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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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Monday - November 08, 2004

From: Beaumont, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Smarty Plants on Katy Ruellia
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

What can you tell me about Katy Ruellia? I need something with color that will take the hot southeast Texas summers and the cold/wet winters that stays decent and will flower.

ANSWER:

The Katy Ruellia, Ruellia brittoniana, is an introduced species from Mexico. Other common names are Mexican petunia and Britton's petunia. It comes in a variety of flower colors--bluish purple, pink, and white. Its foliage is evergreen and it is resistant to freezing. With a hard freeze (mid-20s) the leaves will die back but return quickly. It is drought tolerant but can be agressively invasive when it receives abundant moisture. The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council considers it a Category I invasive species which means that it is "altering native plant communities by displacing native species, changing community structures or ecological functions, or hybridizing with natives." You can read a Plant Profile for Ruellia brittoniana on the USDA Plants Database. You can also read about it on the web page for University of Arizona Pima County Cooperative Extension and at the Floridata Marketplace web page.
You might consider using instead wild petunias native to Texas. For example, Carolina wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis, has showy violet flowers, is a perennial and cold hardy (occurring as far north as Pennsylvania). The wild white petunia, R. metziae, has white flowers and is considered evergreen. You can see a list and read about some of the wild petunias native to Texas in the Native Plants Database on the Wildflower Center web page.
 

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