Caring For An Artemisia

Artemisia is a genus that has hundreds of species of hardy shrubs and herbs valued for their oils. Common names for some species are wormwood, mugwort, sagebrush, and tarragon. Because some of the species are named sage, some people confuse this genus with Salvia sages. Artemisias belong to the daisy family Asteraceae, and they grow in temperate climates, preferring dry or semi-dry habitats. Many leaves of Artemisias are used for medicinal or flavoring purposes, and most have a bitter taste.

The artemisia has a history rich in myth and culture. Rumors say it was named after a female botanist, Artemisia, who was married to the Greek King Mausolous (she was also his sister). The Wicca belief system believes wormwood and mugwort give psychic powers, and so they plant them in "moon gardens" since the moon goddess Artemis is said to be the source of these powers. 

Purposes of Artemisia:

  • Because of its bitter aroma, many species, such as wormwood, can be planted as a border around gardens to ward off animals. The Silver Mound variety is the most toxic, and so makes a great border plant.
  • Absinth Wormwood can be used to repel fleas and moths, make beer and wine or the famous hallucinatory Absinthe that has been banned in many countries. Vermouth, German for wormwood, was once flavored with wormwood. Absinth Wormwood has also been used medicinally as a tonic in the past.
  • Tarragon is a popular herb, widely used in French cuisine.
  • Artemisa annua has been used to make artemisin and cotexin, used in Africa to fight malaria.
  • Many insect sprays are made from wormwood. You can make your own by making a tea from the wormwood leaves.

 Plant Info and Planting Tips:

  • The leaves are green or grey-ish silver, fern-like, often feathery and covered in little white hairs.
  • The average height is between 30 cm to 2 meters.
  • Plant in well-drained sandy soil.
  • Annuals should be sown in spring.
  • Perennials should be sown in autumn. If outside, sow under a sheet of glass, facing north. Remove glass after germination.
  • Purchase tarragon as a seedling and plant after the last frost 30 cm apart for the smaller sizes and 60 cm apart for the larger varieties. Best in soil with ph level of 5.5-7.
  • Silver Mound, one of the most popular perennials, can grow in zones 1-9, best in full sun or partial shade, and has silver leaves and flowers. Grow in a moonlight garden and enjoy the silvery shimmering beauty.

General Care:

Artemisias are considered very hardy and easy to care for. Fertilizer should be applied in spring and mulch in the autumn. They are not susceptible to many pests because of their strong odor. 

Dangers: Susceptible to root rot if grown in soil that doesn't drain.

Growing Zones: In general, good in USDA zones 3-10, but check your specific variety.

Pruning: Prune lightly for shape, but don't prune heavily, especially in the fall.

Dividing: Every couple of years, divide clumps.

Harvesting: Leaves can be harvested anytime for culinary or medicinal purposes. Dry tarragon and store in a dark, dry place.

Watering: Artemisia does well in dry areas, but light to moderate watering is beneficial.

The hardy Artemisia can benefit your garden greatly without requiring much care.