Wild Petunia

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Ruellia humilis, 1/2-pint

Exposure: Full sun

Soil Moisture: Medium-Dry

Height: 12 inches

Bloom: June-August

Notable Features: Not actually a true petunia, but rather a member of the Acanthaceae family! Standing about a foot in height, it's is an excellent addition to a bed with other short plants. Blooming throughout the hottest, driest times of the summer, Wild Petunia is sure to please while other plants are withering away. It is quite a hardy species as well, handling most conditions you could throw at it, save for swampy soils and shade. In fact, it's so hardy that it can be a bit aggressive, so keep an eye on where seedlings turn up. It does great as a ground cover, with a sidewalk or something to contain it. When mature, the seeds literally explode from the plant, traveling upwards of 10 feet! When in flower, Wild Petunia attracts a wide variety of insect pollinators, but the lavender blooms are especially attractive to long tongued bees and butterflies. It is also a host plant for the larvae of the Common Buckeye butterfly.

Attracts: Long-tongued bees are the most important pollinators of the flowers, including Anthophorid bees and Leaf-Cutting bees. The latter sometimes cut the petals, which are used in the construction of brood nests. Short-tongued bees and Syrphid flies also visit the flowers, but they collect stray pollen and are not effective pollinators. The light color and funnel-like shape of the diurnal flowers suggest that they may be visited by day-flying Sphinx moths and Hummingbird moths, but apparently this has not been observed. It has been reported that the caterpillars of the butterfly Junonia coenia (Buckeye) may feed on the foliage occasionally.