Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Common Rue, Garden Rue, Herb of Grace, Herbygrass
Ruta graveolens

Family: Rutaceae (roo-TAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ruta (ROO-tuh) (Info)
Species: graveolens (grav-ee-OH-lens) (Info)

7 vendors have this plant for sale.

42 members have or want this plant for trade.

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18-24 in. (45-60 cm)

15-18 in. (38-45 cm)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)
USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)
USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)
USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
Bright Yellow

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Self-sows freely; deadhead if you do not want volunteer seedlings next season

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; sow indoors before last frost
From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Wear gloves to protect hands when handling seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 27 photos.
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14 positives
9 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive RebeccaClare On Aug 6, 2013, RebeccaClare from Melbourne
Australia wrote:

I purchased this plant perhaps a month ago, and it's potted in terracotta on our front porch. I'm a lover of plants with history, and am aware of it causing potential skin complains, so have been careful in that regard. It's leaves are such a lovely hue of blue green, and I look forward to flowers and butterflies. However, my plant is beginning to develop yellow leaves towards its base. Is there any known cause and/or fix for this? It looks happy in every other way.

Positive wakingdream On May 14, 2012, wakingdream from Allentown, PA wrote:

Rue is hardy for me in zone 6, PA. It self sows only moderately and has survived winters in sunny and half-shaded areas.The main stalk often drops its branches but remains viable, resprouting new side branches right up to the tip in spring.

Warnings for this plant involve the sap (although I have not experienced any trouble) and ingestion by pregnant women (do NOT).

Flowers are a nice shade of yellow but the blue-green foliage is the draw.

I see posts below mentioning butterfly larvae eating this plant. I have not observed that, although I have many other host plants in my garden and perhaps the butterflies lay eggs on those instead.

I like Rue for its foliage, form and hardiness.

Neutral safarikid On Apr 12, 2012, safarikid from Wailua, HI wrote:

seeking information on traditional chinese uses, both garden and medicinal, and/or significance of this plant. thanks. :)

Positive Terrycw On Jul 17, 2011, Terrycw from Dunellen, NJ wrote:

I've grown Rue here for about three years now. As a Sicilian Strega it is an important part of my history. Rue is the scared plant to the Goddess Diana. Once in bloom it smells wonderful. I have never had a problem handling it, but I am careful if it is sunny out and I am cutting it. Gloves are smart in any gardening application to begin with.
I use the leaves to dry and press and create "The Protection of Diana" cards for give-a-aways for my business. I've used the leaves to imbed in soaps, and make oil sprays with.

Harvesting seeds tend to be difficult and I prefer to germinate from cutting.

It has never been a "keep away witchcraft" herb! Lol

Diana's followers have used this herb to dip it into the water gathered from Lake Nemi in Italy and bless each other. Many Italians are aware of the charm called a Cimaruta - "charm of rue". It is always cast in sterling silver and dates back to pre-Christian times. (the silver is to imitate the color of the moon, which is Diana's planet) The charm itself is a sprig of rue with various items hanging from the branches.

Negative selondoner On Apr 26, 2011, selondoner from London
United Kingdom wrote:

A few years ago I bought a plant and grew it in my garden for a year until I decided that didn't like it. I had already realised that when I brushed against it my skin became itchy for a while but it didn't really bother me much. However when I dug the plant out my hands burned fiercly for several days then as the skin hardened it itched almost unbearably for another few days then just itched irritatingly for several more days as large patches of discoloured skin came away. If that had been the end I would not be writing this now. My hands are now sensitive to many plants and will burn and blister and itch even if I just brush their leaves. I now have to wear gloves when gardening at all times, it has severely reduced my pleasure in gardening. Do not be complacent. Think very carefully before touching this plant and there is no way I would put it any where near my mouth.

