The Garden Companion Plant That Keeps Pests Far Away From Your Roses

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The Garden Companion Plant That Keeps Pests Far Away From Your Roses

If you’re interested in growing roses or protecting your rose garden from pests like Japanese beetles and ants, then you should consider using rue plants as a natural defense. Rue plants, also known as Ruta graveolens, have a strong aroma that is unpleasant to most pests. By strategically planting rue around your rose garden, you can create a barrier that pests will avoid. Japanese beetles can be especially problematic for rose gardeners as they not only eat the leaves but the blossoms as well, which can cause significant damage to the plants and even lead to their demise if left untreated.

Rue plants contain compounds like rutin and coumarin that contribute to the strong scent that repels pests and are also toxic to many insects. Choosing a natural solution like rue over synthetic pesticides can benefit your entire garden’s ecosystem by encouraging beneficial insects while deterring harmful ones. To use rue effectively as a pest repellent, it’s essential to understand the plant’s origin, appearance, and growing conditions. This knowledge will increase the rue plant’s efficacy as a pest deterrent, making it a valuable addition to your rose garden.

Origins and characteristics of the rue plant

rue plant in garden

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The rue plant originates from Southern Europe. Over the years, it has also made its home in various areas across the United States. The plant features bluish-green leaves and reaches a modest height of about 3 feet, making it a manageable addition to most gardens. Its feathery leaves are the powerhouses that emit a strong scent. Rue also boasts yellow flowers that bloom in the summer, adding a splash of color to your garden scheme. Interestingly, rue has a rich history of being used for medicinal purposes, although caution is advised due to its strong compounds. It has antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, which have made it a subject of interest in traditional medicine. However, when it comes to your garden, its primary role will be as a guardian for your roses.

When incorporating it into your rose garden, keep in mind that rue is a perennial plant; it’s here to stay, year-round. This is excellent news for your roses, especially if they’re seasonal varieties. Even when the roses aren’t in bloom, rue continues its vigilance, ensuring your garden remains a no-go zone for pests. Also, consider its growth habit. Unlike roses, which can spread out substantially, rue tends to grow more vertically, which allows you to make the most of your available space by planting rue in gaps between your rose bushes or along pathways that border your rose beds.

Growing rue for optimal pest control

person holding rue herb

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So you’re convinced that the rue plan is the stalwart defender your rose garden needs. Great! Now, how do you go about planting it in a way that maximizes its pest-repelling superpowers? First, it helps to understand its growing conditions to provide optimum care. Rue is remarkably undemanding. It prefers well-drained, even dry soil and is drought-tolerant once established. However, it appreciates regular watering during its settling-in period. Sunlight is another friend of rue; place it in a spot where it gets full sun to partial shade. If your roses enjoy similar growing conditions, you’re in luck. Both plants will thrive side-by-side without competing for resources.

Now, where exactly should you plant rue to best protect your roses? Strategically positioning rue plants around the perimeters of your rose beds is a solid approach. You can also intersperse them within the rose bushes for a more diffused barrier. The aromatic compounds that deter pests are most potent when rue and roses grow nearby.

Once your rue is mature and thriving, consider harvesting some leaves to make a natural, dry insect repellent. Dry and shred the leaves, then scatter them in areas of your garden where ant activity is a concern. Rue’s strong aroma and toxic compounds are as effective against ants as they are against beetles. It’s another testament to this plant’s versatility.

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Dr Heidi Parkes

By Dr Heidi Parkes

Senior Information Extension Officer QLD Dept of Agriculture & Fisheries.