Little Wild Petunias Near An Onion Patch

Wild Petunia (Ruellia humilis) is a lovely little perennial native to most of the eastern half of the United States. It has Petunia-like lilac flowers, but it is not really a Petunia. It’s not even in the same family of plants – R. humilis is in the Acanthus family, while Petunias are in the Nightshade family, along with tomatoes and tobacco.

Wild Petunia. The dark purple lines are nectar guides, which are like “EAT HERE” signs for pollinators.

In our garden, we grow Wild Petunia mostly in the Lamppost Bed, but there’s also some in the Left Bank Bed and the Parkway Bed. For us it grows about a foot tall. It emerges fairly late and doesn’t start blooming until July. Flowers open in the morning and fall to the ground by evening.

DSC_0858Wild Petunia likes poor soils that are well-drained. It can adapt to other conditions, but it does not compete well against larger or more aggressive plants in rich soil. In the right location it will seed itself about and create nice patches. Oh, and it’s a host plant for Buckeye butterflies.

DSC_0860We have too many Wild Petunias for them to be lonely. And they don’t actually grow in an onion patch, but I do have quite a few Allium lusitanicum ‘Summer Beauty’ as well as Nodding Onion (A. cernuum) growing nearby. In the picture above you can see a couple of Nodding Onions mixed in with the Ruellia.

A word about the title of this post. While trying to come up with a title, I googled “songs about Petunias” and was surprised when a whole bunch of links were listed that related to a song called “Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch”, which I had never heard of .

I asked Judy if she was familiar with it. “Of course,” she responded, in a tone that implied everyone learned this song as a child. So I listened to the song, and it’s been maddeningly running through my mind ever since. But if you would also like to hear it, play the clip above. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

That’s all for now.


21 Comments on “Little Wild Petunias Near An Onion Patch”

  1. I have seen these wild petunias in the wild. Usually when I see it it isn’t in a clump this big. This clump looks gorgeous. Is it in full sun? I have plenty of poor soil but not a lot of sun. Don’t feel too bad. I have never heard of this song either.

  2. Lovely little petunia, even if it isn’t a petunia and you don’t have an onion patch. As for the song…why yes, I’ve heard it many times when I was young and now it is maddeningly going through my head 😉

  3. Oh yes, that song, started running through my head the minute I read the title of your post. My elder (8 – 17 years older) siblings used to taunt me (lovingly) with that song when I cried. I remember reading Henry Mitchell’s fond thoughts of this plant but this is the first time I’ve seen pictures of it. Far out!

  4. I planted ruellia once, but unfortunately it did not survive. I also planted acanthus once, actually twice. Same story. Obviously something in my garden is not right for it. By the way, that song is obnoxious!

  5. My very young grandsons love this song, and regularly listen to it. It’s very cute, and catchy, as you rightly warn. This flower is nicer than the bred petunias that used to very popular here, but you don’t see them so much now. Maybe they need too much water.

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