The various members of the Ruellia genus belong to the broader Acanthaceae family and are good subjects for shaded, frost-free gardens. Ruellia are generally small shrubby perennials, which cope well with dry conditions under trees, but will be grateful for occasional water and fertiliser.
Hailing from Brazil, this species (sometimes called the monkey plant or the trailing velvet plant) is a spreading groundcover for shaded areas, which grows about 30cm in height but can spread 45cm wide. It has attractive leaves which are purple tinged and with pretty silver markings on the upper surface, and very deep purple underneath. It blooms mainly autumn and early winter, with lovely carmine-pink flared flowers. It is easily propagated from rooted layered stems.
It combines well with silver-foliaged plants which grow in shade, such as Plectranthus argentatus, Plectranthus 'Nicoletta', rhizomatous Begonia cultivars and Lamium maculatum, to echo its silvery leaf markings. Its flower colour matches the spike of the bromeliad Aechmea gamosepala with its strange pink and blue matchstick blooms, which appear in autumn. The shade-loving Cape primroses (Streptocarpus Hybrids) are often in bloom when the Ruellia first begins to flower and make a good companion planting with their interesting textured leaves and flowers of a similar shape, in a variety of colours.