Ruellia caroliniensis
(Carolina Wild Petunia)

Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis flowers
Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis)

Common Name and Latin Name

Carolina wild petunia

Ruellia caroliniensis


Carolina wild petunia is in the Acanthaceae, or acanthus, family.


It is a perennial wildflower that grows to a height of about two feet although some literature says it grows much higher I have not found that to be the case.

Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis plant
Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) plant


Opposite, ovate to elliptic in shape, stalked, with entire margins.

Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis leaves
Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) leaves


The pale lavender, large petaled, blooms appear in the spring, summer and fall and are a favorite of butterflies and bees.

Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis flowers
Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) flowers


Carolina wild petunia grows naturally in dry, open, forests, sandhills, pine flatwoods, and woodland clearings.

Native Range

AL, AR, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, NJ, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA, and WV.

Landscape Use

It grows in full sun to part shade with average moisture.  However it does not like wet feet so don’t let it stay wet for too long.

It grows in poor soils where little else will grow.  It will also do fine in store bought potting soil or a pine bark mix.  It is not fussy about soil and grows in a wide variety from sandy to rich loam.

It is a good candidate for container gardening.  I like to have one pot full of them and when I find random volunteers I add it to that container and get more and more flowers. The more plants you have the more blooms you will get.

Carolina wild petunia will benefit from an application of fertilizer.  Use something focused on blooms rather than foliage and organic rather than synthetic.  Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers and focus on an organic kelp meal or liquid as this will provide more blooms and nutrition for the plant.  Many high nitrogen fertilizers will give your plants nitrogen overdose – even if it’s an organic product.  The foliage will yellow, wilt, and the plant will eventually die if you keep applying that fertilizer.  Less is more most of the time with fertilizers.  I like a product called Alaska Morbloom.  I use that most of the year and then once in a while apply composted chicken manure – either dry or as a tea.

Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis grown in a container
Carolina wild petunia (Ruellia caroliniensis) grown in a container

Wildlife Uses

Bumblebees and butterflies use the flowers as a nectar source.


Carolina wild petunia  transplants well and can also be grown from seed although the literature says that the germination rate is usually very low. 

I have not grown it from seed, but am a little doubtful about the mainstream comments about it being a low germination seed because I find volunteers all over my garden and I have only one container of wild petunia at the moment.  The volunteers are coming from seed, from that plant, and they are popping up everywhere.

My favorite way of propagation is to locate the volunteers and transplant them. 

Handle with care because the stem is weak where it meets the roots.  If you do accidentally break off the upper portion of the plant don’t be alarmed because it will grow back rather quickly just be sure to plant it at the right depth.  

Transplanting volunteers is a great way to acquire new plants so learn to identify the immature versions of what you’re looking for and you may be surprised at how many you are able to locate.  Moving them to one area, or in a container, also helps with concentrating the plants in one area for a better visual impact.

Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis immature plants
Carolina wild petunia Ruellia caroliniensis immature plants
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