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.
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.
More Varieties of Artemisia
Artemisia californica 'Canyon Gray' is a fantastic groundcover. Coastal sagebrush remains under 2 feet tall and forms a 10-foot-wide mat of fine textured silver-gray foliage. Zones 9-10
Artemisia vulgaris has a sagelike scent with mint undertones. Its primary use is in aromatherapy. Mugwort grows 2-4 feet tall and wide. The plant flowers from mid to late summer with greenish-white blooms. Zones 5-10
'Powis Castle' artemisia
Artemisia 'Powis Castle' is a hybrid form that grows upright to 2-3 feet tall. Its finely divided foliage stays put, making it a welcome addition to the border and container plantings. Zones 7-9
'Silver King' artemisia
Artemisia ludoviciana 'Silver King' is a fast-spreading variety with bright silvery-white leaves that often turn reddish in autumn. Plant it on a slope in poor soil to prevent erosion. It grows 4 feet tall and is hardy in Zones 4-9.
'Silver Brocade' artemisia
Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade' (also called A. stelleriana 'Boughton Silver') grows only 6-8 inches tall and spreads a foot or more wide. Its lobed woolly white leaves are ideal to soften the edge of a container or retaining wall. Zones 3-7
Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam' has frothy, contorted silver foliage that works well as a groundcover around taller, drought-tolerant perennials. It grows 8 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 4-10.
Artemisia dracunculus, most commonly known as tarragon, is grown primarily for its use as a culinary herb and not for any ornamental qualities. Zones 5-9
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
'Silver Mound' artemisia
Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound' forms a low mound of soft, fine-textured foliage to 1 foot tall that does not spread. Cut it back after its spring flush of growth to prevent the plant from flopping open midsummer. Zones 5-8
'Valerie Finnis' artemisia
Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis' offers lance-shape silvery leaves on an upright plant that grows 2 feet tall. Zones 4-9
Plant Artemisia With:
With its tall wispy wands of lavender or blue flowers and silvery foliage, Russian sage is an important player in summer and fall gardens. It shows off well against most flowers and provides an elegant look to flower borders. The aromatic leaves are oblong and deeply cut along the edges. Foot-long panicles of flowers bloom for many weeks. Excellent drainage and full sun are ideal, although very light shade is tolerated. Plant close to avoid staking since the tall plants tend to flop.
Few gardens don't have at least one salvia growing in them. Whether you have sun or shade, a dry garden or lots of rainfall, there's an annual salvia that you'll find indispensable. All attract hummingbirds, especially the red ones, and are great picks for hot, dry sites where you want tons of color all season. Most salvias don't like cool weather, so plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Easy and undemanding, veronicas catch the eye in sunny gardens over many months. Some have mats with loose clusters of saucer-shape flowers, while others group their star or tubular flowers into erect tight spikes. A few veronicas bring elusive blue to the garden, but more often the flowers are purplish or violet blue, rosy pink, or white. Provide full sun and average well-drained soil. Regular deadheading extends bloom time.