Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Patch of Lavender Blue




Ruellia is blooming its pretty lavender blue flower head off in lawns throughout my neighborhood. * Gardenbloggers have posted about this sweet wildflower family several times this summer. This ruellia is a low grower that has been a perplexing plant to name. Is it R humilis or R caroliniensis? If you know...let me in on it!

It's true, I posted about my lukewarm feelings for R strepens earlier in the year. Mr McGregor's Daughter posted about her better ruellia, Ruellia humilis and meems (Hoe and Shovel) has written about another relative, Mexican petunia, R brittoniana that is making too good a show in Florida. Mexican Petunia is listed on the exotic pest list in a few zone 9 and warmer southeastern states. While not invasive, R humilis, R caroliniensis and R strepens can reseed very well! It's a lovely sight to see a patch of lavender blue in lawns.

What they all have in common is lavender blue flowers that last one day and continue all summer. Oh, yes...butterflies visit, too!

This flower doesn't want to stop!
A little patch has shown up on the edge of the front garden,
next to the asphalt driveway in steaming hot full sun. He hasn't stopped blooming!

A spot of water now and again seems to pep him up. The rose pink flower is Verbena tenera x
Sissinghurst, an alpine verbena. I like them together...another happy accident at clay and limestone.

I have come to appreciate this wildflower more each hot and steamy day, of this very long and and almost, rainless summer.

Gail

With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy. Lope de Vega

* frequent haircuts are keeping this plant a low grower

37 comments:

  1. I don't know what the difference is between R. carolinensis & R. humilis. It looks like R. humilis & acts like it too, seeding about in lawns. I think R. carolinensis might be a taller plant, so it probably is R. humilis. How fun that it's appeared in your garden. Now you don't have to seek it out.

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  2. mmd,

    I thought it was humilis, too and knew you could positively identify it! Thank you!

    Gail

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  3. That's very pretty growing in the grass and with your alpine verbena. It looks like it is a nice rock garden type plant.

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  4. cindy,

    It's the first year for this plant...the color totally charmed me and it has bloomed since I planted it this past spring. It is supposed to like dry and sharp drainage...hoping it survives our wet winters. Do you grow plants that push the climate envelope?

    gail

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  5. Gail, Once again you've educated me on the varying types of Ruellia. I don't think we have your brand here or the lovely variety MMD is growing. Do you have any stats on where it is hardy?

    What a different habit your humilis has for staying low and spreading compared to the 5 foot stalks of brittoniana I have that is attempting to take over the garden even while I sleep.

    I like it combined with your pink Verbena in your front garden... very nice combination.

    Thank you for the link and the new information... always does me good to hear your thoughts.

    Meems @Hoe&Shovel

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  6. These are really pretty, but how do the homeowners feel about them blooming in their lawns?:) I would so not like it.

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  7. meems,

    They ought to grow where you are! Here is a site with a map! http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=RUHU It is more attractive then I originally thought...the R strepens is taller and has too sporadic a bloom. This is a delight to find in the garden...the pink verbena and ruelli don't look bad together...oh happy accidents!

    Meems, it's always a joy to spend time visiting with you!

    gail

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  8. Those are just so pretty, and the flower is so dainty.

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  9. Tina,

    We live in a neighborhood with lots of different philosophies of lawn care. Most people really don't seem to care...They have big yards and lawn services.

    Occasionally there are new families who move in and try to grow lush green lawns...most seem to be transplants from California or Connecticut! It takes a lot of work to keep grass when you live in an area were the average yard has dozens of trees, droughts in the summer and shallow soil. When you visit I will take you on a tour! Now across the RR tracks in Bellemeade, it's a different story!

    Gail

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  10. Dp,

    They are really growing on me, too!

    Gail

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  11. Hi Gail, another great plant I was not familiar with, thanks.
    We grew ruellia in Houston, it was called Katy, I think, it was low growing and ever blooming. We also had the brittonia that Meems has trouble with. Planted near a sprinkler head, it was quite a wanderer. We are growing brittonia here without worry of invasion with this drought. It barely is up and blooming before the first frost knocks it unconscious. It is three feet tall with dark purple stems and lovely violet flowers. I would like some of your kind, I think. ;->

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  12. Frances,

    I am more than sure we can arrange to get you some! I will wander around and dig some for you! I bought the Katie Dwarf Ruellia Brittoniana that you had in TX! It is a big water hog and will only survive living under a dripping faucet! They say it isn't as invasive as the R brittoniana that meems has...but invasive is not an issue here! Does it come back in the spring or do you get a new plant?

