Thalictrum Meadow Rue Growing: Learn About The Care Of Meadow Rue Plants

By: Amy Grant

Thalictrum meadow rue (not to be confused with rue herb) is an herbaceous perennial found either in shaded woodland areas or partially shaded wetlands or swamp-like areas. Its genus name is derived from the Greek ‘thaliktron,’ so named by Dioscorides in reference to the plant’s compound leaves.

Meadow rue growing in the wild has compound foliage with lobed leaflets, which look somewhat akin to columbine leaves, upon which clusters of white, light pink or purple flowers are borne during May through July. Thalictrum meadow rue is dioecious, that is it bears male and female flowers on separate plants, with the male flowers tending to be a bit more spectacular in appearance.

A member of the Ranunculaceae family (Buttercup), meadow rue growing in the wild or home garden also has wing-like seeds, giving it a year-round ornamental look.

How to Grow Meadow Rue

Meadow rue plants prefer fertile, moist, well-drained soil. The plants will attain a height of between 2-6 feet (0.6-1.8 m.) depending upon the cultivar planted, of which there are quite a few. If you are growing an especially tall variety, staking may be required to keep the plants from falling over. Alternatively, you can space your meadow rue plants close together in groups of three or more, so they support each other.

Depending upon variety, meadow rue plants can grow outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 3-9. They grow best in partial shade. They can tolerate full sun, but they perform best under these conditions in cooler climates and if the soil is kept sufficiently moist. In very cold climates, mulch plants in winter to help insulate them from the cold.

Propagation of meadow rue is via spring division of plants or through seed dispersal. Seeds can be planted either in spring autumn.

Finally, in the care of meadow rue, make sure to keep the plant moist but not too wet. While meadow rue has no significant insect or disease problems, it is prone to powdery mildew and rust, especially if it’s allowed to stand in water.

Types of Meadow Rue

There are quite a number of meadow rue varieties. Some of the most common are as follows:

  • Columbine meadow rue (T. aquilegifolium) is a 2 to 3 foot (0.6-0.9 m.) tall specimen found in zones 5-7 with showy mauve blooms.
  • Yunnan meadow rue (T. delavayi) is 5 feet (1.5 m.) tall and flourishes in zones 4-7. As its name implies, it is native to China.
  • Yellow meadow rue (T. flavum) reaches 3 feet (0.9 m.) tall in zones 5-8 with yellow multiple blooms in summer and is native to Europe and eastern Mediterranean.
  • Dusty meadow rue (T. flavum) grows 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8 m.) tall with creamy yellow flowers in dense clusters in summer, blue green leaves, tolerates heat, native to Spain and Northwest Africa.
  • Kyoshu meadow rue (T. kiusianum) is 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm.) tall and is found in zones 6-8 (native to Japan) with lavender flowers in summer on green mats of foliage with bronze tinge; good in rock gardens and walls.
  • Low meadow rue (T. minus) is between 12 and 24 inches (30-60 cm.) tall, forming a dense clump which thrives in zones 3-7; branched panicle above leaves with greenish yellow flowers not particularly showy; green or gray green foliage resembling that of maidenhair fern and native to Europe.
  • Lavender Mist meadow rue (T. rochebrunianum) at a whopping 6 to 8 feet (1.8-2.4 m.) tall is suitable for zones 4-7 with lavender violet flowers (no true petals, only petal-like sepals) with many primrose yellow stamens, leaves similar to maidenhair fern and native to Japan.

Whichever varietal works for your climate, meadow rue makes a lovely addition to a wildflower garden, as a border accent or along woodland landscapes or other natural areas.

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Thalictrum rochebrunianum 'Meadow Rue'

Despite its delicate appearance this lovely plant is nigh on indestructible. An upright, very architectural perennial, Meadow Rue is one of those low maintenance plants that reliably gives a great show every year.

Due to its airy nature, it forms a fairly see-through clump which is invaluable in a border as plants will not crowd out others, allowing them to grow up and through its delicate leaves, and as the flowers are held high they will not obscure other plants.

Thalictrum grows strongly in any reasonably well-lit border, even in the poorest soils and forms an airy cloud of tiny, pinkish-purple blooms on ferny foliage. The centre of each of the cupped flowers is filled with tiny yellow stamens, making them really stand out on a summer's day.

Spells of poor summer weather do not seem to bother it and the plants are fresh, healthy and colourful all year with an attractive pink tinge to the young spring growth.

A great plant for filling spacious borders and very nice as a cut flower in large floral vases.

What Is Supplied

Supplied as an established plant in a 9cm pot, ready for potting on or planting out.

Thalictrum will reach approx. 1.5m (5ft) height when in bloom.

Meadow Rue Plant Care - How To Grow Meadow Rue Flowers - garden

The buttercup family (ranunculacea) has 1,700 species distributed around the world with about 70 occuring in Wisconsin. Some of the more familiar species include wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana), marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), and American pasque flower (Anemone patens L. var. multifida). Early meadowrue ( Thalictrum dioicum ) is one member of the family blooming in the woods this time of year. With graceful grayish-green fern-like foliage, and dainty, tassel-like flowers, this one is worth finding on a spring walk.


Early meadowrue, Thalictrum dioicum, grows up to 2 1/2' tall and wide. It's pale green to purplish stems are round (terete), smooth (glabrous) and look like they have a white powdery coating (they're glaucous). Meadowrue leaves are arranged alternately on the stem and are doubly or triply compound. That is, the leaf is divided into segments once and then the segments are further divided into leaflets. The entire leaf is up to 1' long and wide and the leaflets are about 1 1/2". The upper surface of the leaves is medium green while the undersides are pale green.

Branched flower structures (corymbs) form at the tops of the main stems and hold pendant flowers. Unlike many plants which have bisexual (monecious) flowers with both male and female parts, early meadow rue flowers are either male or female and found on seperate male and female plants (they're dioecious, hence the species name dioicum). Both male and female flowers have 5 to 7 green sepals but lack petals since they are wind pollinated and do not need to attract insects. Male flowers are pendant and have 10 or more yellow stemans while females are held upright and have about 20 pistils. Fertilized female flowers produce fruits (seeds) called achenes which are ellipse shaped, ribbed, and pointed at each end.

Early meadowrue is ephemeral, actively growing and flowering in the spring before the trees leaf out and block the sunlight and then dying down for the summer. The plants may produce a few fresh low leaves in the fall but then go dormant again until the following spring.

The root system consists of slowly creeping rhizomes with fibrous roots attatched.


Found in the eastern half of Canada and the United States, early meadowrue extends from North Dakota to Maine in the northern United States and from Arkansas to Georgia in the South.

Habitat and Cultivation

Early meadowrue prefers to grow in ravines, on clay or loam wooded slopes, and in rich mesic (neither too wet nor too dry) woodlands. It is common in forests with a lot of sugar maple and basswood. In cultivation, early meadowrue grows well in moist garden soil in a shaded spot that gets plenty of sunshine in the spring before the trees leaf out. Because the plants often go dormant by mid summer the thoughtful gardener will want to keep track of where the dormant roots are so she or he doesn't accidently dig them up or damage them.

Wildlife Value

Because they are pollinated by the wind early meadowrue do not produce showy flowers or nectar and are not of interest to pollinators. Rabbit and deer browse the leaves which are also the food for the larvae of up to four different species of moths.

Meadow Rue

Meadow rues are tall and lovely plants with flowers that lack petals but have dozens of fluffy stamens. The English word "rue" refers to the resemblance between the leaves of these plants and the herb rue (Ruta). Thalictrum is an old Greek name for this genus.

Description of meadow rue: The leaves are compound (the species name means "leaves like an Aquilegia or columbine") on stout-branched stalks growing up to 4 feet tall. Plants bear clusters of rosy purple, petalless flowers with many stamens, resembling balls of fluff. They bloom in late May and June. Ease of care: Moderately easy.

Growing meadow rue: Soil for meadow rues should be moist with plenty of additional organic matter in partial shade. In cool gardens in the North, they can take full sun. In hot summers, they must have additional moisture.

Propagating meadow rue: By division in early spring or by seed.

Uses for meadow rue: Use these plants in the wild garden where they naturalize with ease. They are also excellent at the back of a bed or border. Both flowers and foliage are good for bouquets.

Meadow rue related species:Thalictrum polygamum, or tall meadow rue, is an American native wild-flower often reaching a height of 10 feet when conditions are to its liking. The flowers are white. It works well in the back of the garden or in a swampy area of the wild or water garden. Thalictrum speciosissimum blooms in June with bright yellow flowers on 6-foot stalks and plants with very attractive blue-green foliage.

Meadow rue related variety: Album has white flowers. Thundercloud has deep purple flowers.

Scientific name for meadow rue:Thalictrum aquilegifolium

The Plant Guide

This beautiful specimen has tall, delicate stems punctuated by clusters of columbine-like, bluish gray leaves. In summer, it bears sprays of nodding lavender-pink or white flowers with pale yellow stamens that reach as high as 3 feet. Plants grow to 12 inches wide. Plant at the back of a border it may require staking.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsIt earns its place in the garden with its foliage alone. It does well as a backdrop or see-through plant in a mixed border. It is also suitable for a wild or woodland garden.

