Ruellia brittoniana Mexican Bluebell1

Edward F. Gilman 2


Mexican bluebell is an upright or spreading perennial that is known as a strong grower under adverse conditions (Fig. 1). This 18- to 30-inch-tall plant has light green leaves that are medium in texture. Blue, violet, red or pink flowers appear on this perennial in the spring, summer and fall. These flowers are showy, and their nectar is appealing to various species of butterflies. Plants can grow into small flowering shrubs in the warmest parts of south Florida where freezes do not occur.

Figure 1. Mexican bluebell.
Figure 1.  Mexican bluebell.

General Information

Scientific name: Ruellia brittoniana
Pronunciation: roo-EL-lee-uh brit-TOE-nee-uh
Common name(s): Mexican bluebell
Family: Acanthaceae
Plant type: perennial; herbaceous
USDA hardiness zones: 8B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: ground cover; mass planting; attracts butterflies
Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 2 to 3 feet
Spread: 1 to 2 feet
Plant habit: spreading; upright
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: linear
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: blue; violet; red; pink
Flower characteristic: spring flowering; summer flowering; fall flowering


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: unknown
Fruit cover: unknown
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: reddish
Current year stem/twig thickness: thin


Light requirement: plant grows in the shade
Soil tolerances: occasionally wet; acidic; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: poor
Plant spacing: 24 to 36 inches


Roots: sprouts from roots or lower trunk
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: long-term health usually not affected by pests

Use and Management

Mexican bluebell may be used as ground covers and in perennial borders. They are attractive when massed together or planted in a container where flexible stems droop over the pot.

Place Ruellia in an area of the landscape that receives full to partial shade. These species will grow best in well-drained soils and are very drought and salt tolerant. Ruellia species will be frozen to the ground in the winter but regrowth should occur from the roots.

These plants may be propagated by seed or cuttings. Ruellia can become invasive, as it readily reseeds itself.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.


1. This document is FPS513, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FPS513

Date: 2015-10-04

Related Topics

Organism ID


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman