The Rue plant (Ruta graveolens) is also known as rue, Ruda plant, Ruta plant, herb-of-grace, or common rue. It is a small perennial shrub, native to the Balkan Peninsula. Ruda is often mistaken for Fenugreek, which has similar tiny yellow blooms.
Rue is an aromatic herb with green and blue foliage, it is known to attract butterflies, whiteflies, and other pollinators, and sometimes wasps. Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars are beneficial for your garden and they prefer to use common rue as their home!
Modern and Traditional Uses
Common Rue was traditionally used as a medicinal and culinary herb. It is generally considered safe to consume in small doses, but large doses can cause gastric pain, liver damage, vomiting, and even death. Pregnant women should not consume this plant, because it can be abortifacient and a teratogen.
Modern scientific herbalism considers this plant obsolete, because of how toxic it can be; however, it still has some culinary uses. The Rue plant is used as a component in an Ethiopian spice mixture called berbere. Ethiopians also dip fresh rue in coffee. In Balkan countries, it is used to flavor grappa or raki.
Common rue is still grown in gardens in the modern day, but for other reasons. Herb-of-grace is a good companion plant because it helps to deter pests such as onion fly larvae, beetles, slugs, snails, flea beetles, and aphids. Rue can be also grown as an ornamental plant.
Touching Ruda can cause nasty skin blisters and irritation. Use gloves and long sleeves when dealing with the common rue.
How to Grow Ruda
If the positives aspects of Ruda outweighed the negatives and you still decided to grow it, we have some tips for you in this article.
Rue is an incredibly low-maintenance plant. It thrives in direct sunlight and prefers well-draining soil. If these two conditions are met, this plant will grow without any problems.
Ruda will easily grow in containers. Find a container (with drainage holes) that is at least 15 inches deep and wide.
When roots are starting to come out of the drainage holes, it needs a bigger container.
Common rue thrives in full sun, meaning at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. This ancient herb can grow in partial shade as well, but it might produce fewer flowers.
Herb-of-grace prefers high temperatures and low humidity but is able to tolerate periods of high humidity. It can grow in USDA Hardiness Zones 4-10. In zones 4-6 it is beneficial to add a layer of mulch near the base of the plant.
Soil and Fertilizer
Common rue thrives in dry weather, which is why well-draining soil is necessary for it to grow. Gardens with moisture-retaining soils (such as clay) may not be a good place to grow Ruda.
Make a soil mix by adding a lot of sand to the moisture-retaining soil (at least 1/3) to grow Ruda, or buy well-draining soil from the store.
Fertilizing Ruda is a bad idea. It will cause leafy growth instead of aromatic flowers.
If you happen to scroll past the last paragraph, common rue prefers dry conditions. This plant is very tolerant of droughts. On the other hand, it is easy to overwater Ruda, which can cause root rot.
Ruda plant should be pruned in the fall or early spring, cut the stems shorter for about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) to ensure flowery growth.
Ruda can be simply propagated with stem cuttings. Although common rue is a perennial, the plants live for a short time (up to 5 years). Take the stem cuttings in late summer to increase your chances of success.
- Wear protection!
- Cut the top part of the stem with a sharp tool. The cutting has to be at least 5 inches in length.
- Remove leaves from the bottom half of the cutting
- Place the cutting in a container with sphagnum peat moss
- Moisten the spaghnum peat moss
- To keep the moisture, place a bag around the container
Common rue symbolizes repentance, grief, and regret. Ruda also signifies virtue, atonement, fresh starts, and grace.
Common rue is a great choice for rock gardens and an excellent companion plant in regular gardens. Despite being very toxic, it has many benefits like deterring pests and attracting beneficial pollinators.
Remember to use well-draining soil to grow Ruda and wear protection when pruning or expecting to be in contact with the plant.