Create Your Garden

Artemisia (Wormwood)

Artemisia, encompassing varieties like tarragon and absinth, is a versatile foliage plant celebrated for its aromatic leaves and diverse culinary and medicinal uses.

Artemisia absinthium, Wormwood, Absinth, Absinthe, Common Wormwood, Girdle of St John, Green Ginger, Holy Seed, Lad's Love, Mingwort, Old Man, Old Woman, St John's Girdle, Warmot

Artemisia, commonly known as wormwood, absinthe, southernwood, tarragon, or mugwort, is a versatile foliage plant: from its use in herbal medicine to its drought tolerance and deer resistance, it is a valuable addition to a wide range of gardens. Its distinctive foliage and aromatic properties add both beauty and functionality, showcasing the plant’s unique contribution to the botanical world.

Artemisia: Wormwood, Mugwort, Absinthe, Tarragon

Artemisia is a genus of plants known for its aromatic leaves and silvery-green foliage, which bring a unique texture and color contrast to gardens. It is commonly known as wormwood, absinthe, southernwood, tarragon or mugwort. Many species within this genus are valued for their medicinal properties, ornamental beauty, and the strong, sometimes bitter, aromatic oils they produce.

Native: The Artemisia genus includes a wide range of species native to various parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America. These plants typically thrive in temperate regions and are often found in dry or semi-arid habitats, reflecting their preference for well-drained soils and sunny locations.

Artemisia belongs to the Asteraceae family, which also includes daisies and sunflowers. There are many species within the Artemisia genus, including Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood), Artemisia dracunculus (Tarragon), and Artemisia lactiflora (White Mugwort), each with distinct characteristics and uses.

Growth Habit: Artemisia can be shrubs, perennials, or annuals. These plants exhibit a range of growth habits, from upright and bushy to sprawling and ground-covering. This diversity allows gardeners to choose species that best fit their design needs, whether for structure, filler, or ground cover.

Size: The size of Artemisia plants can vary significantly depending on the species, from small, compact varieties that reach only a few inches high to larger species that can grow several feet tall and wide.

Flowers: Artemisia flowers are often arranged in panicles or spikes of small, inconspicuous, yellow or greenish flowers. While not the main attraction, they attract beneficial insects to the garden. Most Artemisia species bloom in late summer to early fall.

Foliage: The foliage of Artemisia is highly valued for its aesthetic appeal and fragrance. Leaves are often deeply divided, lending a feathery appearance, and range in color from silver to green, adding texture and contrast to garden compositions.

Hardiness: Artemisia species generally exhibit good hardiness, with most varieties being tolerant of cold and capable of surviving in USDA zones 3 through 10, depending on the species.

Uses: Beyond their ornamental value, certain Artemisia species are used in traditional medicine, culinary arts (such as Tarragon), and as natural insect repellents. Their aromatic foliage can also be used in bouquets and wreaths.

Wildlife: While the flowers of Artemisia are not as attractive to pollinators as other plants, they can still attract bees and other beneficial insects, contributing to the health of the garden ecosystem.

Toxicity: While most Artemisia species are pet-friendly, French Tarragon (A. dracunculus) poses a toxicity risk to dogs and cats. Additionally, Wormwood (A. absinthium), famous for its use in absinthe liqueur and vermouth, contains thujone, a compound that can become toxic at elevated levels. Contact with Artemisia foliage may cause mild skin irritation; if this occurs, cleanse the area with soap and water.

Deer and Rabbit: Artemisia foliage’s strong scent and taste make these plants generally resistant to deer and rabbits, making it an excellent choice for areas where these animals are prevalent.

Drought: Artemisia plants are highly drought-tolerant once established, making them suitable for xeriscaping or gardens in arid climates.

Invasiveness: While most Artemisia species are not considered invasive, their ability to self-seed and spread means that some care should be taken to manage their growth in the garden, particularly in regions where conditions are ideal for their proliferation.

What Is Special About Artemisia?

Artemisia stands out for its unique combination of ornamental beauty, medicinal properties, and aromatic foliage. This versatile genus includes plants like Wormwood, known for its role in producing absinthe, and Tarragon, a cherished culinary herb.

Its silvery-green, feathery leaves add a distinctive texture and color contrast to gardens, making it highly prized in landscape design.

Furthermore, many Artemisia species offer natural insect-repelling qualities and are used in traditional medicine for their therapeutic benefits.

