Ruta graveolens

Ave Grace, Bitter Herb, Common Rue, Countryman's Treacle, Garden Rue, German Rue, Herb Impia, Herb Of Grace, Herb Of Repentance, Herbygrass, Mother Of Herbs, Ruta, Ruth, Serving Man's Joy, Witchbane

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Ruta graveolens is a yellow-flowered, ornamental, woody herb with pungent blue-grey leaves, known to be a butterfly magnet and good companion plant, but unloved by cats and dogs. Rue belongs to the same family as oranges, kumquats and grapefruits, Rutaceae is commonly known as the rue or citrus family. This is a low maintenance plant that is ideal for beginner gardeners. It has many common names including common rue, rue, mother of herbs and witchbane.

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Flowering time



Harvest leaves just before the flowers open. Harvest with care (wear gloves) as leaf sap may cause skin rashes. To harvest seeds, wait till they have dried on the plant. Clean and store.



Seeds need light to germinate, so sow on the surface, in full or partial sun, spaced 50cm apart. Germination within 28 days, but flowers only appear in the second year.


Rue can propogate through division of roots, but only when the plant is at least 10cm high.


Plant in peat-rich soil in autumn in moist sand.

Special features

Repels harmful insects

Rue keeps pest bugs away by emitting a strong odor that will camouflage the smell of vegetables. Plant it to repel fruit flies in orchard. Dried leaves act as insect repellant.

Hedge plant

Rue has semi-woody branches that make for easy pruning and shaping into a rounded mass. Shows off nicely next to light coloured flowers or as a border. Good in a rock garden.

Pot plant

An attractive pot plant with its blue-green leaves that make a feature. Keep one near your kitchen window to scare flies away.

Drought resistant

Attracts useful insects

Butterflies love Rue. Black and giant swallowtails lay their eggs on Rue and their caterpillars feed off it.

Ground cover

Attracts butterflies

Special features


Turkey. Since ancient times a culinary herb in Greece and Rome, also carried around to ward off withches ("witchbane"). Curiously, brides also put a sprig of Rue in the wedding bouquets. Still used in North African cooking and considered the national herb of Lithuania.

Natural climate

Warm to hot



Full Sun, Partial Sun

Soil moisture


Soil type

Loam, Sand

Frost hardiness




Although it contains rutin that is good for circulation, research showed that Rue can be dangerous, so it is not really a safe remedy. Essential oils are used in perfume and food flavouring. Red dye.


Leaves are edible, but bitter and also slightly toxic. Should only be used sparingly.


Medicinal, insect repellant. A drought-resistant plant that suits coastal or Mediterranean climate gardens. It also can be included in the borders/beds of urban courtyards or wall side borders of cottage gardens.




Flower colour

Green, Yellow




Monarch butterflies and aphids plague rue. Infected leaves should be removed. Root fungus can be a problem if soil is too wet.

Companion plants

Strawberries, tomatoes, fruit trees

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