Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1253 Ruellia coccinea

Common Names: scarlet petunia,yerba maravilla,maravilla Family: Acanthaceae (acanthus Family)
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scarlet petunia blossoms
The brilliant scarlet petunia flowers are attractive to butterflies


Scarlet petunia grows in a rounded shrublike mound to 6 ft (2 m) high and spreading to at least that wide. The larger stems can be semi-woody, and this plant is usually considered a subshrub. The ovate leaves are glossy green, opposite and 3-4 in (7-10 cm) long. The bright red flowers are tubular, about an inch (2.5 cm) long, and have spreading lobes nearly an inch (2.5 cm) across. Scarlet petunia blooms all summer long, but usually has just a few flowers at a time.


Ruellia coccinea is native to the West Indies, and occurs widely in Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and the Virgin Islands. Yerba maravilla, as it is called in the Antilles, grows naturally in thickets. open woods and forest edge situations.


Light: Scarlet petunia does well in full sun and surprising well in semi shade. Moisture: This colorful perennial is fairly tolerant of dry conditions, but really excels in a moist but well drained loamy soil with plenty of organic matter. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10 . Scarlet petunia will die back to the ground following a good hard freeze, but seems to come back reliable year after year here in zone 8. It really thrives in hot, humid climates, and is an evergreen subshrub in the tropics. Propagation: You can start new scarlet petunia plants from cuttings or by division of the root mass. Here in North Florida, we have not seen fruits or seeds develop. Perhaps the appropriate pollinators are not present, or the frost-free season isn’t long enough.

scarlet petunia
The glossy, rich green leaves create a handsome background for the scarlet petunia flowers and make the species a standout even when not in bloom.
scarlet petunia
Scarlet petunia flowers lend brilliant color to shady spaces.


One of the things we like about this subtropical flower is that it is almost evergreen, even in zone 8 where, barring a hard freeze, it can sometimes have blossoms in every month of the year. Use this (often) evergreen subshrub in mixed borders or as a stand-alone specimen. Scarlet petunia is especially useful in the dry, partial shade under a large tree, where most other colorful perennials would be intimidated. The bright, shiny green foliage makes an attractive accent in partial shade.

The related Mexican petunia, Ruellia brittoniana, is listed as a Category 1 invasive species in Florida natural areas. Scarlet petunia does spread around a bit in the home landscape, but has yet to raise similar concerns.


According to some authorities, there are 250 or more species of petunias; other authorities split the genus into smaller groups. Most members of the genus Ruellia are perennials or shrubs and most are native to tropical America, Africa and Asia.

Steve Christman 2/19/16

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Ruellia species profiled on Floridata:

Ruellia brittoniana

( Mexican petunia )

Ruellia coccinea

( scarlet petunia,yerba maravilla,maravilla )

Ruellia graecizans

( red Christmas pride )

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