Meadow Rue Plant Profile

Meadow Rue displays purple, yellow, pink, or white blooms in late summer.

Mandy Disher Photography / Getty Images

Meadow Rue grows from a yellowish root. Small flowers form plentiful, delicate clusters. Sometimes mistaken for Columbine, the petals face downward off lobed leaves, the foliage ranging from blue-green to bright chartreuse. Modest and whispy blooms rise four to six feet tall. Pair shorter varieties with petite hosta, heaths and heathers for a range of pink and purple amid a rock garden. This herbaceous perennial is resistant to deer and rabbits, while it attracts many bees and butterflies. Establish a pollinator patch of meadow rue and other tall summer blooms like Bee Balm and Agastache, while low-growing lavender and climbing clematis mingle with the sturdy stems.

Botanical Name Thalictrum rochebruneanum
Common Name Meadow Rue, Lavender Mist Meadow Rue
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size Six inches to six feet tall and one to four feet wide
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type Well-drained, rich, humusy
Soil pH 5.0-8.0
Bloom Time Late summer
Flower Color Light purple or pink, white, yellow
Hardiness Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Native Area Japan
Meadow Rue displays purple, yellow, pink, or white blooms in late spring.
Mandy Disher Photography / Getty Images

How to Grow Meadow Rue

This herbaceous perennial is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7. Certain varieties grow a mere few inches, hugging the ground, while others tower over other perennials at the height of a tall human. Low Meadow Rue and Kyoshu Meadow Rue can rest low amid a rock garden. However, Lavender Mist reaches up to six to eight feet; flowers are lavender violet upon numerous yellow stamens.

Generally, Meadow Rue grows two to four feet wide. Space the plant accordingly. Varieties any taller than five feet tall should be staked to keep the plants from falling over. A more holistic approach is to arrange in groups of three or more so the stems can support each other as they do in the wild. This airy plant offers lush foliage as a background perennial border, amid a wildflower garden or, as the name suggests, a meadow.

Light

Find a variety that is hardy in your zone, as there are numerous to choose from in zones 3-9. Native to Japan, Meadow Rue thrives in shaded woodlands or partially shaded wetlands or swamp-like areas graced by dappled light. When given an ideal environment, blooms will last up to two months. Deadhead to let the blooms last through early summer.

Soil

Meadow Rue originally grew in marshes. Grow in rich, humus-y soil. An average, medium-moisture, well-drained soil will do just fine, too. While they can tolerate full sun in cooler climates, the soil needs to be kept moist. This perennial usually does not survive hot and humid summers of the deep south of North America, though in a warmer zone, cover plants with mulch to protect from heat. In cooler zones, cover plants with mulch in winter.

Water

Keep moist but not wet. The plant is not prone to insect infestation or diseases, but it can develop powdery mildew if left standing in water.

Propagating Meadow Rue

Meadow Rue can be propagated by division or seeds. Like many shade-tolerant flowers, it does not like to be moved. If division is deemed necessary, wait until the plant is established after about five years and divide in spring.

Plant seeds from the flower heads in fall. Actually, packaged Meadow Rue seed tends to have a lower germination rate. Patience is key. Seedlings germinate in one year and flower in two or three.

Toxicity

Steeped in rich history, the plant is also a medicinal herb. Blackfoot Indian girls would tie the flowers in their hair as "love medicine." The legend goes that Meadow Rue could capture the first male who laid eyes on them, while young men crushed the inflorescence with spittle in their palms, hoping that a maiden would accept their hand. Meanwhile, young boys made toy flutes from hollow stems. Also, the Ojibwa and Potowatomi put the seeds in a quarreling couple's food to ease their troubles.

With regard to physical health, the seeds are known to stop cramps. Listed on the U.S. Dispensatory of 1916, roots of a purple variety (T. dasycarpum) have been used as a purgative and diuretic, reduce fever, and improve blood circulation. Meadow Rue root has also been used to ease palpitations, a call back to matters of the heart.

Meadow Rue belongs to the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family. Because many Ranunculaceae are toxic, do not ingest the plant without proper instruction from a professional. It has also been reported harmful to dogs if eaten in a large quantity.

Varieties

  • Low meadow rue (T. minus) has greenish yellow flowers on green/gray-green foliage. It grows 12 to 24 inches tall in zones 3-7.
  • Kyoshu meadow rue (T. kiusianum) is a classic lavender variety native to Japan. It reaches a modest four to six inches in zones 6-8.
  • Columbine meadow rue (T. aquilegifolium) has mauve blooms. It grows two to three foot tall in zones 5-7.
  • Yellow meadow rue (T. flavum) is native to Europe and eastern Mediterranean. It grows three feet tall in zones 5-8.
  • Yunnan meadow rue (T. delavayi) is native to China. It grows five feet tall in zones 4-7.
  • Dusty meadow rue (T. flavum) grows four to six feet, its creamy yellow flowers growing in dense clusters in summer. Native to Spain and Northwest African, it is more heat tolerant than other varieties.
  • Lavender Mist meadow rue (T. rochebrunianum) is native to Japan. The plant reaches an unusual height of six to eight feet. It displays lavender violet flowers and numerous yellow stamens in zones 4-7.