Ruta graveolens, commonly called rue, is native to southern Europe. It is a glabrous, glaucous, woody-based, shrubby perennial with aromatic, fern-like, compound leaves. It typically grows in a mound to 2-3’ tall. Notwithstanding its many historical uses, it is primarily grown today for ornamental purposes. Pinnately divided, blue green leaves (to 3-5” long) have oblong/spatulate segments. Foliage has a pungent aroma when bruised and leaves have a bitter taste. Small, 4- to 5-petaled, dull yellow flowers in clusters (flattened corymbs) bloom above the foliage in early summer. Fruit is a brown seed capsule. Ornamental value lies in the delicate blue green foliage. Rue was historically used for a large number of medicinal purposes.
Easily grown in moderately fertile, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Plants tolerate some light shade. Plants also tolerate poor soils as long as they are sharply drained. Drought tolerant once established. Plants perform well in hot and dry sites. Avoid wet soils. Winter mulch is important in the northern parts of this plant’s growing range. Prune back plants to old wood in early spring.
Rue is easy to grow. The tiny seeds, if strewn onto a garden plot or a container of potting soil and covered with a light sprinkling of soil and moistened, will sprout in 1 to 3 weeks. Tiny light green seedlings look delicate, but are sturdy and will grow quickly into a foot-tall plant. Pinching the tops will make them grow bushier. Rue will grow well outdoors in poor or rich soil, with little attention. Inside as a houseplant, rue needs regular watering and bright light to grow well.