Mexican petunia

A landscape washed in delicate purple blooms demands attention

Ruellia brittoniana

Walk into any garden center, you are sure to spot the grow pot’s full of slender stalks swaying in the breeze.  They almost beckon you…. “Come… take me home”!  In a trance-like state, you walk over and read the little plant tag that makes Mexican petunia sound like a miracle plant.  Drought tolerant.  Birds and bees love it.  Even the little hummers love it.

About six years ago, I succumbed to the call of the Mexican petunia.  I grabbed up about 10 pot’s to plant in my own private hell-strip.

I celebrated this past Earth Day by ripping them out!

When I bought them I think I had heard about their invasive potential.  To me this just meant I might have to  do a little housework to keep them with-in the boundary I had set for them.  They did what they were supposed to do.  They were low maintenance and if they got bugs, I hacked them back.  In a week, they were already re-growing.  As they spread, my initial boundary did too.  A little more here and there was Ok.

It wasn’t until I became interested in sustainable gardening that I questioned my choice to plant the petunia.  I really hate to rip out plants of any kind and it was month’s before I actually took on the task.  During that time, I noticed that the other plants I had in the same area were the one’s all my pollinators were visiting…  hmmmm?  The motivational factor was this video.  As I watched, I wondered what part I had played in this whole thing…

Yes, Ruellia is a staple here in Florida, I don’t think there is a property in the state that doesn’t have a plot of petunia.  Even though Ruellia brittoniana (R. tweediana) is a Category I invasive, it continues to be sold in (most) garden centers.  Sterile cultivars are becoming available, so it doesn’t spread by seed but you still have the rhizomes to deal with.  There seems to be a lot of confusion about exactly which species are being sold here so error on the side of safety and consider other options.

I don’t imagine Ruellia will be pulled off the shelves any time soon, there’s too much money to be lost.  It comes down to education and making responsible choices.  By making the simple choice not to plant invasive species, you’ll help safeguard Florida’s natural areas for future generations to enjoy.

One of the largest threats to our nation’s natural resources is invasive species:

  • Decrease biodiversity.
  • Put endangered and threatened species at further risk. In fact, invasive species are the second leading cause of animal population decline and extinction worldwide.
  • Displace native plants that wildlife and fish depend on for food.
  • Increase soil erosion and can cause major damage to streams and other wetland areas that provide habitat for native fish, plants, and animals.
  • Increase the frequency and risk of wildfires.
  • Reduce agricultural production and property values

Good Reads:

“Ruellia’s Globalization”

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