Its resilience and drought tolerance make it an excellent choice for sustainable gardening practices, showcasing Artemisia’s special blend of aesthetic appeal, utility, and environmental adaptability.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 10
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs
Plant Family Asteraceae
Genus Artemisia
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 3" - 15'
(8cm - 4.6m)
Spread 8" - 10'
(20cm - 3m)
Maintenance Low, Average
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand, Chalk
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit, Drought, Dry Soil
Attracts Birds
Landscaping Ideas Edging, Banks And Slopes, Beds And Borders, Ground Covers, Patio And Containers, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden

Popular Artemisia Varieties

Garden Design With Artemisia

Incorporating Artemisia into garden design can add an elegant touch of silver and texture, complementing various garden styles from formal to naturalistic. Here are some ideas for integrating Artemisia into your garden:

Create Contrast and Texture

  • Contrast with Bold Colors: The silver or gray foliage of Artemisia contrasts beautifully with the vibrant colors of flowering plants like salvia, echinacea, or roses, making the colors pop.
  • Add Texture: The fine, feathery foliage of Artemisia adds texture and depth when planted alongside plants with broad, glossy leaves or spiky forms such as hostas or ornamental grasses.

Use as a Focal Point or Background Plant

  • Focal Point: Some taller Artemisia species can serve as focal points in garden beds or borders, drawing the eye with their unique foliage.
  • Background Planting: Use Artemisia as a backdrop for shorter, colorful perennials and annuals, where its silver leaves create a serene canvas that highlights the colors in front.

Garden ideas, Border ideas, Plant Combinations, Flowerbeds Ideas, Summer Borders, salvia superba, salvia nemorosa, salvia sylvestris, Allium senescens, Lavandula intermedia, Artemisia Powis Castle

A beautiful plant mix including Artemisia, Lavender, Allium, Salvia, and Bellflower

Incorporate into Thematic Gardens

  • Herb Gardens: Many Artemisia species, like tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus), have culinary uses, making them perfect for herb gardens.
  • Moon Gardens: The silver foliage of Artemisia glows in the moonlight, making it an excellent choice for moon or white gardens designed to be enjoyed at night.
  • Xeriscaping: Artemisia’s drought tolerance makes it suitable for water-wise or xeriscape gardens, contributing to a lush look without high water use.

Edge Paths and Walkways

  • Plant Artemisia along paths or walkways where its soft texture can be appreciated up close. Its aromatic foliage can also be a delightful sensory experience when brushed against.

Container Gardening

  • Artemisia can thrive in containers, where it acts as a striking “thriller” or “filler” in mixed plantings. Pair it with flowering annuals or other foliage plants with contrasting colors and textures for portable garden accents.

Companion Planting

  • Companions for Artemisia: Lavender, catmint, yarrow, and sedum are excellent companions, offering complementary textures, colors, and drought tolerance.

Companion Plants for Artemia

Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Echinacea (Coneflower)
Nepeta (Catmint)
Sedum (Stonecrop)
Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)
Achillea (Yarrow)
Tagetes (Marigold)
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan)
Salvia (Sage)

When to Plant Wormwood

In cooler climates: Plant Artemisia in the spring, after the risk of frost has passed. This gives the plant ample time to establish itself before the colder months.

In warmer regions: You can plant Artemisia in early fall, allowing it to establish during the cooler months before the heat of summer.

Where to Plant Wormwood

Sunlight: Most Artemisia species prefer a sunny spot (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight) to develop their best foliage color and maintain a compact growth habit, but can tolerate part shade.

Soil: Plant Artemisia in poor to moderately fertile, well-draining soil. These plants tolerate rocky or sandy soils but cannot tolerate wet, waterlogged conditions. If your garden has heavy clay soil, consider amending it with sand or planting Artemisia in raised beds or containers to improve drainage. 

How to Plant Wormwood

Soil Preparation: Loosen the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches (30-37 cm) and mix in compost if available, especially if your soil is very poor or compacted. This improves drainage and adds nutrients. 

Planting: Dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball of your Artemisia plant. Remove the plant from its nursery pot and gently loosen any tightly bound roots. Place the plant in the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Backfill the hole with soil, gently firming it down around the roots.

Spacing: Give each plant enough room to grow to its full size. Check the mature width of your Artemisia species and space them accordingly, typically 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) apart for most varieties.

Watering: Water thoroughly after planting to settle the soil around the roots. Continue to water the plants regularly during their first growing season to help establish a deep, extensive root system. Once established, Artemisia plants are quite drought tolerant.

