Ruellia brevifolia is an interesting delicate looking plant. Native to Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, this plant likes a warm and humid environment. They are generally found growing under trees. The plant grows somewhat tall, to about 20 inches, though individual plants don’t spread wide. The flowers are very delicate and almost look like made of thin bright red paper, and appear freely throughout the year.
Ruellia brevifolia is also known by “short leaf petunia”, “red Christmas pride”, “tropical monkey plant”,
“firecracker plant’ and other similar names. It’s related to the more widely known Ruellia makoyana, that is more commonly found and has many cultivars and hybrids available. The R. makoyana plant is a more seasonal bloomer, though often flowers out of season as well, nevertheless it’s grown primarily for foliage.
This plant is relatively easy to grow, and is very easy to flower. It quickly sets seed and readily self seeds in it’s pot. It does greatly benefit from couple of hours of direct light, and though Ruellia brevifolia may look delicate, it has quite a wide spreading and strong root system, that quickly takes over a pot.
This plant requires medium watering. It can tolerate quite a bit of drying out, if the air is humid enough. Water less in the winter, and water generously in the summer. Ruellia brevifolia can take some neglect.
Part shade is ideal for this plant. East and west windows will be perfect. You can grow it at lower light, or a north facing window as well but since the plant is already naturally leggy, it might not be feasible. Strong direct noon sun will burn the leaves. If you slowly acclimate your plant to higher light level you could grow it in almost full sun, though the leaves might turn a bit purple at the edges.
Ruellia brevifolia likes high humidity. Spraying the plant frequently will help reduce the risk of it getting spider mites. A humidity tray can also be quite beneficial. The plant has somewhat large, glossy leaves and loves being sprayed. Make sure the place you are growing it is not stagnant and has some air flow to prevent fungus infections.
Soil Type and Fertilizer:
I use normal potting mix with a bit of peat moss, sand, and a bit of per-lite. This plant seems to rapidly grow roots in a sandy soil. It’s not very fussy about the soil type and you can probably grow it in other soil types and even in the pots of larger plants you grow. I use diluted generic fertilizer spring to fall.
Ruellia brevifolia easily makes seed and seeds itself. I believe it can also be propagated though cuttings, as easily as its relative, though I haven’t tried it since all the seedling it produces grow very quickly and start blooming early.
Other Care Tips and Personal Observations:
This plant is cute and delicate looking, but very easy to grow. The flowers are thin, wrinkled, tubular and bright red. It’s a great plant to have. I think in could make a wonderful ground cover in warmer climates. Though it spreads quite easily and grows wide roots, it doesn’t seem to suffocate other plants grown in the same pot, even the tiny delicate ones, so I think it will make a great plant for floral arrangements. Ruellia brevifolia is overall a pleasure to have at home.