How to Grow Rumex Plants

Gardener's HQ Guide to Growing Sorrel, Dock weed

Rumex are hardy perennial herbs that range from 45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 inches) in height.

They have green arrow shaped leaves. These that can be used in soups. Plants come into bloom in the middle of summer.

Common names for Rumex genus members is Sheep's Sorrel, Sour weed, and Field sorrel.

If growing for culinary use, then it is recommended that you use Rumex scutatus (French Sorrel).

Rumex venosus
Rumex venosus by Matt Lavin.

Rumex Growing and Care Guide

  • Common Names: Sorrel, Dock weed.
  • Life Cycle: Hardy perennial. Some annuals and biennials.
  • Height: 18 to 40 inches (45—100 cm).
  • Native: Northern hemisphere.
  • Growing Region: Zones 5 to 9.

  • Flowers: Middle of summer.
  • Flower Details: Pink. Small. Clustered. Unisexual.
  • Fruit: Small triangular achene.
  • Foliage: Herbaceous. Dark-green. Large. Ovate with basal leaf lobes, thus producing an arrow shape. Sour/acidic tasting.

  • Sow Outside: Seeds: 1/4 inch (6 mm). Second half of spring.
  • Sow Inside: Germination time: one to two weeks. Temperature: ~68°F (20°C). One month in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost. Space at 12 inches (30 cm), or grow larger species singly.
  • Requirements and care: Full sunlight for best results or partial shade. Rich, moist soil. Acidic soil pH 5.5—6. Provide a spring feed. Regular watering to prevent bitter leaves in hot climates. Harvest leaves to promote further growth. Propagate: by dividing at the start of spring or in autumn. Self-seeds readily (Dead-head to prevent seed-set) and can also spread from its roots.

  • Family: Polygonaceae.
  • Closely Related Species: Knotweed, Buckwheat, and Docks.
  • Miscellaneous: Large genus of 200 species containing both useful plants grown for their edible leaves in soups and sauces (e.g., Common Sorrel: Rumex acetosa), and to wrap butter (Butter Dock: (Rumex obtusifolius) and all out weeds such as Dock. If you are planning to grow this species then you should be aware that it could spread like crazy via its long tap-root system. Therefore, it is highly recommended to grow within a contained space or container. Attracts certain butterflies and moths e.g., the blood-vein moth.

How to Grow Sorrel and other Rumex

Due to their fecund nature, it is best to grow Sorrel in containers to separate them from other members of the herb garden. The Sorrel seeds should be sown at a depth of 6 mm (1/4 inch) in the middle of spring.

The container that Rumex grows in should have a rich acidic soil (pH 5.5 to 6) that is moist, and the container should be placed into a sunny area of the garden.

The Sorrel plants should be spaced about 30 to 40 cm (12 to 16 inches) apart, if using a very large container or singularly in smaller containers.

If starting off indoors, then sow sorrel seeds about a month before the last frost. They should take about 9 or 10 days to germinate at 18 to 20 degrees centigrade (64 to 68°F). Transplant them outdoors just after the last frost.

Caring for Rumex

Easy to look after, but difficult to control due to their prolific seed production.

In the spring time supply Rumex plants with a feed and a mulch. It is best to water regularly as this prevents the sorrel leaves from having a bitter taste.

After three years replace sorrel plants as they tend to lose both vigor and flavor.


Classified as a Noxious weed in many areas. As it grows from rhizomes it spreads easily, and is diificult to control.

Common Questions

How many members does the Rumex genus contain?

The Rumex genus contains about 200 species of annuals, biennials, and perennials.

Do Rumex make for a good garden or landscaping plant?

Some Rumex species, such as Rumex sanguineus (Bloodwort), are used in gardens for their attractive leaves. However, mmost others are considered weeds.

Which Rumex species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Rumex sanguineus, or Bloodwort, is often grown for its deep red-veined leaves which add a pop of color to gardens. French sorrel (Rumex Scutatus) is often grown for use in salads.

Are Rumex plants fragrant?

Rumex plants aren't typically fragrant, but some species are grown for their distinctive foliage.

What is the perfect location to grow Rumex?

Rumex species generally prefer full sun to part shade and can adapt to a variety of soil conditions.

Is Rumex invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Some Rumex species such as Rumex crispus (Curled Dock) are considered invasive in parts of the USA due to their persistent growth habits.

How do I remove Rumex plants from my garden?

To remove Rumex, dig out the entire plant, making sure to get all of the long taproot. If left in the ground, it can regrow.


The Rumex genus includes plants commonly known as Docks or Sorrels. They are widespread around the world, and some are used as leaf vegetables or ornamental plants.

These plants are hardy and easy to grow, preferring full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil. They can be planted in spring or fall and are suitable for vegetable gardens, borders, or as ground cover.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Rumex plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Polygonum and other plants that attract wildlife to the garden.