian petunia is a great food source for the Texas crescent butterfly (Anthanassa texana). The gorgeous floral display can work in harmony as an accent plant and garden focal point, or it can serve as the wow factor in a display bed. The plant flowers prolifically producing a large volume of this show-stopping, one-inch flower.

The genus was named for Jean Ruel, a herbalist and physician for Francis the I, king of France. The specific epithet comes from Latin and means “elegant,” a very fitting descriptor for this plant.

This blog post was written by Brendan Huggins, Director of Horticulture and photographed by Cassidy Jones, Social Media Coordinator.