Rue, as an herb has for centuries been used by herbalists to treat almost every ailment known to man. Notwithstanding its many historical uses, it is primarily grown today for ornamental purposes.
Ruta graveolens is a hardy, evergreen plant that typically grows in a mound 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) tall with a spread of 20 to 30cm (8 to 12in). The leaves are small, oblong, deeply divided, with a characteristic greyish colour. Clusters of cup-shaped, four-petaled yellow flowers in clusters bloom above the foliage in early summer.
The plant is very ornamental with pretty evergreen foliage, it can be grown in part shade or full sun and it is drought tolerant. It is easy to grow from seed, easy to maintain, evergreen, and makes a neat small hedge to go with roses, herbs, or other plants that will benefit from a blue-green edging. It is especially good in knot gardens because it can be pruned into a hedge.
Rue is also a good rock garden plant. It is very adaptable, it can grow in poor soil and can stand hot, dry sites. The bruised leaves have a strong, pleasant orange-like fragrance and is one of the most pleasant herbs to inhale.
In the garden, rue attracts wildlife and butterflies, while repelling fleas and mosquitoes. Dogs and cats dislike it.
Sow: Late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn.
Surface sow at 1.5mm (1/16in) deep in pots or trays containing good seed compost. Do not cover the seed as they need light for germination.
Make sure the compost is moist but not wet and seal inside a polythene bag until germination which usually takes 5 to 21 days at 20*C (68*F).
Transplant the indoor seedlings when large enough to handle into pots and grow on. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Their ideal position would be in full sun, with a fertile soil that is not too wet. Space 30cm (12in)
Water regularly until mature.
Prune in spring or after flowering to encourage bushiness. It self-seeds easily when happy, so deadhead it if you don't want a lot more rue. It is perennial, but mulch in winter in very cold areas. Once it gets going, you can propagate it by cutting off the tips of branches and rooting them.
Root rot may occur, particularly in poorly drained soils. Wear long sleeves and gloves when pruning or handling the foliage.
It is commonly encountered in ancient Roman cooking and is sometimes still used in Italy; it is a favorite in Ethiopian dishes. It goes well with acidic flavours and is added to pickles. It also flavours meat, cheese, or eggs and tastes good with olives and capers in sauces. You can get the rue flavour without its bitterness by putting it in a boiling sauce for no more than a minute and then removing it. That way only the essential oils are extracted into the sauce and not the bitter rutin. Extracting into oil should also provide less of the bitter principle. Rue sometimes flavours liquors, as in grappa con ruta
Fresh leaves are used in cooking in very small amounts and are said to give a flavour like strong blue cheese ("graveolens" means strong smell in Latin). Rue is in the citrus family and contains lots of rutin, the same bitter stuff that is in the white parts of oranges.
Many modern herbalists have concerns about its safety when used by unqualified practitioners. All parts of this plant are poisonous in large quantities and should not be used at all by pregnant women since it can induce abortions.
Rue is an effective repellent of fleas and mosquitoes and is a great companion plant to strawberries, figs, roses and raspberries partly because it tends to help deter Japanese beetles. Grow as a garden border or scatter rue leaf clippings in an infested area.
Rue is not compatible planted near to cabbage, cucumber, sage, mint, or any of the basils.
Dogs and cats hate rue, make a tea from the leaves and spray the boundary to keep them off the garden. Try planting rue here and there to repel them and to have some to make your own sprays.
Caterpillars of the black swallowtail butterfly love Rue.
In folklore, it was used to keep various unpleasant things out of the house. It was hung in doors and windows to prevent evil spirits from entering the house and worn on the belt to keep witches away.
Please wear gloves when harvesting and don't touch leaves on hot sunny days; its essential oils can cause photodermatitis. The sap contains furanocoumarins, sensitising the skin to light and causing blistering or dermatitis in some people.
The rutaceae family consists in more than 1600 different species of shrubs and small trees that grow mostly in temperate countries of the Old and New World. They produce a great number of essences, alkaloids and glucosides. The species of toxicological importance are Ruta graveolens and Ruta chalepensis.
Ruta graveolens is native to the Balkan Peninsula and southeastern Europe, especially the Mediterranean region, but widely distributed into all the temperate and tropical regions.
It is a very popular and attractive garden shrub in South America, where it is grown not only for ornamental and medicinal reasons but also because of the belief that it provides protection against evil.
The genus name Ruta is often said to be from the Latin for 'bitter' but could be from ‘rutilus’, ‘reddish yellow’ or ‘orange yellow’ for the colour of the flowers.
The species name graveolens means strong or ill-smelling. It is taken from Latin grave meaning ‘heavy, oppressive, burdensome’ and olens meaning ‘smell’.
Rue is a member of the rue or citrus family, Rutaceae
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 500 Seeds Common Name Garden Rue, Herb of Grace, Herb Rue Other Common Names Common Rue, Witchbane, Herbygrass, Mother of the Herb Family Rutaceae Genus Ruta Species graveolens Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Soft Yellow in June to October Foliage Evergreen, Blue-green leaves Height to 90cm (30in) if unpruned Spread 30cm (12in) Position Sunny position preferred Soil Does well in most ordinary soils Time to Sow Late winter/late spring and late summer/autumn. Germination 5 to 21 days at 20*C (68*F).