    My Katie has the best green leaves! It looks much like a seersucker sedge with deeper green leaves! It was on the sale table for $2.50 what have I got to lose!

    Gail

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  13. I love the lavender-blue color of the flowers. Those are very similar to what I have but I think mine is R. caroliniensis. Unlike the R. brittoniana & the Katie varieties, this one is being very shy about reseeding. A friend of mine calls Ruellia the cockroach of the garden, and she includes the Katies as such. Having seen their attempt to take over her yard, I understand her feeling that way! I took seeds and seedlings of a tall white Ruellia from a local campus about 7 years ago. I have regretted it ever since. I hope Sweet Caroline doesn't lead me to similar regrets!

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  14. Cindy, MCOK...Oh that is too too much...god I hate roaches...there isn't anything that I can think that they do for the world. Please don't disabuse me of that opinion, either! I don't want to feel guilty if I put them out of my misery when I find them in the woodpile or the recycling!

    It seems the further south one goes the more we gardeners have to worry about prolific plants like ruellia...(bad image in head now!!) If it's too prolific in the garden woodwork...you might have to try Roundup! Too bad it has a pretty flower!

    Gail

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  15. Hi Gail, thanks. I have not tried to grow Katie here, not cold hardy. The brit is just barely. It is in a difficult spot, pure clay. I was a little worried about putting it in a bed with better soil after seeing what it was capable of. The drought is keeping it under control, but it comes up farther and farther from the mother plant each year.

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  16. Hi Gail ~
    In response to whether I push the climate envelope, all I can say is I try to push it but it hasn't worked out for me. I've had a lot of plants not make it.
    ~Cindy

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  17. Frances,

    What to do, there are so many attractive plants but some sure do seem to bring problems with them...I am not sure what I shall do with the Katie! She would be a good addition to the wildflower garden with those leaves...but, she may not survive the winter, so whether she is a thug may be a mute point! I'll get to the Ruellia...she can survive in the pot for a long while! Have you tried mailing plants?

    Gail

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  18. cindy,

    Yea it happens that way! I push the soil conditions and lose many plants who prefer sharper drainage!

    Gail

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  19. Wow, you have to love the wildflowers that put on such a wonderful show. Easy care is so nice too. The best part is the price was right too!

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  20. Hi Gail,
    That ruelia looks like a nice pretty addition for certain spaces, and I wonder if it would grow here (but if MMD has it, it should be, theoretically). I'm afraid though, if it took hold in our lawn it would have to be mowed frequently....

    We have wild petunias that grow here, but they're pretty boring for the most part, just pale pinks, lavender and white ... I probably mentioned earlier this year at my place that I tried to let one go, but Fernymoss yanked it up when I wasn't looking, lol.

    That's great though, that you have a reliable bloomer in August at your place, and it looks fantastic with that verbena! Is that one hardy for you too? Alas, V. bonariensis is pushing the hardiness envelope for us, though we'd like to give it a try, since it's one of the few upright Verbenas.

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  21. cinj,

    Free is wonderful...it's quite happy here and no one seems to mind! What wildflowers have you found in your woods?
    Gail

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  22. ivg,

    I like that certain spaces comment! We aren't lawn people so it can grow there if it wants...along with the clover and other delightful 'flowers' that show up! I suppose it's a mixed blessing that Mr I Don't Garden or Blog doesn't garden. I don't have someone to work with, but I also can do pretty much what I want. Maybe I should dig it up and send it to you and Fernymoss!

    Let's see if the verbena, isn't it a cutie pie, makes it this winter...Sometimes the winter rains kill more than summer drought. The info says "an excellent groundcover for well drained areas" and "requires excellent drainage". I've been warned and in two different places on its tag! Zone 7 is pushing it here! We are 6a/6b.

    Gail

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  23. I would be happy to have a patch of lavender blue in my lawn! I've never noticed any of these around here, but we do have lots of chicory growing along roadsides and other unmowed areas. Everyone thinks they're weeds, but I like their blue flowers.

