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.
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.
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.
Get it direct sun and good water or a larger pot
Mines sag alot also..but as soon as i water it it looks wonderful.I have noticed that it is the only plant I have that needs watering the most..maybe because it’s summer now and the hot temperatures dries it out alot.
It needs full direct sunlight
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?
I don’t know exactly what you mean by insects. But I have Rue for my butterfly garden. RUE is the host plant to two of my favorite butterflies. The Giant Swallowtail and the Black Swallowtail. I love to see them it my Rue which recovers fairly fast from the natural pruning done by the caterpillars. As a result I have seven Rue plants and will continue to propagate by cuttings.
The Giant Swallowtail is the largest butterfly in North America expanding four inches across.
Carlos, I planted rue just for the swallowtails. They are so beautiful and if a caterpillar should eat the entire plant, I’ll just plant more. Last years crop in a raised bed made it through the winter in North Central Texas. I cut off the flower heads and it’s now almost like a row of shrubs. I do have both swallowtails now so I should have a new crop soon. I plant dill for the monarchs.
I live in Delaware, we are in zone 7. I have had mixed results propagating cuttings. Over the years I have tried, water, potting soil and moist sand. Wit and without rooting hormone. What works best for you?
How do you propogate with cuttings ? I cut and stick it in another pot but it droops and looks like it’s dying . Love to hear from you , I am from sunny singapore
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
Mine are swamped with those white bugs. Ugh. How do I get rid of them!
Hi Elvia! I’ve used Foca powder! You can just sprinkle it around it and water or mix it with water and pour it onto the plant. Water normally when you notice it’s gone pour more until th plague it’s over!
Plant near chives the white flys will vacate
Can you plant rue with parsley for the swallowtails. Will the plants grow well together?
I would like to know also.
How long did it take for your plants to establish themselfs, my rue are 2 years from seed and I only have a thin stem with tiny new cluster leaves, is this normal?
I had the same problem, moved them to the top of a stone retaining wall with terrible soil and they’ve thrived! Really nice next to lavender and marjoram.
Any data on root depth? Is rue suited for extensive (shallow, as for Sedum/alpines) green roofs? The color of the foliage should reflect much sunlight and thus help cool buildings. Morever the risk of photodermatitis implies it would be best to grow this plant (notably as a host plant for Giant and Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars) well away from the possibility of skin contact, which would be true of most roofs but few gardens. Let the caterpillars munch away, largely out of view, on the rooftops, and the adult butterflies flutter down to nectar in flower gardens around the house where they may be enjoyed. Pale-skinned people probably shouldn’t be eating the rue anyway–bad UV rashes/burns.
MY RUE IS WITH A WHITE THING LIKE LITTLE MARSHMALLOWS, WHAT IT IS THIS , I M WORRY I TOOK IT IN MY OUT GARDEN AND IM FIXING TO DISCARD , MAYBE I NEED USE SOAP , OIL MIX TO SPRAY IT . PLEASE HELP ME WITH AN ADVICE
I need to cut back the seed heads from the Rue. It’s July 1st, and I’m late, but nevertheless, they need pruned as the plant is toppling over from the weight of the seed heads. The flowers were providing food for the bees in spring so I wasn’t going to cut them off. Now I wonder if the butterflies may have any deposits that by cutting back the seed heads, I’ll be cutting away future butterflies. I guess I need to watch carefully as I prune back the Rue. Any suggestions. I’m in Annapolis MD.
I would cut off the seed pods and leave them at the base of the plant, so if there are any caterpillars, they will still find the food source.
I live in Zone 6 and have a 1.5 foot rue plant in a container. I want to make sure to store it properly for the winter, any suggestions is greatly appreciated.
Rue is perennial; no need to bring it in. You may want to heel it into the ground or protect it with leaves/mulch if you keep it in a container above ground. I’m zone 5 and it survives fine in my raised beds and also in my flower borders.
I got my rue next to my tomatoes & both are thriving.
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I live in Kansas. My rue plants are beautiful right now, I have them outside in pots but I don’t know what to do in winter time since it’s pretty rough here. How can I keep them indoors?
Good question without a good answer! We field grow it, and does really well overwintering outside in VA but have never tried indoor growing. Sorry!
Don’t know about rue in particular, but I’m in Chicago, and we have some pretty rough winters (this year, 2018-2019, in particular, lol). I’ve brought perennial herbs that don’t do well in our winters, like patchouli for instance, indoors to overwinter – I put them in a west-facing basement window and water them once a week, and they do fine, and are ready for a move back outdoors when things warm up. I’d try that with your rue if you don’t think it will overwinter well.
I bought some cut rue with strong smell from a Chinese street vendor in the U.S. It has dark pointed leaves and is commonly available in Asia whereas the ones I saw on the Internet is light color with round leaves. I put one in a planter and hope it will grow roots. I took a picture of it. Where can I get help to identify what I have?
I bought the common rue with round leaves and they don’t have the fragrance like the Chinese ones. I am glad you brought this subject up. Thanks.
My rue are about 2′ tall. I’m planning to cut them back this fall; how far back can I cut them!
I have this plant and it thrives in my planter and every year it is covered in caterpillars (and I mean hundreds) We lovingly call it the caterpillar hotel.
They eat it to the stem and what I am wondering is a what point should I prune it? It looks super ragged right now but there are still about 25 caterpillars living in the brush. Also, I’m not completely sure where they are cocooning?
Another question is there are little black seeds that looks like droppings? Not sure if that is from the plant or the caterpillars? I love this plants and that it is so attractive to the caterpillars but would love some insight from anyone that has any info. Thanks so much!
The caterpillars are probably Black Swallowtail Butterfly. The black droppings are either sheddid skin from the caterpillars or just droppings from them. Rue is one of the Swallowtails cats. favorite foods. I grow the rue just to help the Butterflies.
The black “droppings” are Frass. (Caterpillar poop).
I bought a potted Rue plant to attract swallowtails. I wanted to put it in the ground but discovered that it is invasive. What size/depth pot can I put it in and then sink it in the ground to hopefully keep the roots from spreading. I live in Toledo, Ohio . From reading the posts I should mulch over the top of it in the winter. Thanks for any suggestions.
What is the best method of propagating Rue from cuttings. I live in zone 7, Delaware.
I live in zone 7, DE, too. I let my Rue go to seed and drop the seed in the flower bed. The next spring usually produces a new crop of Rue seedling to transplant to other areas. If the Rue needs trimmed, I try to do that in the spring also. Often, the caterpillars do the “trimming”, and the plant usually comes back.
My rue was growing so well, every time it starts to droop a little I will water and it will perk up again. Yesterday as I watered, I notice lots of white specks float up with the water and it’s bugs!!! I uprooted to try and repot and find the infestation to the roots and also entire pot of soil, I have no idea what it is, I rinsed it and repotted with new soil hopefully it will be ok. Any idea what these white bugs may be? The rue smells so lovely and it appears to be so healthy and bushy just when this happened. Love to hear from you all
I have rue outside the house. Would I be able to cut some and place it in a pot?
I live on TX gulf coast. My rue is drying up and turning brown. Been watering and it’s always done well for over a year in the sunny space raised bed. I went to garden center and they had young plants so I got some. Not sure if I should wait till it cools down here before putting them out in the garden. Lady at nursery that was buying some also said it’s been too hot for them but I read they like hot climate but we are humid here most of summer.