Wild Petunia

wild petunia enlargement

 Wild Petunia

 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.

 wild petunia edgingA 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 june's steps

Wild Petunia spills out  between June’s front steps.

wild petunia in gutter

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.

prairie petunia, purple prairie clover


Wild Petunia MWGC

Wild Petunia faces down Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and Summer Beauty Onion (Allium ‘summer Beauty’) at Midwest Groundcovers, also in July.

Wild petunia and summer beauty onion

A melange of Summer Beauty Onion and Wild Petunia within a matrix of Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis). Again July at my house.

wild petunia and Nodding wild onion June

It grows next to June’s front walk with Prairie Dropseed and Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernuum).

liatris cylindracea & wild petunia

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.

tall wild petunia

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!

scattered wild petunia in lawn

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.

wild petunia patches in lawn

By the third year, thick patches  crowded out the grass and I began mowing around the patches rather than over them.

climax wild petunia in front yard

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.

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11 Responses to Wild Petunia

  1. Margaret Ovitt August 14, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    Thanks for the great post! I love the wild petunia; I planted it by my doorway and now it is in between the stones in my small terrace, growing under some oaks in my backyard (read prairie) and places in between. No one really knows about it so I am delighted to find another fan! I love your posts; thanks so much.

  2. Raul Campbell August 15, 2015 at 12:47 pm #

    Mine re just lovely now

  3. Jason August 15, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    Good post. This is a plant that should be used more, though it doesn’t do well competing with plants of equal or taller height. I planted some a while ago with wild strawberry and it struggles a bit. More recently I planted some with prairie smoke and I hope there it will do better.

  4. mike weis August 16, 2015 at 10:09 am #

    I planted it after reading one of your posts a couple of years ago and I’m really happy with the results. thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Joan Meister August 16, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

    I saw the in Pat Clancey’s garden in Lisle and fell in love with them. I had never seen them before. She promised me some of her plants in the fa,,

  6. Monica August 17, 2015 at 12:40 am #

    This is among my favorite plants, Pat, and it was a treat to see so many pictures and to read such a loving post about it.

  7. ambien0 August 17, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    It has recently appeared in my lawn much to my delight, except when I have to mow!

  8. Suzanne Massion August 17, 2015 at 9:39 am #

    Pat, I love the way you describe plucky, never-say-die Wild Petunia. “Keeping up with Showy Black-eyed Susan” and “Wild Petunia faces down Purple Cone Flower” made me smile. It just seems Mother Nature knows best and native plants will grow where they are the happiest. Ruellia humilis forever!

  9. Jason August 18, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    I have some wild petunia and it has many virtues. However I notice that it does not compete well with plants that are taller or even equal size. I have it in one bed with wild strawberry and it struggles to hang on.

  10. Jason August 18, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

    Test message

  11. Marcia Rossi August 27, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    These wild little purple sprites surprise me saying hello from the most inhospitable and unpredictable places in my front yard. Thank you Patricia for these photos. Any tips on planting them from seeds?

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