How to Grow Rue from Cuttings: Expert’s Guide

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Rue, a versatile herb with both medicinal and ornamental uses, can be a delightful addition to any garden. Its blue-green leaves and yellow flowers not only provide visual appeal, but also have a rich history of being used in traditional medicine and as a natural insect repellent. One of the most effective ways to propagate rue is through cuttings, making it an accessible plant for gardeners of all skill levels.

Taking cuttings from a healthy rue plant is the first step in this straightforward process. Select a mature plant with strong, established growth to ensure the best chances of success. By following a few simple steps and providing the proper care, gardeners can easily propagate rue plants and enjoy the benefits they offer.

In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for selecting and preparing rue cuttings, as well as tips on caring for them during the critical rooting phase. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be well on your way to cultivating a thriving rue collection in your own garden.

Understanding Rue

Rue is an aromatic, evergreen shrub known for its unique, pungent scent and beautiful blue-green foliage. It is native to the Mediterranean region and prefers sunny conditions with well-drained soil. The plant has a bitter taste that some people find unpleasant, but it is highly valued for its medicinal and ornamental purposes. Historically, rue has been used for centuries in traditional medicine for a variety of ailments such as digestive issues, insect repellent, and even as a protection against evil spirits.

While rue can be grown from seeds, taking cuttings is considered a more reliable and faster method for propagation. Planting from cuttings ensures that the new plant will have the same characteristics as the parent plant, while growing from seeds can yield plants with varying traits.

Before starting the process of growing rue from cuttings, it is essential to gather the necessary supplies. These include:

  • A sharp pair of pruning shears or a knife
  • A clean pot or container with drainage holes
  • A high-quality, well-draining potting mix
  • Rooting hormone powder (optional, but recommended)
  • A plastic bag or cover to maintain humidity around the cutting

To successfully grow rue from cuttings, one should select a healthy, mature plant to serve as the parent. Ideally, choose a stem that is about 4-6 inches long, has no visible signs of disease or damage, and contains several sets of leaves. The cutting should be taken during the plant’s active growing season, which typically spans spring through early summer.

Once the cutting is harvested, remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem to expose the nodes, where roots will form. Dipping the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone powder can help boost root development, although this step is not strictly necessary. Next, place the prepared cutting into a pot filled with moist, well-draining potting mix, ensuring the exposed nodes are covered by soil.

Maintaining a humid environment is crucial for the successful rooting of rue cuttings. This can be achieved by covering the pot with a plastic bag or placing it in a covered propagator. Position the pot in a warm, partly shaded spot with indirect sunlight, and monitor the soil moisture levels, watering as needed to keep the potting mix moist but not soggy.

After a few weeks, roots should start to form, and the cutting will begin to produce new growth. Once the cutting has established a healthy root system and is actively growing, it can be transplanted to a larger pot or directly into the garden, where it will continue to thrive and provide a beautiful, aromatic addition to any space.

Benefits of Growing Rue

Rue is a versatile plant that comes with a range of advantages when cultivated in your own garden. First and foremost, it is a wonderful addition to your garden for its visually appealing attributes. With its bluish-green leaves and yellow flowers, rue will surely add a hint of unique beauty to any green space.

Another significant benefit of growing rue is its potential medicinal properties. Historically, it has been used to treat various ailments such as digestive issues, reducing swelling, and relieving joint pain. However, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before using rue for medicinal purposes, as it may have side effects or interact with other medications.

Rue also possesses insect-repellent properties, making it an excellent companion plant in your garden. Planting rue near vegetables and herbs can help keep unwanted insects at bay. Additionally, it is known to attract beneficial insects like butterflies and bees, which play a crucial role in pollination.

In terms of maintenance, rue is a relatively low-maintenance plant. It can tolerate a variety of soil types and does not require constant watering. This makes rue an excellent choice for gardeners who prefer to invest less time in regular maintenance tasks.

Lastly, rue can be used for several culinary purposes. The strong, bitter taste of its leaves can add an interesting flavor to certain dishes, such as salads or stews. However, it is important to remember that due to its strong flavor, a minimal amount of rue should be used when cooking.

In summary, growing rue from cuttings offers a multitude of benefits, including its aesthetic appeal, potential medicinal uses, insect-repellent properties, low-maintenance nature, and culinary applications. Considering these advantages, rue can be a wonderful addition to any garden.

How to Get Rue Cuttings

Finding a Mature Rue Plant

To propagate rue from cuttings, start by locating a healthy, mature rue plant. Mature plants typically have developed woody stems and plenty of green, healthy foliage. You may find these plants in local gardens, plant nurseries, or from fellow garden enthusiasts. Always ask for permission before taking any cuttings from someone else’s plant.

The Right Time to Cut

The ideal time for taking rue cuttings is during the late spring or early summer when the plant is actively growing. Avoid taking cuttings during the winter months, as this can cause drying of the cutting and decrease the chances of successful rooting.

When taking the cutting, choose a healthy, non-flowering stem that is at least 4-6 inches in length. Use sharp, clean pruning shears or scissors to make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle just below a node (where the leaves attach to the stem). This will encourage rooting at the cut site. Here are some additional tips for selecting rue cuttings:

  • Look for stems that are firm and green, avoiding any soft or wilted ones.
  • Remove any flowers or buds from the cutting, as they can take energy away from root development.
  • Take multiple cuttings for a higher success rate, as not all cuttings may root.

