Common Rue

The Rue has been a popular Mediterranean medicinal and aromatic plant for hundreds of years. A word of caution: Too much of it is unhealthy! Here are tips on planting, harvesting and using it as a medicinal plant.

Jul 23, 2021 03:13 pm
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Growth type
  • half shrub
Growth height (from)
from 50 cm to 80 cm
Growth characteristics
  • bushy
Flower color
  • yellow
Flowering time (month)
  • June to September
Flower shape
  • Trumpets
Leaf color
  • blue green
  • blue grey
page format
  • feathered
  • spatula-shaped
Sheet properties
  • fragrant
Fruit shape
  • Capsule
  • sunny
Soil type
  • stony to gravelly
Soil Moisture
  • dry to moderately dry
ph value
  • weakly alkaline to neutral
Lime compatibility
  • lime-loving
Nutrient requirements
  • low in nutrients
Decorative or utility value
  • Flower Decoration
  • medicinal plant
Winter Hardness
  • hardy
Climate zones according to USDA
  • 5
areas of life
  • FR1
  • FR2
  • B1
  • B2
  • Flowerbeds
  • Single position
  • Group planting
  • Planters
  • Rebates
Garden style
  • Pharmacy Garden
  • Herb Garden

The Rue (Ruta graveolens) belongs - as the name suggests - to the Rue family (Rutaceae) and found its way to us via the monastery gardens of Southern Europe. Nowadays it is often found in private gardens as a spice and ornamental plant. Literally translated, Ruta gravolens means "strong (or foul) smelling, bitter herb".


The hardy plant reaches heights of 19.68 to 31.49 inches and is well-branched, bushy and upright. As a subshrub, Ruta graveolens lignifies the lower branches.


The two- to three-pinnate, spatulate leaves of the Rue are its defining feature. The foliage color is a pale blue or gray-green. Oil glands are present on the leaves of the plant. Even lightly rubbing the leaves releases an intense fragrance that is also used in the perfume industry. In the household, the smell can keep ants away.


The small, yellow, hermaphrodite flowers form a loose veil of cymes from June to September. They aren’t fragrant.

blooming Common Rue
The yellow flowers of the Common Rue bloom in June and July

In fall, spherical seed pods with a diameter of 0.39 inches appear at the branch ends. About 0.1 inch long, crescent-shaped, black seeds form in them. Once the capsules are completely dry, they will open up and spread the seeds.


The Common Rue prefers sunny and warm locations. In the flower bed, the cottage garden bloomer stands out with other yellow blooming perennials and ornamental grasses.


Dry soils, either rocky or nutrient-poor, are suitable for planting. In addition, the common rue prefers a rather nutrient-poor, loose substrate that can be rich in lime. You should mix half of normal garden soil or herbal soil with sand and a little lime.


From mid-May the Common Rue can be sown directly in the bed. The first seedlings appear after about three weeks. Young plants are placed in the bed at a distance of about 15.74 inches. When planting, mix some compost into the substrate to give the Common Rue a good starting point. The herb can also be grown in a pot, but then it has to be watered regularly. Caution: The Common Rue contains furanocoumarins, which cause phototoxic reactions when exposed to skin and sunshine. Therefore, wear gloves when handling the plant and wash your hands and arms afterwards.

Common Rue in the shrub bed next to pearl baskets (Anaphalis)
The Common Rue in the shrub bed next to pearl baskets (Anaphalis)

You should water your Rue on hot days, but in general it can tolerate drought. In winter, soil must be piled up on the common rue. The wintering of the plant in the bucket should be frost-free, cold and light. In spring it is best to cut the plant back to 3.93 to 7.87 inches, then it will remain nice and dense and grow vigorously. It is not necessary to fertilize the common rue.

Harvest and Conservation

You can harvest the young flowers, buds and leaves of the Common Rue between May and June. Because of the phototoxic effect, harvesting with gloves is recommended. The plant parts can then be dried in the oven or in the air with the door open, soaked in oil or frozen in water as ice cubes. Rue oil should be filtered after a few days so that it does not become bitter. The herb can be used as a spice in the kitchen, but the longer you cook it, the more intense it tastes - that's why it is better to use it sparingly and let it sit briefly in the pot at the end of the cooking process.

As a spice, it goes well with fish, meat and salads, and it is also suitable as an aroma for herbal liqueurs and grappa. However, too much of it is toxic! You should therefore always use the Common Rue very sparingly to season salads or sauces. Regular pruning of the shoot tips during the herb harvest keeps the bushes in shape and encourages new shoots.

Yellow Rue flower buds
Yellow Rue flower buds
Rue as a medicinal plant

The Common Rue is a highly aromatic medicinal and aromatic plant with a bitter taste, which is being used in various ways, especially in ancient times and the Middle Ages. Rue was used, for example, for bruises, strains, worm infestation and overstrained eyes, but it was also supposed to help against the plague and snakebites. In small amounts, the ingredients of Ruta graveolens have a proven antihypertensive, antispasmodic, appetite-stimulating, sleep-promoting and calming effect on the nervous system.

However, since the plant also contains alkaloids and other toxic substances in higher doses, self-medication is not recommended. Today, Common Rue products are mainly used in homeopathy, for example as globules or eye drops. Caution: Because of their strong abortive effect, pregnant women should not use any Rue products!


The rather compact growing variety ‘Jackmann’s Blue’, around 15.74 inches high, has blue-green leaves and is therefore also sold as “blue-leaf rue”" . The leaves of the rare variety ‘Variegata’ are variegated blue-green-yellow.

Blue-leaf rue (Ruta graveolens ‘Jackmann’s Blue’)
Blue-leaf Rue (Ruta graveolens ‘Jackmann’s Blue’) and catnip (Nepeta)

The easiest way to propagate the medicinal plant by sowing it in spring. The warmth-loving plant needs a temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit for germination. Slightly lignified young shoots, which are pruned in late summer, are used to propagate cuttings. Put the branches that are defoliated at the bottom in potting soil that has been mixed with sand. The cuttings stay indoors over the winter and are then planted outdoors in May.

Diseases and Pests

Pests tend to stay away from the common rue. If the plant is too wet, it can get infested by powdery mildew.