The monkey plant, also known as Ruellia makoyana, is a perennial plant from the Acanthaceae family. The plant's botanical name Ruellia is in honor of the French herbalist Jean de la Ruelle. It is commonly called the monkey plant as its seeds seem to resemble the face of a monkey. Originally from the Brazilian rainforest, where these plants grow naturally as groundcovers in moist soil and shady conditions, the monkey plants are popular as ornamental garden plants. They grow well outside in a well-drained soil and a humid climate, and thrive indoors as houseplants in pots and hanging baskets.
In size, the Ruellia makoyana perennials can grow up to two feet (0.61 m) tall and usually have a spread of about one and a half feet (about 0.46 m). The plant has elliptical or oval leaves that are about three inches (7.62 cm)long and are dark olive green in color. The leaves have red veins and are marked with a grayish-silver stripe along the central rib.
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The flowers are pink or red in color and are trumpet-shaped, with five petals. They resemble petunias, although the monkey plant is not actually a close relative of that plant species. The flowers are not fragrant and usually bloom in the summer.
Monkey plants are creeping plants, with freely branching stems that send out roots. These types of plants can be propagated by cutting and planting the rooted stems. It is important to plant the monkey plant stem cuttings in a moist, well-drained soil in an area that receives full sun. The monkey plant is easy to grow and does not require much maintenance.
Adding compost and mulch to the soil, and fertilizing several times in the growing season in the spring and in the summer will benefit these perennials immensely. They can be fertilized with organic fertilizers, water-soluble fertilizers and temperature controlled slow-release fertilizers; the latter are fertilizers that are absorbed into the soil when certain temperature conditions are met.
Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the bright flowers of the monkey plant and may possibly help with their pollination. Pests like spider mites and aphids also find these plants appealing, and can be tackled by using natural predators like ladybugs and lacewings or by using pesticides. Monkey plants are susceptible to rust diseases, caused by fungi, and the bright yellow, orange and brown rust spots appear on the leaf underside. Rust disease is especially prevalent in over-moist conditions or in rainy weather. To deal with this problem, apply fungicide, allow plenty of air circulation around the plant and do not water at night.