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Grown primarily for its silver foliage, artemisia is a wonderful accent plant in many settings. Artemisias come in numerous different foliage shapes, sizes, and heights. A few well-known artemisias are 'Silver Mound' and the herb tarragon. Use these plants to add texture and subtle color to gardens, containers, and borders. Artemesias are also extremely versatile and drought tolerant.
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With their beautiful silver foliage, artemesias are not "colorful" in the most basic sense. They do, however, work wonderfully as an accent to many other flowers and ornamental plants. The soft silver foliage plays very well with blues and purples, and it acts as a beautiful foil for hot colors to play off of as well. The plants are visually appealing, and many varieties like 'Silver Mound' are also a joy to touch with their exceptionally soft foliage. The flowers of artemisias are often fairly insignificant—usually small, almost petal-less blooms in soft yellow colors. Many gardeners prefer to remove these blooms, as the stalks can take away from the overall effect of the plant.
Artemisia Care Must-Knows
The most important thing to know about artemisias is that these plants need well-drained soils. They can actually perform well in rock gardens too, growing in extremely sharp drainage with long droughts. Planting them in heavy soils, like moist clays, will most likely cause them to die out from rot. If they are grown in too moist of soil, the plants tend to grow very quickly and flop and fall open. Planting them in dry soils is an easy way to prevent this and keep plants more restrained.
Artemisias are plants that love sun and dry heat, so give them as much as you can. In part shade, plants are at much higher risk for disease and flopping issues. In areas with humid summers, many species of artemisia can be prone to foliar diseases and overall decline of the foliage—keep them in well-ventilated areas and full sun to prevent this. A hard cutback of the plants in summer can be beneficial to encourage new growth of previously suffering plants.
It is also important to note that many species of artemisia spread vigorously by rhizomes, or underground stems. Several types are actually considered invasive and should be watched when planted. If you have doubts about planting these, look for varieties that are slower to spread, or for mounding types that do not spread at all. You can also keep them in check by planting them in containers or regularly reining them in by digging up runners.
You may also know artemisia by one of its common names, wormwood. Many species of artemisia are prized for the various chemical compounds they produce, giving them a distinctive scent when crushed. One species in particular, Artemisia absinthium, is what gave the liquor absinthe its trademark ability to cause hallucinations. Today, this has been removed from absinthe recipes due to potential health hazards. Other types are used for medicinal properties, as well as tarragon in culinary uses.
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More Varieties of Artemisia
Artemisia abrotanum, or southernwood, has feathery gray-green foliage with a lemony fragrance. The leafy stems work well to make wreath bases or moth-chasing sachets for closets and dresser drawers. Deer and rabbits leave it alone. Southernwood grows 3-5 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Zones 4-10