Growing Rue, Ruta graveolens

Growing Rue, Ruta graveolens
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Rue, Ruta graveolens, can irritate your skin. Some say it tastes like strong blue cheese and it can be poisonous if ingested in large amounts. So, why grow it? Believe it or not, there are some great reasons for adding rue to your landscape. First, it's ornamental with pretty foliage, it's a favorite of the black swallowtail butterfly, dogs and cats dislike it, and it's drought tolerant.
Rue is a semi-evergreen herb that can be grown in poor soil, and once it's established it is VERY drought tolerant even in hot dry areas and rocky soil. It's hardy to Zone 4, but should be mulched in the winter. Full sun and a very well drained soil are the best for rue. Seed can be sown at 68 degrees on the surface of the soil. It's germination could be rather erratic and will take from a week to a month. It does self-seed so be sure to deadhead plants to prevent spreading. Rue will grow to about 3 foot tall. It's often used in knot gardens and as a hedge because it can be pruned into shape. Pruning should be done in the spring or after flowering.

Rue also makes a nice addition to a rock garden or in a border that is out of the way. Wear gloves when handling the plants to protect yourself from the sap. The foliage and the seed pods can be dried for arrangements. The flowers are tiny and yellow, but look neat on the plant in midsummer.

Rue is known as a companion plant to strawberries, figs, roses and raspberries partly because it tends to help deter Japanese beetles. I've read NOT to plant it with cabbage, sage, mint, or any of the basils, but don't know the reason. Rue is also said to repel cats, dogs and flies. I would not use it in any type of spray however, because the sap can be so irritating to some people-- I wouldn't want it to get on pets either. The plant itself in the garden will deter them-- most likely it's the smell.

Rue is a wonderful ornamental once you understand it's quirky character, and plant it where it will do it's best for your garden.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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