Negative Bflymommy On Jun 9, 2010, Bflymommy from Galveston, TX wrote:

Plant WARNING!!! I am sorry to say this......
This is my 3rd year of growing rue. During summer, it is always covered w/ B-fly cats. Just covered!
Last year I got it on my legs & learned I had developed "sensitivity".
You need to know what that means!
When I read some people could become "sensitive", I thought.... no big deal - tiny blisters, maybe.
W/ in 24 hrs of brushing against the plant I developed HUGE blisters on my legs. Some wrapped around the leg w/ dimensions in excess of 5"x4"! They literally covered my legs. The "deepest" one rose 1/2" off the surface of the skin. I was gauzed and taped for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, they left scars.
OK, I'm a butterfly fanatic, a really DUMB one, so I gloved up and carefully planted it again this year. I thought I'd plant it in a location where I could control my own access. You guessed it, I didn't control it as I had hoped. This weekend, I must have gotten some sap on me b/c I now have a blister on my knee 3"x2". It literally measured 3/4" off my leg b/f I had to drain it to reduce the pressure.
Yeah, I know I'm a dummy for planting it again, but I thought I'd structurally restrict my own access & if I still managed to get into it, I'd wash up very well & be sure to stay out of the sun. I thought I could just manage the plant now that I knew the risk..... Not so much...
I'm not trying to ruin this awesome butterfly plant for people, I just want to make sure people really UNDERSTAND the risk.
Make your decision about growing it accordingly.
I will say this... I only have butterfly babies. If I had human children, I would not risk planting it where they could come in contact with it! Good luck!

Positive wawoman On Oct 23, 2009, wawoman from Snohomish, WA wrote:

This is one of my favorite plants. I knew that it might cause dermatitis in some people but I have not suffered any problems from it. I learned here that it is the combination of sunlight and contact with the foliage that causes the problem. I have successfully grown Rue from cuttings without bottom heat and mist. It took a long time for it to strike roots. My plants have not flowered this year. We had a brutal winter of 2009 and it survived just fine. I like Rue because it does not get that inner blackening of foliage like many of the artemesias do. It looks nice with any color flower. I intend to move some Rue next to big bold leafed hostas. Slugs, deer, rabbits ignore this plant.

Positive carol13 On Mar 2, 2009, carol13 from Glen Burnie, MD wrote:

I put rue in a small pot on my fence last season (hung it on
my fence so my kitty wouldn't eat any). In no time I had 5
Giant Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars on it. Then, in less
than a week, they all got eaten by the birds! Well, at least
I know the plant is a definite BF favorite. And it has survived
the winter (currently with 5" of snow on it). I'll keep it around
for sure.

Positive LeBug On Nov 23, 2007, LeBug from Greenville, IN (Zone 6a) wrote:

I love the foliage on this plant I planted five of them and lost two but plan on planting a lot more for next year. I have Giant Swallowtail caterpillars on it now so late in the season they wont make it they are black with little gold dots on them I think they are that cat. Hopefully Ill get more cats next year! Does this plant spread from underground runners? I have another plant coming up from the bottom of another plant :) May have been an extra seedling I didnt know about but it is really smaller than the main plant like it just came up.

Positive frostweed On May 10, 2007, frostweed from Josephine, Arlington, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Rue, Ruta graveolens is a Naturalized plant in Texas.

Positive WUVIE On Mar 24, 2007, WUVIE from Hulbert, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

After several years of trying to grow Rue from seed,
I was determined more than ever, so I dumped an
entire package of seed in a hole, marked it and
walked away.

My plant is now several years old, and I just love it!

The color, the foliage, the little yellow flowers, and
of course, the butterfly factor. I will be planting more Rue
this year, this time with freshly harvested seeds from
my own plant.

A good one indeed!

Positive debnes_dfw_tx On Dec 7, 2006, debnes_dfw_tx from Fort Worth, TX (Zone 8a) wrote:

Out of all the beautiful things about this plant, it's most significant functions is to provide food for Black Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtail caterpillars.
It seems to be very hardy here in zone 8a. Already a few freezing days and it really looks great!

Positive bluespiral On Oct 3, 2006, bluespiral from (Zone 7a) wrote:

Right about now, our rue (rutaceae family) hedge is heavily populated with burgeoning black swallowtail caterpillars. We love the butterfly and find this stage of its caterpillar in our rue hedge one of the wonders of the summer. From the gusto with which these fast-fattening guys are chomping on the rue, you'd think the rue was kith or kin with these caterpillars' other favorites in the apiaceae (was umbelliferae) family (dill, fennel). Perhaps these caterpillars know something the taxonomists don't know?

