Ruta graveolens (ROO-tuh grav-ee-OH-lens) is a native of the Balkan Peninsula, southern and southeastern Europe.
This member of the Rutaceae (roo-TAY-see-ee) family is a herbaceous evergreen perennial and is commonly known as the Rue plant.
The plants’ genus name, Ruta, is derived from a Latin word which means unpleasantness or bitterness.
The specific epithet, graveolens, is interpreted as “heavily scented” and refers to the strong scent of the flowers.
Caring For Herb Rue Plants – Ruta Graveolens
Size & Growth
Rue plants are hardy and recommended for USDA hardiness zones 4-11 where it reaches 2′-3′ feet tall with an equal spread.
In northern locations mulch plants heavily for winter. Rue is forgiving and will grow even in dry, poor soil but to thrive it needs a well drained soil.
Although Rue flowers are quite attractive, the pretty, blue green foliage is even more so. The leaves are delicate and fern like and richly scented.
Flowering & Fragrance
The plants’ dull showy, sweetly scented yellow flowers appear in abundance throughout the months of June and July.
The small flowers are four or five petaled and grow in flattened corymbs (clusters) atop sturdy stalks that stand above the foliage.
At the end of the blooming season, the flowers of the Rue herb transition into brown seed pods capsules.
NOTE: Collect seed heads to prevent these herb plants from self-seeding.
Light & Temperature
Growing Rue in full sun allows the plant to thrive but will tolerate light shade.
These heat loving plants are winter hardy in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 11.
Watering & Feeding
Once established, Rue plants are very drought tolerant and perform best in a very hot, dry climate.
Soil & Transplanting
It’s very easy to grow the common Rue in well-drained, moderately fertile soil with little or no moisture.
If your soil is poor, Rue can do quite well as long as the soil is also sharply draining. Wet soil is to be avoided.
Grooming & Maintenance
If you are located in the northern areas of this plants’ hardiness range, be sure to provide a thick layer of mulch in the wintertime.
In springtime, prune the plants all the way back to the old wood to encourage new growth.
Propagation Of Rue Plant – Ruta graveolens
Rue may be propagated with cuttings or by simply sowing Rue seeds directly into your chosen planting site.
Rue Plant Pest or Diseases
This hardy, richly scented plant is not bothered by insects.
The only disease that may plague it is root rot, if the plant is kept in soggy soil.
Is The Ruda Plant Considered Toxic Or Poisonous?
The leaves of the common Rue plant are toxic if they are eaten. Be sure to keep plant away from kids, pets and livestock.
When you handle this plant, be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves. The leaf oils are known to irritate and cause itching, blistering, and burning.
Wash up as soon as you are through handling or pruning the foliage because contact can cause dermatitis.
Is The Rue Considered Invasive?
Garden Rue naturalizes easily in open fields, along the side of the road and in areas where the soil has been disturbed.
Take great care to contain it in your garden, especially if you live in the northeastern United States.
Suggested Rue Plant – Ruta graveolens Uses
Throughout history, the common Rue herb has been used in folk medicine; however, it is not entirely safe to use it in this manner. These days it has somewhat fallen out of favor among practitioners of natural medicine.
Grow Rue as a nice addition to the butterfly garden. It is a host plant for two of many gardener’s favorite butterflies – the Black Swallowtail and the Giant Swallowtail.
The Giant Swallowtail is the largest butterfly in North America.
As a pretty addition to naturalize in a sunny field with poor soil, this drought and deer tolerant plant makes an excellent choice.
It also adds interest and pleasant scent when used as a border or edging plant around a patio or porch.
Individual plants are very attractive added to herb gardens and rock gardens, but you must be vigilant to prevent having Rue take over.