Ohio Landscape Association

Perennial Focus

Thalictrum Meadow Rue

Although Thalictrum only blooms for about a month, its delicate, lobed foliage lends an interesting texture to the garden. There are several species, some tall, some short, so you have many choices. The foliage is similar to that of Columbine and is usually blue-green. Although the flowers are small, there is a multitude of them.

The first Meadow Rue I grew was Thalictrum aquilegifolium (Common Meadow Rue). It sports big, fluffy, pink flowers on three to four foot stems in late spring and early summer. A European native, it is hardy in zones 5 to 8, and is an excellent background plant. There is also a white cultivar, Album', but it is harder to find.

Then I moved on to Thalictrum rochebrunianum (also spelled rochebruneanum depending on your source), the Lavender Mist Meadow Rue, a Japanese species that is hardy in zones 4 to 7. This one is even taller, topping out at six to seven feet when in bloom. The lavender flowers have yellow stamens and are infinitely more delicate than those of the Common Meadow Rue. They also bloom later, appearing in August. Mine is sited against a fence in morning shade and afternoon sun. If the tree to its left didn't have somewhat low branches into which I could twine the stems, they would be falling over the hydrangeas in front.

A yellow-flowered Thalictrum, similar to Thalictrum aquilegifolium, is Thalictrum flavum, aptly named Yellow Meadow Rue. This European species is a bit taller than Thalictrum aquilegifolium at five to six feet and blooms in early and mid summer. It seems to be more tolerant of heat and humidity than some of the other species although my T. rochebrunianum has been in my garden for many years. T. flavum subsp. glaucum has foliage that is bluer than that of the species itself.

The best known of the American species is T. dioicum (Early Meadow Rue). Native from North Dakota to Georgia, its greenish white flowers show up in April and May on one to two foot stems that have grayish-green leaves. This species is dioecious (male and female reproductive organs on separate flowers and on separate plants), thus the botanical name.

A very short species is T. kiusianum (Dwarf Meadow Rue). This Japanese native, hardy in zones 5 to 8, has tiny lavender flowers and dainty, fern-like foliage with a slight bronze tinge. It only grows four to six inches high although a bit wider in early summer and could be used as a slowly mat-forming groundcover in rock gardens or troughs.

In the wild, Thalictrum is found in damp soil and often in partial shade. In the landscape, humus-rich, well-drained soils are best. They do quite well in full sun and will lean toward the light if planted in partial shade. Site the tall ones behind other perennials or shrubs so you don't have to stake them.

Happily, they do not appear on deer and rabbit menus and they are relatively immune to pests and diseases. I'm sure there's a place in the landscapes you design for at least one of these Meadow Rues.

Bobbie Schwartz, FAPLD, owner of Bobbie's Green Thumb in Shaker Heights., Ohio, is a landscape designer, consultant, free-lance writer, and lecturer whose specialties are perennial gardens and four-season landscapes. In addition to being and Ohio Landscape Association (OLA) member, she is an active member of the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association (ONLA) and Perennial Plant Association (PPA). Bobbie is a Past President of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), and currently serves as chair of the ONLA Plant Selection Committee. Bobbie can be reached at (216) 752-9449.

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