Neutral kennyso On Apr 25, 2006, kennyso from Markham, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

My mom grows a lot of rue every year. We use it to make a traditional dessert sweet mung bean soup (we're Chinese) and it tastes great. Rue clears intestinal worms and is a safe pesticide for humans and animals.

Positive Gabrielle On Jan 28, 2006, Gabrielle from (Zone 5a) wrote:

My information says that Rue is hardy in zones 4-11, and indeed, it survives here in zone 5. It even self-seeds a little. I like the look of it; the foliage is attractive all season long. Light aids germination.

Positive MarleneRose On Sep 8, 2004, MarleneRose from Markham
Canada wrote:

I was concerned about this plant after reading the comments here. I wrote to the nursery where I bought it and this is their response . . .

"Yes, it is edible. Rue is a traditional flavouring used in Greece and other Mediterranean countries

It is true that rue can cause skin rashes on some individuals. The rashes occur when a sensitive person's skin comes in contact with fresh rue foliage and that area of skin then is exposed to sunlight. The ultraviolet portion of natural sunlight triggers the skin reaction by potentitizing the rue compounds. If these same sensitive persons are exposed to fresh rue and not to UV light then the rash does not occur.

I have never heard of anyone suffering adverse reactions to rue's use in foods. When used sparingly as a flavouring the risk of skin rashes is apparently quite low. Rue's long history of use in food in europe and north africa would seem unlikely if it were poisonous to ingest.

As always, when introducing a new herb or spice to the diet it is good idea to test a small amount first. Stop using any herb or spice that causes any adverse reaction including allergic ones."

(I ate the leaves in a salad last night last night ... and I am still here!)


Positive mudfoot On Sep 3, 2004, mudfoot from Richmond, KY wrote:

I have found some crushed rue covered by a bandage on skin cysts or large blemishes tends to heal them very quickly. A skin cyst can disappear practically overnight. I have never had an adverse reaction. The smell is not heavenly! It does add a nice touch to my herb garden. I have it near orange mint, thyme, oregano and Lemonbalm. They all get along fine.

Neutral Monocromatico On Jun 24, 2004, Monocromatico from Rio de Janeiro
Brazil (Zone 11) wrote:

Here it is a "luck" plant. People use it to bring luck to their houses, either planting a cutting on their years, or just putting a branch in water. I find its odor somewhat unpleasant, and because I don't believe that a vegetable brings me good or bad luck, I just avoid it.

Neutral blueiristoo On Aug 10, 2003, blueiristoo from New Baltimore, MI wrote:

Loved your website. Told me what I needed to know about my rue, which I have had for 10 years, and weeded, and traded at the plant exchange. Well this year it "got" me. Too much close contact, wearing skimpy top, on a sunny day. Woke up with photodermatitis (looks a lot like poison ivy) which so far only hurts in one spot. I think I'll remove the two offending plants (they were too close to the walkway anyway) but not remove all of them. The grey-green foliage is so pretty. It doesn't seem to bother my hands and lower arms but boy, really got my upper arms and back.
Aside from that--just love the color and featheriness of the leaves. They do spread in my sandy loam garden but pull out easily when small (wear gloves!!)

Neutral MJHCinOH On Jul 28, 2003, MJHCinOH from Cincinnati, OH wrote:

I have very positive feelings about this plant's attractiveness and usefulness, but I also am typing this right now with several large blisters on my right arm from handling this plant. It's easy to grow from seed, easy to maintain, evergreen, and makes a nice small hedge to go with roses, herbs, or other plants that will benefit from a neat blue-green edging. This is the second time I've had a chemical reaction to this plant, and both times were when the weather was hot and sunny and I was perspiring. The plant is also attractive to the caterpillars of certain butterflies, but I can't warn strongly enough about using care when siting the plant and handling it.

