Chiefly valued for their ornamental foliage, artemisias offer lacy leaf patterns and aromatic, silvery gray or white leaves. Most of the plants described here have woody stems; however, A. dracunculus, A. lactiflora, A. ludoviciana albula, and A. stellerana are herbaceous. Most need excellent drainage. Not the best choice for high-rainfall areas, particularly along the Gulf Coast and in Florida. Plants are seldom browsed by deer.
Most artemisias are excellent in mixed borders, where their white or silvery leaves soften harsh reds and oranges and blend with blues, lavenders, pinks. Flowers are usually insignificant. Divide plants in spring or autumn.
A. abrotanum. SOUTHERNWOOD, OLD MAN. Woody perennial. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. To 35 ft. tall and wide. Native to southern Europe. Beautiful green, feathery, lemon-scented foliage; yellowish white flowers. Use in shrub border for its fragrant foliage. Hang sprigs in closets to discourage moths. Burn a few leaves in the kitchen to kill cooking odors.
A. absinthium. COMMON WORMWOOD. Woody perennial. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. To 24 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. Native to Europe, temperate Asia. Used to flavor the liqueur absinthe. Silvery gray, finely divided leaves with a pungent odor; tiny yellow flowers. Prune for better shape. Divide every 3 years. Use as background shrub; makes a good gray feature in a flower border. Looks particularly fine with delphiniums. 'Lambrook Silver' is a 112-ft.-tall form with silvery white, especially finely cut leaves.
A. arborescens. Evergreen shrub or woody perennial. Zone CS; USDA 9. Highly attractive. Mediterranean native to 3 ft. or a little taller, 2 ft. wide, with silvery white, very finely cut leaves.
A. caucasica. SILVER SPREADER. Evergreen shrublet. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Caucasus native grows just 36 in. tall, spreading to 2 ft. wide. Silky foliage in silvery green; small yellow flowers. Use as bank or ground cover; plant 12 ft. apart. Needs good drainage. Takes extremes of heat and cold.
A. dracunculus. FRENCH TARRAGON, TRUE TARRAGON. Perennial. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Native to central and eastern Europe and southern Russia. To 12 ft. tall; spreads slowly by creeping rhizomes. Shiny, dark green, narrow, very aromatic leaves; greenish white flowers in branched clusters. Attractive container plant. Cut sprigs in early summer to use for seasoning vinegar. Use fresh or dried leaves to season salads, cooked dishes. Divide every 3 or 4 years. Propagate by divisions or cuttings; plants grown from seed are not true culinary tarragon. For warmer areas, Mexican mint marigold (Tagetes lucida) is a good substitute.
A. 'Huntington'. Woody perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. To 3 ft. tall and 4 ft. wide, with spreading stems covered by a thick dome of very silvery foliage. Resembles A. 'Powis Castle' but has bigger, softer leaves.
A. lactiflora. WHITE MUGWORT. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Tall, straight column to 4-5 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide. This native of western China is one of the few artemisias with attractive flowers: in late summer, it bears creamy white blooms in branching, 112-ft. sprays. Dark green leaves with broad, tooth-edged lobes. Members of the Guizhou group have purple stems and young leaves.
A. ludoviciana mexicana albula. WESTERN MUGWORT. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to Southwest deserts, adjacent areas of Mexico. Bushy growth to 2312 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide, with slender, spreading branches and silvery white, 2-in. leaves. The lower leaves have three to five lobes; the upper ones are narrow and unlobed. Spreads rapidly by rhizomes. Cut foliage is useful in arrangements. Two popular selections are 'Silver Queen', a compact form that grows to 112212 ft. tall with larger foliage; and 'Valerie Finnis', which reaches 2 ft. and has even broader silver leaves that are slightly lobed toward the tips.
A. pontica. ROMAN WORMWOOD. Evergreen shrub or woody perennial. Zones US, LS, MS, CS; USDA 6-9. Native to southeastern and central Europe; naturalized in eastern North America. Grows 24 ft. tall and spreads by rhizomes; makes a good ground cover if given ample room. Silvery gray, feathery leaves can be used in sachets. Heads of nodding, whitish yellow flowers are carried in long, open, branched clusters.
A. 'Powis Castle'. Woody perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Most likely a hybrid of A. absinthium and A. arborescens. Hybrid grows in a silvery, lacy mound to 3 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide. Unlike most artemisias, does not melt during hot, humid summers. It retains its dense shape and is not invasive. Don't prune in fall; instead, wait to cut back until new growth begins to sprout near crown in spring.
A. schmidtiana. ANGEL'S HAIR. Woody perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Japanese native forms a 1- to 2-ft.-high, 1-ft.-wide dome of silvery white, woolly, finely cut leaves. Dies back in winter. Selection 'Silver Mound' is compact, usually under 1 ft. high and wide. 'Silverado' is somewhat more open and upright than the species; tolerates heat and humidity well.
A. stellerana. BEACH WORMWOOD, OLD WOMAN, DUSTY MILLER. Perennial. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to northeastern Asia; naturalized in eastern North America. Dense, silvery gray plant to 212 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide, with lobed leaves 14 in. long. Hardier than Senecio cineraria (another dusty miller) and often used in its place in colder climates. Yellow flowers in spikelike clusters. 'Broughton Silver' ('Silver Brocade') is a superior, dense-growing selection.