Mother Earth Living

In the Garden

Get down and dirty in the garden

Add to My MSN

Ruta Graveolens: Growing Common Rue

11/9/2010 10:18:32 AM

Tags: Heidi Cardenas, Rue, Ruta Graveolens, Tips, Natural Eyedrops

H.CardenasHeidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources. 

The word “rue” means “to regret,” and the herb of the same name is associated with regret, sadness and bitterness in biblical writings and literature. Rue (Ruta graveolens) is a bitter herb native to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. It has evergreen bluish-green leaves that grow in groups of six or seven off the semi-woody branches. The mature plant reaches about 2 1/2 feet tall. The leaves smell bitter and medicinal when cut or crushed. Rue produces many small four-petalled flowers in mid- to late-summer. The foliage has an almost lacy look to it, although the leaf sections are not thin and pointy but rounded.

Rue foliage is delicate and lacy-looking.
Photo by Heidi Cardenas

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 a week or so. 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. During mid-summer, it will produce tiny yellow flowers at the tops of the plants, which turn into hard green seed-heads that dry into brown husks and open to reveal and drop many tiny black seeds.

Yellow rue flowers grow at the tops of the plants and turn into hard green seed-heads.
Photo by Heidi Cardenas

Snip off dried seed-heads into a plastic bag to collect seeds for planting next season or for giving away. Crushed rue seed can be added to soups, salads and sauces for seasoning and flavoring.

11-22-10-ruta graveolens
Photo by H. Zell/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Rue is called “herb of grace” for its varied culinary and medicinal uses, some associated with improving or restoring eyesight. I personally use it as an eyewash by snipping a few fresh green leaves and soaking them in distilled or purified water overnight.

Rue makes a refreshing eyewash when steeped in purified water overnight.
Photo by Heidi Cardenas

Used as eyedrops, rue water refreshes red, dry eyes and irritated eyes that have been over-worked in front of a computer screen. It was used in ancient times as an antidote for poisons and for protection from evil. In Italy, it is eaten in salads and used to make the alcoholic drink grappa all ruta. It can be simmered in coffee as they do in Ethiopia to add a lemony flavor. Small snippets of fresh rue can be added to meat and egg dishes during cooking. Dried rue repels insects such as fleas and lice and is good to tuck into pet bedding.

Related Content

Introducing LiveWall Planted Wall System

Hortech, Inc. announceds the introduction of its LiveWall planted wall system that transforms ordina...

Herbs and Herbalists

It's a constant battle: medicine versus herbs. This is how Marguerite got interested in herbs.

DIY: Create a Plant Herbarium

Plant herbariums collect herbal memories all summer long.

Natural Itching Relief: Make a Plantain Anti-Itch Balm

Find itching relief in nature. Narrow-leaved plantain is a common garden weed and also, ironically, ...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.