I recently moved to the area and would like my yard to be more Florida-friendly. I went to the store to buy petunias, but I’ve heard Mexican petunias are considered invasive here. Is there a Florida native petunia or am I out of luck?
Thank you for your question about petunia in the form of native wild verses invasive Mexican petunia. The Florida Invasive Species Council and the State of Florida consider Mexican petunia, Ruellia simplex, synonyms R. brittoniana and R. tweediana, a serious weed and it does a lot of damage to delicate natural areas locally. Seeds will escape your yard or even a potted specimen and should not be used. The closer you are to a natural area like West Klosterman Preserve, the more important it is to keep the invasive plants out of this natural environment.
The good news is that Florida’s native ‘wild petunia’, Ruellia caroliniensis, is very adaptable with excellent tolerance to sun or partial shade lighting and poor, dry, drained soils. It is both a nectar plant for butterflies and serves as a host plant for common buckeye butterfly, Junonia coenia.
Unfortunately, many main stream garden centers and box stores do not take responsibility for invasive species and sell them regularly. Your best source for native wild petunia, Ruellia caroliniensis, would be one of the native nurseries listed on http://www.PlantRealFlorida.org.