CareProvide moist, humus-rich soil in partial shade. It may require staking. Most Thalictrum are late to emerge in mid- to late spring.

PropagationSow seed in a cold frame when fresh. Divide as new growth appears in spring.

ProblemsPowdery mildew, rust, white smut, leaf spots, slugs.

  • Genus : Thalictrum
  • Plant Width : 1 to 3 feet
  • Plant Height : 3 to 6 feet
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Bloom Time : Early Summer, Late Summer, Summer
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Moisture : Medium to Wet
  • Growth Rate : Moderate
  • Maintenance : Moderate
  • Plant Type : Perennials
  • Flower Color : Pink, White, Yellow
  • Foliage Color : Purple/Burgundy
  • Characteristics : Self Seeds, Showy Foliage
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Spring Interest

The Plant Guide

Thalictrum flavum ssp. glaucum

This classy specimen has beautifully textured, blue-gray foliage. Its summertime pale yellow flowers are petalless and fringed, occurring in clusters atop chalky bluish gray stems. Plant at the back of a border it may require staking.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsLike many meadow rues, dusty meadow rue earns it place in the garden with its foliage alone. It will do well as a backdrop or see-through plant in a mixed border and is suitable for a wild or woodland garden as well. Plants grow to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide.

CareProvide moist, humus-rich soil in partial shade. It may require staking. Most Thalictrums are late to emerge in mid- to late spring.

PropagationSow seed in a cold frame when fresh. Divide as new growth appears in spring.

ProblemsPowdery mildew, rust, white smut, leaf spots, slugs.

  • Genus : Thalictrum
  • Plant Width : 1 to 3 feet
  • Plant Height : 3 to 6 feet
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8
  • Bloom Time : Early Summer, Late Summer, Summer
  • Characteristics : Fragrant Flowers, Showy Foliage
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Moisture : Medium to Wet
  • Growth Rate : Moderate
  • Maintenance : Moderate
  • Plant Type : Perennials
  • Foliage Color : Purple/Burgundy
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Spring Interest
  • Flower Color : Yellow

Rules For Growing Rue

Rue is a beautiful, aromatic perennial herb with many culinary and medicinal uses. Hardy from zone 4 to 9, Rue thrives with little care and grows in a shrubby habit. It enjoys hot, dry climates, and poor, sandy, even rocky soil, and proves to be pretty drought-resistant when established. Great in rock gardens and areas where little else will sprout, this beautiful and practical herb has a rich history and is a cinch to grow!

Rue can be started from seeds and usually germinates in one to four weeks. Rue seeds need light to germinate be sure to surface-sow your seeds before setting them in a warm, sunny area. Seeds can typically be sown at sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit for topical germination. Check out our seedlings and young rue plants below!

When big enough, Rue should be transplanted to well-drained soil in full sun. As stated, Rue thrives in poor soils — try planting in the most troubled area of your herb garden. Though cold-hardy and generally unaffected by cooler weather until the first hard frost, Rue should be mulched in the winter to protect it against bitter temperatures. A great companion plant for Alpine Strawberries, Figs, Roses and Raspberries, Rue acts as a natural insect repellent and protects its neighboring plants from harmful pests. Though friendly to some plants, it’s not advised to plant Rue near Basil, Sage or Mint because it will inhibit their growth.

Rue flowers in the late spring and we’ve found that for the best culinary flavor, it’s best to trim the flowering buds from the plant before it goes to seed. Keep the buds, as they’re a limited-time-only delicacy and represent the best part of the plant to cook with. Through trial and error when growing fields of this versatile herb, we’ve found that once Rue actually goes to seed, the plants get more ragged and bitter. In our fields, we just walk down the rows with a weed-eater and whack the tops of the Rue plants off before they can flower, but you can be more meticulous and use pruners or sturdy scissors, like Professional Shears or a pair of Bypass Pruners to collect the delicate flower buds.

When pruning, remember to wear protective clothing and rubber gardening gloves! Rue’s essential oils can cause photodermatitis, an allergic reaction caused when the Rue oil interacts with your skin and is then activated by sunlight. This typically causes painful blistering, irritation or a rash, much like poison ivy, and can be contracted by merely brushing against or handling the leaves. It’s best to wear protective clothing when working with Rue and to harvest it on cloudy days or at sunset when the sun’s rays aren’t as strong.

Watch the video: Effects of building height u0026 floral display on green roof pollinator communities. Shannon Underwood

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