Ruta graveolens — commonly known as rue, common rue or herb-of-grace — is a species of Ruta grown as an ornamental plant and as an herb. It is native to the Balkan Peninsula. It is now grown throughout the world in gardens, especially because of its bluish leaves, and also sometimes for its tolerance of hot and dry soil conditions. It is also cultivated as a medicinal herb, as a condiment, and to a lesser extent as an insect repellent.
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. Propagate by seed or cuttings.
Native to southern Europe, rue is a glabrous, glaucous, woody-based, shrubby perennial with aromatic, fern-like, compound leaves. It typically grows in a mound to 2-3’ tall. In some parts of the U. S. (particularly the northeast), it has escaped gardens and naturalized along roads, fields and disturbed areas. 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, but effectiveness and safety concerns now discourage such uses. Leaves are toxic if ingested. Handling plants may cause dermatitis.
No serious insect or disease problems. Root rot may occur, particularly in poorly drained soils. Wear long sleeves and gloves when pruning or handling the foliage.
Borders, rock gardens and herb gardens. Interesting low edging plant.