Petunias on my Parkway 2002-2013

Petunias in my Parkway 2002–2013

This how it all started in Aug 2002.  Seeds of Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis) migrated from the garden  on the other side of the sidewalk into the lawn on the parkway, along with the seeds of a few Showy Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. sullivantii).

Aug 2002

June 2005  The area is larger and Butterfly Weed  has found its way into  the garden, as well.

July 2005  Remember the drought of 05?  Kentucky Bluegrass went dormant, but Wild Petunia is unfazed.

July 2007  Wild Petunia has seeded itself into another part of the parkway lawn.  I mowed  the grass around the thickest patches, but one can mow over them and the next days new flowers will emerge  and bloom..

August 2011  The Wild Petunia has scattered itself throughout the parkway.  It was regularly mowed, but that didn’t stop it from blooming.  New flowers popped up every day.

July 2012  Worst drought since the 30’s.  Grass is dormant, and Wild Petunia has been set back, but it still is growing and blooming.  I did not water it at all.

August  2013 today.  The Wild Petunia has completely taken over the lawn–isn’t it gorgeous?  Actually, the grass is still there, but the Wild Petunia evidently keeps it from growing more than a few inches tall.  This space never needs mowing, fertilizing, herbiciding, or watering.

The brand new, cheerful, lavender-blue trumpets of Wild Petunia greet the dawn every morning.  Its blossoms do indeed resemble the annual petunias with which we’re familiar, but their blossoms are smaller and not as flared. On sunny days the flowers close by afternoon.  A sprawling plant, the gray-green foliage puffs and billows over the edge of many of my sidewalks

In nature, Wild Petunia is found in dry open ground and remnants of gravelly hill prairies.  It blooms in July and August.


In a garden, I like to combine it with Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum)and Purple Prairie Clover (Petalostemum purpureum) and tuck them between clumps of Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolis heterolepis) along a sidewalk edge.   It also combines well with Purple Love Grass  (Eragrostis spectabilis) along a garden edge.


Always delightful, it seeds itself about with abandonment:  in a sidewalk crack (above)

or even a pile of leaves in the gutter.

If you have an open sunny area in your yard, make room for this wonderful plant.  It is said to be attractive to Hummingbirds and resistant to deer, but I have no personal knowledge of either situation.

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9 Responses to Petunias on my Parkway 2002-2013

  1. Ginger Duncan August 6, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    Ahhh! Nature is a wonder & so beautiful! Thanks for your part in showing that to us. I t makes me stop & smell the roses when I’m sweating the small stuff.

  2. Maryann Whitman August 6, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Pat I love your sensibility for the little things.

  3. Suzanne Massion August 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    Pat, one of your best blogs yet, and I love all of them. I think the progression shots over the years and the survival, yea resurgance of the wild petunia is just fascinating. Very smart of you to capture it all with your camera.

    • PatHill August 6, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

      Thanks, Suzanne,

      I have plans to do that with other parts of my garden, as well. Some are planned transitions; most are not. That’s what make it exciting.

  4. Jason August 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    Good post! I have some Wild Petunia in my parkway also. It hasn’t spread quite so much, I think because it is growing with wild strawberry which tends to shade Ruellia.

  5. Sue August 6, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    I love this plant. It grows in impossible places and looks wonderful.

  6. Trish Beckjord August 7, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    Hi Pat,
    What fun to see the Ruellia. I have added it to my garden (with the combos you mention plus others and look forward to seeing what it will do. I’ll send you a picture for posting that I took today outside the visitors center at Cantigny. I remember being able to see more native grasses before but the Ruellia seems to be the species going strong! Thanks for the wonderful post!


  7. mike weis August 8, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    I planted a few plugs following reading one of your blog posts about it two years ago and they’re doing great. I wouldn’t have known about this great small garden plant without your suggestion. thanks!

    • Pat Hill August 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Thank you for telling me that, Mike. Introducing people to native plants is why I write this blog.

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