Artemisia – Wormwood

Height: 5-150cm (2-60in)

Planting d: stance 23-90cm (9-36in)

Features: flowers summer to autumn

Soil: ordinary or light, well-drained

Site: sun

Type: herbaceous or evergreen

Once used as a herbal remedy for many ailments, artemisia is grown for its billowing cloud of silver foliage, which has a pleasant, sharp aroma when crushed.

It is a lovely specimen plant, but can also act as a perfect foil for many darker-foliaged plants. The plume-like flowers, insignificant in some species, appear from mid summer to mid autumn.

Popular species and varieties:

Artemisia abrotanum (southernwood) is a shrubby deciduous plant up to 1.2m (4ft) tall, with dull yellow flowers in autumn and downy, greyish leaves. Artemisia absinthium (wormwood) is a shrubby deciduous plant, 90cm (3ft) high and wide, with silvergrey, filigree foliage.

‘Lambrook Silver’ is a shorter variety. Artemisia alba ‘Canescens’ (syn. A. splendens) has shrubby, deciduous, grey foliage up to 30cm (1 ft) high and 45cm (1 1/2aft) across. Artemisia caucasica (syn. A. lanata, A. pedemontana) is a shrubby evergreen rock plant forming glistening, silver cushions 5cm (2in) high and 23cm (9in) across. Yellow flowers appear from mid summer to early autumn. Artemisia lactiflora (white mugwort), an herbaceous species, has mid-green, parsley-like foliage, forming a clump 1.5m (5ft) high and Armeria pseudarmeria. Fragrant, creamy white flowers appear in early to mid autumn and are suitable for cutting. Varieties in the Guizhou group have purplish foliage. Artemisia ludoviciana (western mugwort), an herbaceous species up to 1.2m (4ft) high, has woolly, whitish-green leaves and plumes of silverwhite, brown-topped flowers in early to mid autumn. Artemisia schmicltiana ‘Nana’, a shrubby evergreen, forms a 7.5-13cm (3-5in) high dome of silver leaves, with dull yellow flowers and woolly, silver bracts in early autumn. Artemisia stelleriaua (beach wormwood) is a shrubby evergreen with tiny yellow flowers in late summer and grey-white leaves.

‘Mori’s Form’ (syn. ‘Boughton Silver’) grows up to 15cm (6in) tall with deeply lobed, grey leaves.


Plant herbaceous species from mid autumn to early spring in light, well-drained soil in full sun. A. lacti/lora needs a moisture-retentive soil. Plant shrubby species in any ordinary, well-drained garden soil in early to mid spring.

Propagation: Divide and replant herbaceous species between mid autumn and early spring.

With shrubby species, take 7.5-10cm (3-4in) semi-hardwood cuttings with a heel (a small sliver of old wood) in late summer and root in a cold frame. Plunge outdoors in a sheltered bed and plant out in early autumn.

Pests and diseases: Root aphids may appear on the leaves. Rust may appear as pale brown spots with cinnamon-brown spores, later turning into almost black pustules.

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