Artemisia – Wormwood

Botanical Name: Artemisia “Powis Castle”

Category: sub-shrub

Divisible: No

Common Name: Wormwood

Evergreen: Yes

Propagation: Cutting

Family: Asteraceae (Sunflowers)

Invasive: Can be – see below

Size: 30″ tall x 36″ wide

This beautiful evergreen perennial is so easy to grow that is should be a foundation plant in any high desert garden.  Its lacey foliage, delicate texture and silvery green color provide a background and counterpoint to more colorful perennials.  It also looks beautiful in a vase of cut flowers.

It has a mounded habit, is drought tolerant and grows vigorously. It can handle full sun and likes a sandy soil. Topped with small, pale yellow flowers in late summer, these are a non-event and should be cut back. Touch the leaves and a wonderful aroma is released.

My Experience:

Some suggest planting this at the front of the border however I find it more effective midway or toward the back.  It’s height while still short is mounded and can easily block more delicate flowers.  It also develops a gnarly root structure through which the plant will spread but can also be extremely difficult to remove and forget about trying to transplant.

This plant looks so good throughout the winter that you will tempted to leave it alone.  Don’t!  You must cut this back in early spring to reveal the new growth underneath or by mid to late summer it will look sad and dying.

If you wish to keep it contained look for runner branches at the bottom that will easily root and before you know it your Artemisia is taken way more than its share of space!  When cutting back follow long top stems as deeply into the plant as you can and cut. As you do this you will see all of the new growth underneath.

In the left photo you can see the older straggly branches with the new growth underneath at the base of the plant. Cut back to the new growth. In the right you can see how this fills out. (Click on the image for a larger view.)

Practical advice from a home gardener

I am Deborah Valiquet – artist and obsessive gardener. Here you will find my advice for creating a garden oasis in the high desert. I’ll share my experiences – successes and failures over the last 10+ years. 

Even if your garden isn’t in the high desert you will find lots of valuable information here. Let’s dig in!