Mulching: Apply a thin layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and reduce weed competition.

Herb garden, Spanish lavender, thymes, Artemisia, Isatis, Rosemary, Borago, Angelica

Herb garden with Spanish lavender, thyme, Artemisia, Isatis, Rosemary, Borage

How to Care for Wormwood

Water: These plants are drought-tolerant once established but need regular watering during their first growing season to develop a deep root system. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings to prevent root rot.

Fertilization: Artemisia does not require much fertilization. Applying a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in the spring can support growth in poorer soils, but be cautious not to over-fertilize, as this can diminish the plant’s aromatic oils and affect foliage quality.

Pruning: Prune Artemisia in early spring to remove any dead or damaged growth and to shape the plant. Some species can become woody over time, so periodic rejuvenation may be necessary. Cutting back after flowering can also encourage a bushier growth habit. Make sure you do not cut back to old wood with no buds as it could kill your plant.

 Mulching: Apply a light layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant to help retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds. Be careful not to mulch too close to the stem to avoid moisture buildup.

Winter Care: In colder zones where Artemisia is grown as a perennial, some species may die back to the ground in winter and return in spring. Mulching can help protect the root zone from freezing temperatures.

Propagation: Artemisia is propagated by seed, cuttings, or division.

Nassella tenuissima,Asclepias tuberosa, Artemisia and Consolida ajacis

Mexican Feather Grass, Butterfly Weed, Artemisia, and Larkspur

Pests, Diseases, Common Problems

Artemisia plants, known for their aromatic foliage and resilience, still face a few pests, diseases, and common problems that can affect their health and appearance. Here’s how to identify and manage these issues:

Pests

Aphids: These small, sap-sucking insects can cluster on new growth. They can be washed off with a strong jet of water or treated with insecticidal soap.

Spider mites: In hot, dry conditions, spider mites may infest Artemisia, indicated by fine webbing and speckled foliage. Increase humidity and use miticides if severe.

Diseases

Powdery mildew: This fungal disease appears as white, powdery spots on leaves, thriving in humid conditions. Improve air circulation, reduce overhead watering, and apply fungicides as needed.

Root rot: Overwatering or poorly draining soils can lead to root rot, causing the plant to wilt and die. Ensure proper soil drainage and water only when the soil is dry to the touch.

Common Problems

Legginess: Artemisia can become leggy with insufficient light, producing sparse, stretched growth. Pruning in early spring encourages bushier growth. Ensure plants receive ample sunlight.

Fading Foliage: The vibrant color of some Artemisia varieties may fade if the plant is grown in too much shade or overly rich soil. Maintain optimal light conditions and avoid over-fertilization.

Winter Dieback: In colder climates, some Artemisia species may die back to the ground in winter. This is often normal; plants typically regrow from the roots in spring. Mulching can help protect the root zone.

Artemisia, Floxglove, Geranium, Nepeta, salvia, syisyrinchium striatum,Mullein

Artemisia, Mullein, Salvia, Avens, Floxgloves

Discover These Helpful Guides for Further Reading

Compare All Artemisia
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Artemisia
Guides with
Artemisia
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 3 - 10
Plant Type Annuals, Perennials, Shrubs
Plant Family Asteraceae
Genus Artemisia
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Mid, Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 3" - 15'
(8cm - 4.6m)
Spread 8" - 10'
(20cm - 3m)
Maintenance Low, Average
Water Needs Low, Average
Soil Type Loam, Sand, Chalk
Soil pH Acid, Neutral, Alkaline
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit, Drought, Dry Soil
Attracts Birds
Landscaping Ideas Edging, Banks And Slopes, Beds And Borders, Ground Covers, Patio And Containers, Underplanting Roses And Shrubs
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Gravel and Rock Garden, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Artemisia
Compare Now
Explore Great Plant Combination Ideas
Artemisia
Guides with
Artemisia

Related Items

Please Login to Proceed

You Have Reached The Free Limit, Please Subscribe to Proceed

Subscribe to Gardenia

To create additional collections, you must be a paid member of Gardenia
  • Add as many plants as you wish
  • Create and save up to 25 garden collections
Become a Member

Plant Added Successfully

You have Reached Your Limit

To add more plants, you must be a paid member of our site Become a Member

Update Your Credit
Card Information

Cancel

Create a New Collection

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

    You have been subscribed successfully

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Join Gardenia.net

    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Find your Hardiness Zone

    Find your Heat Zone

    Find your Climate Zone