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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - March 24, 2013

From: St. Augustine, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Will non-native and invasive Mexican petunias grow under oak trees from St. Augustine FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Will Mexican Petunias grow under an Oak tree?

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants. recommends only plants native not only to North America (excluding Mexico) but to those areas in which the plants will be grown; in your case St. Johns County on the northeastern Florida coast.  Ruellia brittonia (Mexican petunia) is native to, well, Mexico. Since you live in Florida you should read the following two articles:

Floridata Ruellia brittoniana, see the Warning at the bottom of the article.

Florida Invasive Plant Education

We just learned that petunias are considered to exhibit allelopathy, as well as oaks. Allelopathy is the release of chemicals by the plant which discourages competition from other plants. Maybe the oak and petunia would duke it out, but we are rooting for the tree.

Please note that it is difficult to impossible to grow anything under any tree, including grass, because of the needs of the tree roots for moisture and nutrients from the soil and because of the shade from the tree. Here in Texas, we would vote for the trees and spread mulch under the shade of the tree. See our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch.

 

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