Rules For Growing Rue

Rue is a beautiful, aromatic perennial herb with many culinary and medicinal uses.  Hardy from zone 4 to 9, Rue thrives with little care and grows in a shrubby habit.  It enjoys hot, dry climates, and poor, sandy, even rocky soil, and proves to be pretty drought-resistant when established. Great in rock gardens and areas where little else will sprout, this beautiful and practical herb has a rich history and is a cinch to grow!

Rue can easily be started from seeds and usually germinates in one to four weeks.  Rue seeds need light to germinate; be sure to surface-sow your seeds before setting them in a warm, sunny area. Seeds can typically be sown at sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit for topical germination. Check out our seedlings and young plants below!

When big enough, Rue should be transplanted to well-drained soil in full sun.  As stated, Rue thrives in poor soils– try planting in the most troubled area of your herb garden. Though cold-hardy and generally unaffected by cooler weather until the first hard frost, Rue should be mulched in the winter to protect it against bitter temperatures. A great companion plant for Alpine Strawberries, Figs, Roses and Raspberries, Rue acts as a natural insect repellent and protects its neighboring plants from harmful pests. Though friendly to some plants, it’s not advised to plant Rue near Basil, Sage or Mint because it will inhibit their growth.

Rue flowers in the late spring and we’ve found that for the best culinary flavor, it’s best to trim the flowering buds from the plant before it goes to seed. Keep the buds, as they’re a limited-time-only delicacy and represent the best part of the plant to cook with.  Through trial and error when growing fields of this versatile herb, we’ve found that once Rue actually goes to seed, the plants get more ragged and bitter. In our fields, we just walk down the rows with a weed-eater and whack the tops of the Rue plants off before they can flower, but you can be more meticulous and use pruners or sturdy scissors, like our Professional Shears or a pair of our Bypass Pruners to collect the delicate flower buds.

When pruning, remember to wear protective clothing and rubber gardening gloves!  Rue’s essential oils can cause photodermatitis, an allergic reaction caused when the Rue oil interacts with your skin and is then activated by sunlight. This typically causes painful blistering, irritation or a  rash, much like poison ivy, and can be contracted by merely brushing against or handling the leaves.  It’s best to wear protective clothing when working with Rue and to harvest it on cloudy days or at sunset when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.

10 thoughts on “Rules For Growing Rue

  1. CE Jelks

    I have rue in a container. How should I prepare it for winter. Today is a beautiful day and perhaps the last nice day(59 degrees) and I am debating whether or not to plant it in the ground. HELP.

  2. val

    i have a rue plant indoors, and it is sagging a lot. It has lots of indirect light, but no direct light. Does it need moderate water? I’m not sure why it’s doing so poorly.

  3. Alfredo Martinez

    I’greatful for your information on how tp grow Rue.
    I love my rue and so do my black
    swallowtail butterflies , eventhoug the mother plant had died,I’ll grow some new ones per your instructions.

  4. Nancy Villatoro

    My rue plant has been really thriving lately. However, I was closely inspecting the leaves recently and there are small green insects all over it. Not sure what to make of this since the insects don’t seem to be causing it harm and the plant is actually thriving. Should I be concerned?

  5. Christa

    Thank you so much for this information. I had no idea about the skin reactions to this plant.

  6. g

    I have the same insect problem as nancy with my rue plant and it created a fuzzy covering on the plant. is this a problem?

  7. Jonathan Elizondo

    My giant butterflies love my rue plants. These fuzzy white insects were allover it. At first they seemed abundant but harmless to my plants, by two months my largest plant started turning yellow then brown and dies. These bugs suck the plant dry. They are like afids. After oryour butterflies are finished turn into butt before your buterflies do their business, then spray them afid creachers with neem or soap suds

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