“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.
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.
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.
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.