Photo by Ellen Zagory / Special to The Bee

Community Favorites: Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittoniana) makes a striking impression in the dry garden. That's why it's a UC Davis Arboretum Community Favorite.

Community favorite: Mexican petunia

Published: Saturday, Sep. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012 - 8:52 pm

This is one in a weekly series featuring the UC Davis Community Favorites, 75 can't-fail, easy-care plants well-adapted to our region and recommended by local gardeners.

Mexican petunia

Ruellia brittoniana

Size: Under 3 feet tall

Bloom season: Late spring, summer, early fall

Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Pruning needs: Can be aggressive grower; cut stems back to keep compact

Water needs: Once established, water deeply once a week

Snapshot: This pretty evergreen perennial offers abundant deep blue-purple flowers from spring well into fall. Each tubular bloom lasts only a day, but this plant is rarely out of flower – to the delight of butterflies. In Sacramento, it thrives in partial shade and well-drained soil. Eye-catching in borders or beds, ruellia also grows well in containers. Its one drawback: It reseeds easily and can grow aggressively. You can see specimens in the shade of the arboretum's conifer collection on the UC Davis campus.

Why it's a Favorite: "Tall vertical structure, with deep green leaves, maroon stems, and purple petunia-like blooms that last just one day," said Margaret Kralovec, the arboretum's community outreach manager. "Makes a striking impression in a close grouping."

• Read more about the Arboretum's 75th anniversary at http://arboretum75th.ucdavis.edu. For more on the Community Favorites and Arboretum All-Stars, click on http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu. Don't miss the arboretum's first public sale of the fall, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. next Saturday at the arboretum teaching nursery.

See a photo gallery of the Community Favorites online at www.sacbee.com/home_garden.

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