HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral to slightly acid
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Fertile, moist
PREFERRED LIGHT: Partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Feathery rose, purple, while, or yellow flowers, ferny foliage; for beds
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring and summer
FAVORITES: T. rochebrvnianum 'Lavender Mist'; T. aquilegi-folium; T. kiusianum
QUIRKS: Semi-evergreen in Zones 7 and 8
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Bleeding heart, blood- root, columbine, hosta, lobelia, Solomon's seal
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: The edges of wooded areas; in partial shade and moist soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Staking may be needed in fertile soil, which causes spindly growth
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives many years; divide crowded clumps
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
SOURCE: Seeds, division, stem cuttings
DIMENSIONS: 6 in-6 ft (15.2 cm-1.8 m) tall, 12 in (30.5 cm) wide
Meadow Rue in the Landscape
Meadow rue is a graceful plant with the texture of a maidenhair fern and a bonus of airy pastel flowers. As the name implies, this is a fine plant for meadows but it's also ideal for the edges of woodlands and for flower gardens. Standing 3-6 ft (1-1.8 m) tall, meadow rue has presence when set in the background, while its attractive foliage and powder-puff flowers invite close scrutiny.
Shade-tolerant meadow rue combines well with hosta, columbine, and Solomon's seal. Its delicate green foliage, which appears in midspring, makes it ideal for combining with ephemeral spring-flowering woodland plants, such as Virginia bluebells, bleeding heart, and trillium, filling the site where their leaves fade away in early summer.
Flowers with a Watercolor Palette
Once appreciated only by wildflower enthusiasts, meadow rue has recently caught the interest of nursery professionals. Thalictrum rochcbnmianum 'Lavender Mist' reaches the impressive height of 6 ft (1.8 m) and has clusters of puffball-like purple flowers on wiry purple stems. Plant it in front of dark evergreens for contrast, with a front edge of tulips, bleeding hearts, hostas, and columbines. Also compelling are two species that stand 3 ft (1 m) tall: T. flavum ssp. glaucum (formerly T.spcciosusimum), with airy, pale yellow flowers and gray-green leaves, and T. aquilrgi folium, with white, lavender, or pink blossoms. For a shorter thalictrum, try T.kiusianum from Japan. At only 6 in (15.2 cm) tall with a spread of up to 2 ft (0.6 m), it produces lavender flower puffs and is delightful for edging a woodland path or shady walkway.
Growing Meadow Rue
Plant meadow rue in fertile, moist, well-drained soil, in a location that receives partial shade to sun. Plants growing in hot climates especially appreciate afternoon shade. To make a strong statement, group 3-5 plants, spacing them 14-16 in (35.6-40.6 cm) apart. Each spring, apply a 1 in (2.5 cm) layer of composted manure at the base of the plants to keep the roots fertilized, cool, and moist.
In midsummer, if the leaves begin to decline after blooming ceases, you can prune the foliage back to the ground to force fresh new leaves. Pruning off the seed heads also prevents this wildflower from reseeding.
Most species can be started from seeds sown outdoors in late summer. Cover the seeds with 1 /8 in (0.5 mm) of soil and keep them moist until seedlings are established. To increase your stock, take stem cuttings in spring and root them in moist soil. You can also divide mature plants in early spring. But, unless your stand becomes too dense, you can safely leave these insect- and pest-free plants undisturbed for years.