Flame thrower

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Coming into flower in the
rainforest: Ruellia chartacea.

Called a “scandent shrub,” Ruellia chartacea is setting little fires on the edge of the rainforest with its scarlet bracts and orange-gold flowers.  It is sometimes called the red shrimp plant, and is in the same family as Brazilian red cloak, shrimp plant and wild petunia. After the gingers and heliconias have put away their flowers and while the begonias are saving up to form theirs, this shrub is one that will put some spark in your yard. This South American native likes to sprawl in the semi-shade. It takes moist soils, so mulching will help maintain soil moisture over the dry season.  Cut it back hard after the flowering season has ended in late winter or it will leave a legacy of tangled stems.  Pruning also will train it to become more shrub like. Keep this Ruellia protected from winter winds and temperatures below 45 degrees.  Leaves that don’t get excellent air circulation may attract mealy bugs. Make a mental note to check periodically for them on the undersides of these lance-shaped leaves. If you see them making a white mass, spray with insecticidal soap.