Rue grows best in zones 4-8. It is suited to light, medium, or heavy soils that are well-drained, with a pH level between 6.6 to 8.5. The seeds need light in order to grow, so do not cover them completely with soil. The soil must be kept moist until it has established and it is able to grow in soil that is lacking in nutrients. It should be grown in slight shade or full sun. Rue should be spaced 2-3 feet apart, as it grows 2-3 feet high and 2-3 feet wide. The plant is bloom from June to July. In Nothern areas where the winters are more severe, mulch will be needed to protect the plants. In early spring, the plant should be pruned (1). Rue is drought tolerant so it is suitable to xeriscaping, which is a way of landscaping by using plants that are native and drought-resistant. This helps to cut down on the usage of water and irrigation. It is a good companion plant to roses and raspberries because it repels potentially harmful insects (3).
Culinary and Medicinal Uses
Rue is often used as seasoning in food. The leaves can be used to make tea (4). Rue and the oil extracted from the leaves are used to flavor drinks. It contains chemical properties that strengthen capillaries and is known to benefit the eyes. It can be toxic if too much is ingested (3). In Mexican tradition, rue can be used to treat earaches by wrapping it in cotton and putting it in the ear. Tea brewed from rue leaves is used as a body wash to kill lice (5).
Significance to Cultural Communities
The symbol for the spades suit in a deck of cards is based upon the shape of rue leaves. Rue was used to ward off witches and to fend off odors from prisoners and the poor in the Middle Ages. Rue is also used in decoctions in Venezuela and Haiti as an emmenagogue and nasal decongestant. Oil extracted from rue leaves is used to add fragrance to soap and cosmetics (2). In Mexico, the spiritual cleansing ritual called limpias utilizes rue (4).
1. “Ruta graveolens.” Missouri Botanical Gardens. http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=b714
2. Dvorkin, L., PharmD, & Whelan, J., MS. (2012). Ruta Graveolens. Retrieved from Boston Healing Landscape Project website: http://www.bu.edu/bhlp/Clinical/cross-cultural/herbal_index/herbs/Ruta%20Graveolens.html
3. “Ruta graveolens.” Plants For A Future. http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Ruta+graveolens
4. Davidow, Joie. Infusions of Healing: A Treasury of Mexican-American Herbal Remedies (New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1999)
5. Torres, Eliseo. Healing with Herbs and Rituals: a Mexican Tradition. Edited by Timothy L. Sawyer, Jr. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006