Wild Petunia does two things especially well.
Brand new cheerful, lavender-blue flared trumpets of Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis) greet the dawn every morning in July and August. The blossoms do indeed resemble the annual petunias with which we are all familiar, but our native petunias are smaller and not as flared. In nature, it is found in gravelly hill prairie, old sandy cemeteries, and in dry open soils.
A sprawling plant, the gray-green foliage billows and puffs throughout the gardens and over the edges. It seeds itself into nooks and crannies where one could not possibly plant them, draping itself casually and artistically over sidewalk edges, between steps, and just about everywhere in the sun.
Wild Petunia spills out between June’s front steps.
It grows just about anywhere. Here it thrives in a bit of dirt and some leaves in the gutter in the street.
Even better, Wild Petunia combines itself artfully with other plants, creating perfect little vignettes.
Here it’s mixed with Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) and Prairie Baby’s Breath (Euphorbia corollata) in July at my house.
Wild Petunia faces down Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Summer Beauty Onion (Allium ‘summer Beauty’) at Midwest Groundcovers, also in July.
A melange of Summer Beauty Onion and Wild Petunia within a matrix of Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). Again July at my house.
It grows next to June’s front walk with Prairie Dropseed and Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum).
A denizen of dry prairie, Cylindric Blazing Star (Liatris cylindracea) joins the mix in late summer. Only growing 6-18” tall, the stems carry little bract vases that hold tufts of rose-purple flowers from mid-July through mid-September.
While Wild Petunia is a low-growing, sprawling plant, if it is placed among taller specimens, it will rise to the occasion. Here it is keeping up with Showy Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia speciosa var. sullivantii) and Prairie Baby’s Breath.
But wait! There’s more!
The other thing it does well is add interest and texture to a lawn. Wild Petunia scattered its seeds within my lawn, blooming within a short time. First just one, then a sprinkling as the week wore on. I finally had to mow the lawn and with it the petunias, but within a few days, they were blooming again.
By the third year, thick patches crowded out the grass and I began mowing around the patches rather than over them.
But then, there were more and more Wild Petunia and I gave up mowing the lawn for the rest of the summer. This works best if the summer is somewhat dry because Kentucky Bluegrass will go dormant in a hot dry summer, while the Wild Petunia thrives in dry open ground. A perfect pairing.
I urge you to plant Wild Petunia around the edges of your gardens. Besides its charm, it attracts long-tongued bees and it has been repoted that Buckeye butterflies feed on the foliage.