Ragin Cajun ruellia produces tall stalks of bright
red flowers that bring in hummingbirds and
my gosh, I just thought I loved Rajin Cajun ruellia, but
after growing it in our Mediterranean Garden I am
totally mesmerized. Clumps have been reported to reach
about 4 feet but ours are in the 24- to 30-inch rain and
about as wide. Our clumps have been bringing in
hummingbirds and butterflies at a volume I have never
Cajun is known botanically as Ruellia elegans and has
been in the marketplace for a little more than a dozen
years. For years it was known as elegant ruellia, but
most refer to it as false petunia. Ragin Cajun might
make you think the plant is native to Louisiana, but
indeed it is from South America. I donít know who
named a selection Ragin Cajun, but that certainly helped
get it into the marketplace as does the fact that it is
now a Southern Living Plant. It is cold hardy from zones
7-10 and should have no issues offering a spring return
from temperatures around zero.
with a lot of perennials, gardeners often make a mistake
by judging a plant on first yearís performance. I
assure you this plant simply gets better with age. This
is the exact reason we tout the "three year"
rule when it comes to perennials. Give them until that
third year, and youíll look like a seasoned gardener;
for sure, you will be a better horticulturist.
the first year the Rajin Cajun gets established nicely
and for most of the summer sends up shooting star-like
stalks topped with brilliant red blossoms. The problem
is, there arenít very many flowers in the first year.
By the third year the clump has enlarged considerably,
yielding dozens of flower stalks at once.
the name ruellia scares you because of its aggressive
cousins, you will be thrilled at the performance of this
one. It has just the right amount of garden vigor.
Though called false petunia, Ruellias actually are not
related to petunias at all. Petunias are in the family
solanaceae, making them related to tomatoes, peppers and
eggplants. Ruellia on the other hand is in the acanthus
family, along with members such as the shrimp plant and
firespike. Ruellias as a group are plants that make
everyone look like they have garnered the green thumb.
like the Rajin Cajun grow best in full sun, but I have
seen some remarkable plantings in Georgia that received
quite a bit of shade and still bloomed profusely. They
thrive in moist, well-drained, organic-rich soils but
perform well in poorer soils, too. In our Mediterranean
they are grown on the dry side to say the least. Lest
anyone want to call me on the carpet, I admit we had
more than 30 inches of rain in a little more than two
dark-green foliage and red flowers offer some unique
companion-planting opportunities. One combination that
caught my imagination in the past was with Escapade Blue
plumbago. The sky blue of the plumbago and the red of
the ruellia almost looked patriotic. The combination
planting that I liked even better was with a gold
variegated duranta. This glossy gold and green duranta,
also called pigeon berry, really offered a showy
contrast with Rajin Cajun. All I can say is that you
would have to see it to believe its beauty. We are
growing ours at the base of giant agaves that has become
a real attention grabber.
Ragin Cajun ruellias are still showing out in our
garden, we are all really close to cool season planting
of pansies and bulbs. Just keep it at the top of your
list for spring.