Substitutes for Annuals

“Substitutes for Annuals”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


I am starting to see some results of my planting perennials instead of annuals.  I have gradually moved away from annuals, and this spring, I put in only a few spreading torenia.  But, I still wanted flowers and color especially at the front of borders.  Last year I planted some of the dwarf Katie ruellia, and even with the unusually hot temperatures they have been blooming well.  I have planted a few additional ones this year, and now have white, pink and purple flowering ones.  The Katie varieties stay small ( 8 – 10 inches tall) and clumping, not like the regular Ruellia brittoniana which can spread very rapidly.  Here in my zone 8 garden they are perennial which makes them a great substitution for annuals.


Ruella Katie Pk (redu)


Ruella Katie Wh (redu)


I also have some of the tall Mexican Petunias in both purple and pink in the garden.  They are mostly in the back of the borders, though I have been pulling them up lately.  This is a great plant when you are first starting a bed and want some almost instant plantings.  The tall ruellia will spread which can be a problem, but they are easy to pull out.  I have found that the tall ruellia in my garden is not blooming as profusely as they should, and I have started removing them.  I have both the pink, which I prefer, and the purple.  I really like the pink variety and wished that they would bloom better, but I am only going to leave a small clump because they are taking up too valuable a garden space for the few blooms they are giving.


Ruella Pur (redu)


I also have what is know as creeping ruellia (Ruellia squarrosa) which I use as a ground cover around a bird bath.  I have also used this successfully in a hanging basket.  I believe this one only comes in purple.  This does spread very well, too, but I have no problem controlling it.  One warning though, this plant evidently sends out a ton of seeds.  I find that small plants are starting to show up all over, especially in containers.  I don’t know if the wind or birds are spreading the seeds, but there are a lot of little plants around.  Again, I have not found this to be uncontrollable, but some people don’t have the time or inclination to be bothered with plants that spread so well. I have just noticed this happening this year, so I don’t know if this is normal or not.  I don’t ever see seeds so they must be very small.  I really like this plant because it blooms even more than the other ruellias, but I feel it is only fair to warn others that this may be a problem.


Ruella Creeping (redu)


All three of these ruellia attract butterflies and hummingbirds. That, plus the fact that they survive the winter here, makes them a good alternative to planting annuals every year.


  1. Janet said,

    July 12, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Dwarf ruellias….who knew? Great!

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:13 pm

      Janet, I think the dwarf Katie ones would be the only ruellias I would plant now. They don’t spread so much like the tall variety and seem to bloom more.

  2. Tessa said,

    July 12, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Really pretty and dainty looking. I like the top photo. I started quite a few per. this year instead of annuals and I’m afraid now I won’t see them settle in and look good a couple years from now as I will be moving to Central Oregon probably this year! It is a good thing, however. More sun!

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm

      Tessa, you can’t take some with you? It must be frustrating to put in all that work and not see the results. A new home gives you a new opportunity to have the garden you really want.

  3. donna said,

    July 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    I’ve also moved more to perennials and find myself planting fewer annuals, mainly because with each passing year I’m a little more lazy and annuals are very needy. Your little dwarf Katies are such a pretty pink.

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:17 pm

      Donna, I have found the same thing – annuals take up so much time. After shopping for them, then planting them, and then there is their upkeep, that takes a lot of time, and to think you then have to rip them out and start another set for the next season. Too much time, expense, and effort if you put in a lot of annuals.

  4. Randy said,

    July 13, 2009 at 7:49 am

    We only have perenials in our garden, but we do see lulls in color at points. Like now for instance. We need to find more color for this time of year.

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:19 pm

      Randy, I have a lull in flowers right now, too, but I feel it is because of the high heat we had in June with no rain. Last year, I had a lot blooming all summer, but not this year. I think the plants just couldn’t take the heat and decided to sit this summer out. I can’t wait for some of the perennials to grow bigger. In a few years, I think there will be a noticeable change.

  5. July 13, 2009 at 2:04 pm

    I couldn’t imagine my wife not planting annuals. I’m a perennial person and she loves to plant the annuals in our landscape too change it up from year to year. I must admit that she does liven up the place with some very brilliant colors from her annual plantings.

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:21 pm

      I used to plant a lot of annuals because the perennials I had were still small. Now, that many are a good size, I don’t need the annuals. I still put in a few here and there, but nothing like I used to. I have started depending more on colorful foliage; it seems to last longer.

  6. Jake said,

    July 13, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    I have seen the Katie kind at Home Depot and thought about getting one of each colour. I really like my large purple Ruellias when it is a cloudy day and the blooms stay on all day until night. Here on a hot and sunny day they close and fll up around 3-4. I have never seen a tall pink Ruellia, do you mind to pst a picture of it?


    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:23 pm

      Jake, the pink Ruellia, looks just like the purple, on in pink. The pink color is the same as the Katie pink. I’ll try and post a photo for you in another post. You are right about Ruellia on a cloudy day – the flowers really seem to stand out then.

  7. Tatyana said,

    July 13, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Shame on me, but I haven’t heard about ruellia! Does it have another name? Looks pretty!

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm

      Tatayana, the botanical name is Ruellia Brittoniana and is sometimes called by the common names of Mexican petunia, Mexican Bluebells, or Desert petunia. They are hardy to zone 7 with mulching or can be grown indoors.

  8. July 13, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I sure like having more perennials or reseeding annuals. Your blooms are very pretty as always.

    • Jan said,

      July 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

      Thanks, Anna. I, too, like the reseeding annuals as well as perennials. Makes gardening a little easier.

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