After taking the cuttings, promptly place them in a sealed plastic bag or container with a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying out. You can then prepare the cuttings for planting by doing the following:

  1. Remove the lower leaves, leaving only the top 2-4 leaves on the cutting.
  2. Dip the cut end of the stem in a rooting hormone powder (optional but recommended).
  3. Place the cutting in a small pot filled with a well-draining soil mix, such as a combination of perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss. Gently firm the soil around the cutting to provide support.

Keep the potted cuttings in a brightly lit area with indirect sunlight, and maintain even soil moisture by watering when the top inch of soil starts to dry out. Within 4-6 weeks, the cuttings should begin to develop roots, and you’ll be on your way to growing your own rue plants.

Planting the Cuttings

Suitable Soil

When planting rue cuttings, it’s essential to choose the proper soil. Rue requires well-draining soil, so a sandy or loamy type is ideal. To ensure the soil drains properly, consider using a mix of:

  • 50% garden soil
  • 30% perlite or sand
  • 20% compost or well-decomposed manure

This combination will provide the necessary aeration and nutrition for the rue cuttings to thrive.


Deciding on the perfect spot is critical for growing healthy rue plants from cuttings. Choose an area with access to full sunlight, as rue needs about 6-8 hours of sunlight per day. Additionally, make sure the space has a bit of air circulation, and avoid overcrowded gardens. Rue is known to repel pests, so placing it amongst and around other plants you want to protect can be beneficial.

Initial Care

Once you’ve established the soil and placement, it’s time to plant the cuttings. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Moisten the soil lightly before planting.
  2. Make small holes, approximately 2-3 inches deep, to accommodate the rue cuttings.
  3. Remove the lower leaves of each cutting, and retain the top 2-4 leaves.
  4. Dip the cut end in a rooting hormone powder to enhance root development.
  5. Gently insert the rue cutting into the hole and gently firm the soil around it.
  6. Water the cuttings with caution, taking care not to overwater.

After planting, make sure to monitor the rue cuttings regularly for any signs of disease or pests and manage any issues that arise. It will take a few weeks for the cuttings to establish their root systems, so be patient and maintain proper care during this period.

Long-Term Care


Rue plants require consistent watering to ensure healthy growth. While they can tolerate some drought conditions, it is crucial to maintain the soil’s moisture levels. Water the plants when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. However, over-watering can lead to root rot, so avoid keeping the soil too wet.

Nutrient Needs

Provide essential nutrients for rue plants by incorporating a well-balanced fertilizer into the soil. Use a slow-release granular fertilizer with a balanced ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, such as a 10-10-10 or 14-14-14 formulation. Apply the fertilizer during the growing season, following the manufacturer’s instructions and recommended dosages. Furthermore, ensure that the soil is well-draining to prevent the accumulation of excess nutrients.


Regular pruning of rue plants promotes their overall health and encourages bushy, compact growth. Prune the plants in early spring, removing any dead or damaged branches, as well as targeting overgrown or crossing stems. Additionally, pinch off the growing tips throughout the growing season to stimulate branching. Always use clean, sharp pruning tools to reduce the risk of disease transmission and insect infestation.

  • Tip: Wear gloves and protective clothing when handling rue plants, as their sap can cause skin irritation.

Common Issues


One common issue when growing rue from cuttings is dealing with pests. Certain insects, such as aphids and spider mites, are attracted to rue plants and can cause damage. To prevent these pests, regularly inspect your plants and remove them manually if found. Implementing natural predators, like ladybugs or lacewings, can help to control these pests as well. Be cautious with using chemical pesticides, as they might harm beneficial insects and damage the plant’s natural defenses.


Rue is generally quite resistant to diseases, but it can still be affected by certain infections. Fungal diseases, such as root rot and powdery mildew, are examples of illnesses that may impact rue plants. To avoid root rot, ensure that the cuttings are planted in well-draining soil, and be careful not to overwater them. Powdery mildew can be managed by increasing air circulation around the plant and avoiding excessive humidity.

It’s crucial to keep a close eye on your rue plants to ensure they are healthy and thriving. Addressing these common issues early on can greatly improve the success of growing rue from cuttings.

Harvesting Rue

Harvesting rue is a straightforward process that can be achieved with ease. To make the most out of your rue plant, it is best to harvest the leaves and stems when they are young and tender, as they contain the highest concentration of oils. Typically, this occurs around mid-summer, or when the plant has reached a height of approximately 12 inches.

When harvesting rue, ensure that you wear gloves, as the plant’s oils can cause skin irritation. Begin by selecting the healthiest branches, preferably those with a good amount of foliage. Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors or pruning shears to cut the stems at a slight angle, about 4 to 6 inches from the tip. This will encourage new growth and maintain the overall shape of your plant.

Once you have collected your rue cuttings, remove any excess leaves or debris from the stems. It is crucial that the cuttings are allowed to dry, which can be achieved by laying them out on a clean surface, such as a tray, paper towel, or newspaper. Place the drying cuttings in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight, and allow them to dry for approximately two weeks.

There are several ways to use the harvested rue:

  • Fresh leaves: Freshly harvested leaves can be used to add a distinctive flavor to various dishes, including salads, soups, and stews. Due to its strong taste, it’s essential to use rue sparingly to avoid overpowering the dish.
  • Dried leaves: Dried rue leaves can be stored in an airtight container and used as a seasoning in cooking or for herbal tea. Drying the leaves helps to preserve their potency and ensure a longer shelf life.
  • Rue oil: To extract oil from the harvested leaves and stems, you can utilize steam distillation or maceration methods. Rue oil has various applications, such as in aromatherapy, personal care products, and herbal remedies.

Care should be taken when using rue, as it can be toxic when ingested in large quantities. Always consult with an expert or perform thorough research before incorporating rue into your diet or wellness routines.