Ruellia makoyana: the Monkey Plant

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Ruellia makoyana: the Monkey Plant

Ruellia makoyana, or the monkey plant, is one of the most underrated houseplants out there. It often seems like no one has even heard of it! It's also called the Monkey Flower, or the Trailing Velvet Plant, due to the velvety nature of its stunning leaves.

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The genus Ruellia is a rather large genus of flowering plants that are known as either ruellias or, more commonly, wild petunias, since their flowers look like petunias. The species name makoyana is named after Lambert Jacob-Makoy, a Belgian botanist who sponsored numerous trips into Brazil to collect plants for study, and was one of the founders of the Société d'Horticulture in Liège.

Ruellia makoyana is an evergreen perennial (meaning it will stay green year-round, and live for multiple years!) that can eventually grow to be about two feet tall. It can flower year-round, once mature, with pink, trumpet-shaped flowers with no fragrance that look like petunias and stand out above the dark green leaves.

But it's the leaves that really make the plant one of my favourites: I'm a sucker for striking veins, and R. makoyana has some of the most striking I've seen!

Ruellia makoyana from above.

Each leaf is dark olive green, with a silver slash running through the centre and spreading off in the veins, giving a gorgeous contrast. They form in pairs, with each pair rotating opposite the last pair, so that each pair can get as much sun as possible.

It ends up trailing, making it perfect for a hanging basket when mature! I only have two plants at the moment, though, so they're staying on my desk.

Like most tropicals, it's best to let them dry out a bit between watering, and it enjoys bright, indirect light -- though mine are flourishing under a grow lamp! If you're in a temperate region, they're fine outside during the summer, but bring them inside when the nighttime temps start hitting about 10C/50F. Fertilize as normal!

R. makoyana loves humidity; I was worried about misting it at first, but it seems to be fine, despite the velvety leaves! If your setup allows you to, have a tray filled with pebbles and water to leave underneath your pot; that's a much more efficient way to raise humidity levels.

It can be propagated by layering, by seeds, or by cuttings -- once my plants are a bit more mature, I'll be documenting my attempt at propagation for sure, to get a bushier pot than my current two plants!

Look at those gorgeous leaves!

Quick Facts

  • Family: Acanthaceae (Ah-can-THASS-see-ay)
  • Genus: Ruellia (Roo-ELL-ee-uh)
  • Species: Makoyana (Mah-koy-AH-na)
  • Lighting: Anywhere from partial shade to indirect bright light
  • Humidity: High
  • Watering: Let the top couple inches dry out before watering
  • Size: Smallish, up to 2' tall (max)
  • Pets: Non-toxic to cats and dogs
  • Pests: Spider mites are the biggest concern, especially in low humidity
  • Propagation: Cuttings, seeds, layering
  • Soil: Well-draining soil is recommended


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