Plant in the spring after all danger of frost has passed in a location that will receive full sun to partial shade. Space plants 18″ apart in average soil that is well-drained. Plant height 24-36″. Does well in containers or mixed pots. Attracts butterflies.
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.
Rue ruta graveolens
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 abortifacient.
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.
CAUTION: Wear long sleeves and gloves when handling this plant as some people get a photosensitivity reaction after handling the fresh leaves.