Growing Rue to Repel Cats
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Pauline
Posted on: August 06, 2006

I live on a Montreal street with classic spiral staircase outside. Beneath the staircase is barren earth. Local cats see this as a litterbox. If I sow rue there a) will it grow (if watered)?

Rue can be direct-seeded in the garden where it is to grow but we generally recommend sowing in pots or a seed flat first. Rue is somewhat slow to develop from seeds. By this indirect method you will be able to care for the seedlings better before they reach a size at which they can fend for themselves. You will transplant the seeds to pots and then when the plants are 4-6 inches tall, you can move them to the garden.

Now, you say that the ground is barren at the base of the stairs: this must mean that the site either gets poor light, little rain, or the soil is inhospitable for plants. If nothing else will grow under the stairs then rue won’t either.

b) would cats avoid the area if it were strewed with dried rue?

First, as I say in my previous posting on rue and cats (http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./QandA/Animals/19990815-2.html) there are some reports that rue works against cats, but the effect seems to be hit-and-miss as not all cats are bothered by rue. This is with live plants that give off a noticeable odour when brushed against. I can only speculate on what the effect of dried rue would be. My guess is that it would have some effect but not as sustained or as strong as live plants.

c) does rue need a lot of sun ... how high does it grow ... wide does it spread ... ?

Yes, it prefers full sun but can tolerate varying degrees of shade. But if your site is barren because of deep shade then I doubt that rue would grow there. It grows 50-90 cm (20-30 inches) and spreads 45-70 cm (18-28 inches).

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