Neutral crazy5 On Jul 7, 2003, crazy5 wrote:

one of this plants best qualities is its power to keep dogs out of the garden when used as a border plant, in certain cases it even keeps the cats away.I had a costomer who had a small garden on a busy street the dogs always peed on her plants so whe tried ruta and the dogs would go by like soldiers and pee just next door!i also had an experience with photodermatitis but i found that the plant will cause this when wet because i never had thet proplem before its only one day when it was raining and i cleaned a big batch i had second degree burns on the top of my hands! DO NOT TOUCH WHEN WET !!!8)

Neutral RobinL On Jun 25, 2003, RobinL from Ashfield, MA wrote:

This plant looks really great in my garden. I really like the shape of the leaves and that it is evergreen like. I do not find it as invasive as other plants but it does spread out quite a bit. This brings me to why I gave this plant a neutral instead of a positive. I decided to thin out this plant 2 days ago... well I woke up yesterday to very red blotchy hands and wrists which didn't itch but sort of felt like I had a sunburn. Hummm what caused this I wondered. Well, last night this "rash" developed into lots of painful blisters (you could actually watch them develop) and today I am still covered in blisters. Honestly, I am not 100% sure that this plant has caused my condition since I have thinned this plant before with no problems but I know that I will be wearing gloves next year. :-)

Positive lupinelover On Sep 1, 2002, lupinelover from Grove City, OH (Zone 6a) wrote:

Plant self-seeds somewhat, but not enough to be considered invasive; just enough to share with friends.

Neutral darius On Jul 30, 2002, darius from So.App.Mtns.
United States (Zone 5b) wrote:

The phrase "You'll RUE the day..." comes from this plant, as touching it produces a dermatitis in many people. Mine produces lovely yellow flowers, and otherwise is just a nice blue-hued nice foliage plant in the bed.

Neutral Baa On Mar 28, 2002, Baa wrote:

Evergreen shrub from Southern Europe.

Has blue-green, pinnatisect, ovate, scented leaves. Bears yellow, 4 petalled, cup shaped flowers.

Flowers June-August

Likes fertile, well drained soil in sun or partial shaded positions. Has lived in dappled shade on clay here for several years quite happily.

Leaves may cause photodermatitis if touched, be especially careful if you have a sensetive skin and with children playing near the shrub. Can cause severe discomfort if eaten.

Rue has a long history in Europe, it was used to sprinkle holy water before high mass, which is where it earned a common name of Herb of Grace.

It was used as a strewing herb, anti-plague herb and as an insecticide/pesticide. Also once believed to be a witchcraft and an anti-witchcraft plant.

It has been used in medicine in the past and still has some uses today but should only be used under STRICT medical supervision. Never use when pregnant!

Homeopaths use a tincture of Rue in the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism and neuralgia. Herbalists might prescribe it for blood pressure problems, nervous problems, sciatica and epilepsy, they may use Rue in compresses for skin ulcers. It also has antiseptic properties.

It was once used as an eye bath and as an antidote to some poisons, insect stings and snake bites.

Its' roots yield a red dye.

It does have a culinary use if used sparingly but it is incredibly bitter and my note above about severe discomfort on ingestion is possible, its not a herb that suits everyone and there are better culinary herbs out there to use.

A curious note, Rue and mint don't grow well together, Rue is often the plant to come off worse from the pairing.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Tuscumbia, Alabama
Vincent, Alabama
Hereford, Arizona
Alameda, California
Carlsbad, California
Carmichael, California
Encinitas, California
Hawthorne, California
Merced, California
Perris, California
San Jose, California
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Hollywood, Florida
Lutz, Florida
Rockledge, Florida
Seminole, Florida
Guyton, Georgia
Roswell, Georgia
Kansas, Illinois
Palmyra, Illinois
Greenville, Indiana
Barbourville, Kentucky
Prospect, Kentucky
Richmond, Kentucky
Brookeville, Maryland
Cumberland, Maryland
Glen Burnie, Maryland
Silver Spring, Maryland
Ashfield, Massachusetts
Mashpee, Massachusetts
Midland, Michigan
Saint Joseph, Missouri
Saint Louis, Missouri
Lincoln, Nebraska
Dover, New Hampshire
Dunellen, New Jersey
Plainfield, New Jersey
Dunn, North Carolina
West End, North Carolina
Cincinnati, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
, Ontario
Portland, Oregon
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Lansdowne, Pennsylvania
Troy, Pennsylvania
Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania
Manning, South Carolina
Arlington, Texas
Austin, Texas
Belton, Texas
Brazoria, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Desoto, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas
Lewisville, Texas
Mesquite, Texas
Montague, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Taylor, Texas
Victoria, Texas
Petersburg, Virginia
Seattle, Washington
Snohomish, Washington
Stanwood, Washington
Porterfield, Wisconsin

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