Galega – planting, care and tips

Galega (Galega officinalis)
Galega (Galega officinalis) - CC BY-SA 3.0,

Thanks to its loose structure and delicately colored flowers, the galega charms with a playful lightness. Find here tips for planting and care.

Profile of galega:

Scientific name: Galega officinalis

Plant family: legume family (Fabaceae)

Other names: goat’s-rue, French lilac, Italian fitch, professor-weed

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring or autumn

Flowering period: June to September

Harvest time: spring to autumn

Location: sunny

Soil quality: sandy to loamy, low in nutrients, moderately dry

These information are for temperate climate!

Use as a medicinal herb: cystitis, diabetes, fever, lowers blood sugar

Use in: flower beds, single position, group planting, borders, apothecary garden, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 4 (-23 °C / -5 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of galega

Plant order, origin and occurrence of galega

The goat’s rue (Galega officinalis), which belongs to the legume family (Fabaceae), is native to Central, Southern and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Because it easily overgrows, it is considered an invasive plant in some areas. The generic name Galega is derived from the Greek word “gála”, which means “milk”, and the Latin “agere” for “bring”, because the consumption of the galega leads to an increase in milk production for cows. The species name officinalis indicates the use of the perennial as a medicinal plant. For other grazing animals, however, galega is considered poisonous. In nature, the perennial prefers moist, loamy meadows and is often found along streams and riparian forests.

Characteristics of galega


The galega grows as an upright, up to 120 centimeter (45 in) high perennial and forms a wide cluster. With its turnip-like, nitrogen-storing roots, it survives the cold season. Their stems are serrated on the outside and hollow on the inside.


The long leaves of the galega are alternate on the branches. They are pinnate and consist of 9 to 17 lanceolate leaflets. Its stipules sitting on the base of the stem are arrow-shaped.


The blossoms of the goat’s-rue show the typical plan of the papilionaceae with wings, flag and boat. They are up to 1.5 centimeters (0.6 in) long, white or pale pink and always slightly bluish in color. The single flowers of Galega officinalis are dense together in large numbers in a racemose, upright inflorescence. The flowering period begins in late June and continues until September. Galega is considered a good bee pasture.


As common for the plant family, galega forms legumes. The up to 3 centimeters (1.2 in) long, cylindrical and bare pods contain countless brown, flat seeds.

Galega – cultivation and care


The galega feels most comfortable in a sunny spot in the bed.


With normal garden soil, Galega officinalis copes well. It is important that the surface is permeable, as this affects their stability. It tends to tip over on heavy soils.


Spring or autumn are the best times to plant the goat’s-rue. Since it develops spreading clusters, you should leave at least 50 centimeters (20 in) planting distance. Three to four plants are planted per square meter (10 sq ft.).


After planting, you should water the galega in dry periods, otherwise this wild perennial is quite easy to care for. However, their strong growth can quickly appear messy. It is therefore advisable to cut their shoots back to a third after the main bloom, so that a second bloom is formed in late summer. If necessary, one should support wobbly shoots.


The easiest way to propagate the slightly germinating goat’s-rue is by seeds, which are applied directly to the desired location from April. Because of their turnip-like roots, division is not possible.

Diseases and pests

The galega is very robust and less susceptible to diseases and pests.


Galega is hardy down to -23 °C / -5 °F.

Use of galega

In the garden

As a single plant or in a small group, galega has a very decorative effect. Thanks to their loose, lush growth pattern and their striking, pretty inflorescences, the plant brings playful structures to planting combinations. In herbaceous beds you should plant them in the background, because thanks to the good nutrient supply they easily reach a height of 120 centimeters. However, you should support them with perennial rings or similar.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the Irish Hartland Nursery launched various cultivars of Galega officinalis. These are also available under the name Galega x hartlandii.

Galega x hartlandii ‘His Majesty’ develops large, two-colored flowers in white and light purple, while the variety ‘Alba’ flowers pure white.

As a medicinal plant

The ingredients contained in the plant such as flavonoids, saponins and allantoin are said to have a healing effect. Its effect is said to be particularly positive for breastfeeding women: goat’s rue has a very lactation effect and was therefore recommended to mothers as a tea. Furthermore, their effect is antibiotic, lowering blood sugar, diuretic and sweaty. The plant is also said to be good against cystitis, diabetes and fever. In the 16th century it was even used as a medicinal plant against plague and smallpox. It was often administered as tea. Today people have become a little more critical with their consumption, as the galega contains toxins, especially during the flowering period, which are retained even when they dry.

The most common way to use galega is tea.

Preparation of a galega tea

  • put one or two teaspoons of galega in a ta strainer in a cup
  • dash with boiling water
  • let steep for 10 minutes
  • drink in small sips
  • drink one to three cups of this tea a day

As with all effective medicinal herbs, you should take a break after six weeks of continuous use and temporarily drink another tea with a similar effect. You can then drink goat lozenge tea again for six weeks. The pause prevents any undesirable long-term effects and the desired goat lozenge effectiveness is retained and does not diminish through habituation.

Lactation supporting tea

The milk-promoting effects of the goat’s-rue have been known for a long time and have recently been confirmed by medical studies. Even the generic name indicates the promotion of lactation. The Greek “gála” comes from “milk” and “agere” from “bring”.

The increase in the amount of milk is particularly noticeable in the first days after birth. The goat’s-rue helps in cases where lactation is difficult to start.

Lowering blood sugar

The blood sugar-lowering effect of the galega has only recently been noticed more carefully. Therefore, it is included in some teas for the accompanying diabetic treatment.

However, the lowering effect on blood sugar has not yet been medically examined. Therefore, you should not rely on the goat rue’s hypoglycemic effect.

When treating diabetes, you should keep an eye on your blood sugar level anyway and use herbal products only as a supplement. However, medicinal plants can be used to reduce the need for insulin or the need for medications to lower blood sugar, especially in combination with physical exercise and a balanced diet.


Ask your doctor or pharmacist. Visiting this page can not replace the visit to the doctor. For serious or unclear complaints, consult your doctor.

Galega as a foodplant

In the past, the goat’s-rue was often cultivated as a fodder plant for grazing animals. However, it can be toxic as food, in extreme cases even fatal, so that it is no longer used as a foodplant today.


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