- botanical name: Ruta graveolens
- perennial zones 4-9
- height 24-36″
- spacing 18″ apart
- full sun tolerant, partial shade
- average soil
- flower color yellow
- uses in garden: great in containers, cut flower/foliage, drought tolerant, fragrant
- use the dried seed heads in flower arrangements
- attracts butterflies
Rue is one of our most requested herbs. Our customers tell us it is because they host enormous populations of butterflies (namely the Black Swallowtail and the Giant Swallowtail). And once you see and smell Rue, you’ll never be able to forget it – the plant is beautiful, with silvery, spoon-shaped leaves and yellow clusters of flowers. The leaves have been chewed to relieve headaches and reduce stress; it is reputed to be good for the eyesight. However, it is poisonous in anything but very small doses and must be avoided by pregnant women because it is an abortifacent.
Rue was carried in bunches in medieval times to ward off witches. Branches of the plant were also used to sprinkle holy water before the start of a Roman Catholic high mass.
The genus name “Ruta” means “to set free”. Rue has also been used as a symbol of sorrow and repentance, many nicknaming it “herb of grace” for the grace given by God following repentance for one’s sins.
Rue may be planted indoors or outdoors in ordinary potting soil. It makes an attractive pot plant and will thrive in a sunny windowsill. In the garden, grow slightly apart from other plants because it often has an adverse effect on its neighbors. Many find the scent offensive. Keep well weeded until the plants are large enough to compete with the weeds. Prune annually in early spring, after the new shoots form. Self-sows readily. This plant is heat and drought tolerant.
CAUTION: Wear long sleeves and gloves when handling this plant as some people get a photosensitivity reaction after handling the fresh leaves.
Rue plants are also available. Purchase them here.
You can sow seed directly into fine garden soil or start indoors early, then transplant in spring when all danger of frost has passed. Spread seed on warm soil and cover with 1/8-1/4 inch of fine soil. Seeds will germinate in 10-14 days. Once plants are two to three inches tall, thin to space plants 12-24 inches apart.
Can also be started by stem cuttings or root division in the spring.