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 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 rue 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 Professional Shears or a pair of 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.