Dictionary of Flowers: Artemisia (Wormwood)

Lovely white Artemisia covers container beds. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of M A N U E L and Flickr
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Lovely white Artemisia covers container beds. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of M A N U E L and Flickr

  • Artemisia
  • Common name: artemisia, wormwood
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Category: Perennial in USDA zones 3-8
  • Height: 12" to 36" 
  • Width: 12" and up, depending on species
  • Sun
  • Blooms: summer, but grown mainly for foliage interest
  • Growth habit: clumping, erect, mounding depending on species. Use as fillers in containers
  • Maintenance: easy
  • Soil: average, well drained. Water sparingly. Drought tolerant
  • Garden uses: edging plant, containers, specimen plant, borders, slopes
  • Diseases: resistant to disease
  • Pests: no pests

Artemisia is a large group of perennial and annual plants grown mainly for their foliage. The name artemisia might come from the Greek goddess Artemis.

The genus includes herbs (tarragon), ornamental and medicinal plants (sweet annie).

Ornamental artemisia species have silvery green, feathered leaves.

The leaves emit a pleasant scent when touched. The light yellow flowers are insignificant.

Artemisia is very easy to grow. It prefers full sun, although it can handle part shade and average soil that is well drained.

It needs a hard trimming in the spring to achieve more compact growth and to prevent them from losing their form.

A few species can spread aggressively. Do not fertilize Artemisia.

Wormwood can be propagated by stem cuttings in early summer, by root division or seed. Stem cuttings should be four inches or so with a piece of old wood attached if propagating shrubby types; for other forms, softwood cuttings work best.

A close-up of Australian wormwood. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of David Eickhoff and Flickr
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A close-up of Australian wormwood. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of David Eickhoff and Flickr

Strip the leaves from the bottom of the cutting, leaving a few leaves on the top half, pinch back the top and dip in rooting hormone. Plant in moist potting soil. Keep in the shade, watering regularly. They should root in four weeks when kept between sixty and seventy degrees.

Artemisia can be divided in the early spring.

Tarragon and sweet annie (artemisia dracunculus and artemisia annua) can be grown from seed.

Some wormwood plants are bushier than others. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of M A N U E L and Flickr
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Some wormwood plants are bushier than others. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of M A N U E L and Flickr

Seldom times, if artemisia is grown in poorly drained, compacted soil, it can develop root rot or rust. It is deer resistant and doesn't suffer pest problems.

Popular varieties:

  • -Artemisia hybrid 'Powis Castle' - compact form, one to three feet tall. Deeply cut, feathery foliage
  • -Artemisia schmidtiana 'Nana' - one to two feet tall, dense and mounded, best for cooler zones
  • -Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis' - two feet, wide leaves, silver
  • -Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade' - short, six inches tall. Silvery white foliage
  • -Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver Queen' and 'Silver King' - tall and upright
Wormwood has a similar look to some large ferns or fir trees. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr
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Wormwood has a similar look to some large ferns or fir trees. Image used under a Creative Commons licence with the kind permission of Patrick Standish and Flickr

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