PLANT OF THE MONTH
Marshall Grain partners with the North Central Texas Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) to help promote the use of native plants in our local landscapes. The Native Plant Society of Texas created the Operation NICE! program, which highlights natives that are right for the local environment. Each month the local chapter of NPSOT selects its NICE! (Natives Instead of Common Exotics) “Plant of the Month” (or “Plant of the Season”). At the same time, Marshall Grain and other nurseries feature the chosen plant as part of our general selection of Texas natives.
Our participation in Operation NICE! is just one of many ways that Marshall Grain encourages gardening with natives. Watch our events calendar for classes and events related to native landscaping and read othergardening tips on native plants.
The Wild Petunia’s Pretty Flowers Invite Buckeye Butterflies
by Josephine Keeney
Are you dreaming of a plant that can bloom in the heat of summer with very little water and propagate itself? If so, the wild Petunia (Ruellia nudiflora) is the plant for you!! A member of the Acanthus family, this plant is a wonderful choice for edging a flower bed because of its low profile of about 12 inches. It can also be used as a ground cover and can even be mowed or cut back very short. Don’t worry, it will bounce back after a hair cut with renewed vigor.
Ruellia nudiflora flowers are light purple trumpet-shaped flowers. The plant pumps out blooms continually from June through fall, each flower lasting only a single day.
Perfect for Black Thumbs!
Ruellia nudiflora has amazing roots that are at least five times the length of the plant and maybe more, making this plant basically fool proof and very drought resistant. It’s not picky about soils, loving either sand or clay, and grows almost anywhere in the yard except in deep shade — full sun to part shade is best.
Few plants are as easy to care for as wild petunias.
Propagation is not a problem with this plant because it is so very prolific. I have never had to plant seeds or root cuttings from it. Once you have it, it will propagate itself for you abundantly. I have seen it blooming lately at the xeriscape where it has planted itself and looks like a carpet of purple trumpets, Beautiful!!
Wild Petunias are a favorite of Buckeye butterflies, which inhabit a wide variety of open, sunny landscapes including old fields, roadsides, gardens, parks, and yards.
One of the special reasons for this plant’s ability to reproduce itself is the fact that it is “cleistogamous”. This is a special process that Ruellias, Violas and other plants take advantage of when they want to make seeds without spending too much energy. They make self-fertile flowers without petals that never open, thus allowing them to make seed a lot quicker and with very little effort.
Buckeye butterfly larvae are black with rusty orange highlights.
As if all those attributes were not enough, this plant is also a larval host for the beautiful Buckeye butterfly which happens to be one of my favorites.
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Look for the NICE! (Natives Instead of Common Exotics!), Plant of the Season, and Plant of the Month signs on your next visit to Marshall Grain. And thank you for using native plants in your landscapes.
JOSEPHINE KEENEY is Plant Sale Coordinator for the North Central Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas.
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