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  24. Monica and I saw Ruellia (maybe humilis or caroliniensins - can't remember) at the botanic garden. Whichever it was, it was very pretty and I found myself wondering how it might do at home. DH wouldn't be happy about it seeding in the lawn, that much I know for sure!

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  25. I love the lavender blue color of your Ruellia. I've never had any in my garden but anything that can grow in heat and without much water is a bonus to me. We've had a summer that sounds a lot like yours. (very little rain). I think it's true that the colder the zone, the less you have to worry about a plant being invasive. I always think I want to live in a warmer climate but maybe I need to just remind myself of the blessings there are in the one I'm in now.

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  26. rose,

    If there is a way for me to get you some I will. They are sweet. I am going to investigate mailing plants! If the drought can't kill them why would UPS!

    Gail

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  27. gardengirl,

    It does just fine on the side of my garden bed and Mr McGregor's Daughter grows hers in her wildflower garden. Let's get you some...I am going to dig plants next week after visiting with my son. So sorry we couldn't arrange a visit!

    What is it about lawns and husbands...I really don't know Mr IDBOG is not into lawns.

    Gail

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  28. We don't see it in northern Illinois. Farther south in the state you see what they call Hairy Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis. I'd rather have it in my lawn than violet or creeping charlie (which I do have:)
    Marnie

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  29. skeeter,

    Me, too they are so wonderful they way they show up!

    Gail

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  30. Kathleen,

    I did too, but now I find I miss the snow (occasional snow) and I miss the rain. Summers have always been dry but there were pop up showers in the hot afternoons that we don't get anymore. I guess the grass is always greener in those warmer zones!

    Has your weather changed or is it being unseasonable?

    Gail

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  31. Marnie,

    That's what this ruellia is hairy wild petunia! MMD grows it in Chicago...she said she found it locally....are you in the same zone?

    the violets are a pain in my garden. I love the way creeping charlie smells, if we're talking about the same plant! Reminds me of my childhood and playing in my grandma's yard.

    Gail

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  32. This is an interesting post and comment session, Gail!

    I never planted the tall Ruellia because as soon as I got to Texas people told me it would take over. I've grown 'Katy' for years, with a few plants popping us here and there, but not what you'd call invasive. In this garden I have it in a dryish clay area where I only do spot watering. Maybe if there were a sprinkling system 'Katy'/'Katie' might not be so easy to tame? (MOBOT calls it 'Katie' but the Native Plant Society and the Wildflower Center call it 'Katy'.)

    Some of my friends were sold Ruellia 'Blue Shades' as a premium groundcover plant - boy, can that plant cover the ground. It looked like the plant in your photo, but I'm still not sure. Web searches find 'Blue Shades' used as a trade name for your Ruellia humilis, but also as a name for another native called Ruellia squarrosa", and on other sites it's listed as a hybrid - Ruellia X 'Blue Shades'.

    So you might have the same lavender blue flower growing in Tennessee that my friends grow.... or you might not! Enjoy the butterflies ;-)

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

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  33. Hi Gail, I have had good luck mailing plants, but don't attempt it during the heat of summer. It depends on the plant though. I pot the plants, water well and drain, top the soil with shredded damp newspaper then wrap the whole base of the plant in a plastic bag with a rubber band or twistie tight around the stems. Then I put the whole plant with leaves in another plastic bag and put in a roomy box with pieces of styrofoam to hold it tight.

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  34. Annie, You found another ruellia, that is so great! They are a most unusual flower family, all being prolific self seeders or root spreaders and they have a sweet flower! Can we ignore the thug behavior! It is nice to know the sweet lavender blue flower is growing in Austin! The butterflies are happy, too.

    Speaking of thugs, you were smart to listen to experienced Austin gardeners...had I only listened there would be no Vinca minor in my yard!

    Gail

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  35. Frances,

    I would love to send plants to a few people and maybe this fall might work...your instructions are sure to work and I am thinking the fall might be a good time.
    Several people have expressed interest in PPPP and if anyone wants the ruellia they are welcome to a bit!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    gail

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  36. Gail - I have plenty of these plants (yes, they're growing in the lawn & need to be removed). I can get some to Linda/Garden Girl. If Rose ever comes back up to Chicago, I can give her some too. There has to be a way to collect seeds of these, but I haven't quite figured it out yet. They must eject the seeds, as they end up quite far from the plants.

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Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;
they are the charming gardeners
who make our souls blossom.


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