HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 8
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun
ATTRIBUTES: Silvery, fine-textured foliage; for beds, edging, pots
SEASON OF INTEREST: Spring through fall
FAVORITES: 'Silver Brocade', 'Powis Castle', compact 'Silver Mound'
QUIRKS: Usually grown for foliage; you may trim and discard flowers
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Aster, iris, peony, rudbeckio, evergreen shrubs
WHERE IT GROWS BEST : Sun to part shade in average soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Unlike named cultivars some species are too invasive for the garden
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives many years; divide every few years
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Excellent
SOURCE: Division in spring; cuttings in summer
DIMENSIONS: Up to 3 ft (1 m) tall, 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) or more wide
Artemisia in the Landscape
Grown for its frosty-looking foliage, artemisia is especially radiant in the soft light of early morning and again at dusk. Its silver leaves even shine, reflecting light well into die evening on moonlit nights. These outstanding foliage plants come in a range of sizes, from 6 in (15.2 cm) to 3 ft (1 m) tall, and can hug the ground or grow into shimmering, shrub-sized specimens. Beautiful all summer, artemisias thrive with little care provided they get plenty of sun and fresh air to keep their felt-textured leaves dry.
A tremendous texture plant, artemisia makes a fine partner for perennials with dark, smooth foliage, such as peonies and bearded iris, and they are natural allies for fall-blooming asters. The gray leaves of artemisia are valuable for their calming effect when placed near flowers with bold "hot" colors, such as orange Asiatic lilies, wine-colored cockscomb, and yellow black-eyed Susans. They also make the red of crocosmia or annual geranium flowers seem more intense.
Artistry with Artemisia
Versatile and well-behaved, 'Silver Brocade' is a variety that grows 1 ft (0.3 m) tall and wide, and its deeply cut leaves look much like those of annual dusty miller. Larger 'Powis Castle' grows to 2 ft (0.6 m) and stands up well to humid summer heat provided it is kept trimmed to maximize air circulation around the plant.
Both are welcome additions to either gardens or containers, and the cut stems make useful fillers for indoor arrangements. For tight spots, edgings, or luminous highlights in rock gardens, heat- and cold-tolerant 'Silver Mound' has a low-lying profile and finely cut, lacy leaves.
A famous edible artemisia is A. dracunculus, commonly called French tarragon. It is grown for its aromatic, green, willowlike leaves. French tarragon is tender, resenting freezing cold and high heat, but it makes rapid growth in summer herb gardens, often reaching 2 ft (0.6 m) in height.
Spring is the best time to set out container-grown specimens, planting them 1-2 ft (0.3-0.6 m) apart, depending on the width of their spread, when mature. If your soil is not well drained, enrich planting holes with sand and compost before setting in the plants. Add half the package recommendation of a balanced organic or controlled-release fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10. Water every few days for 2 to 3 weeks until the new plants begin to grow. About once a month through summer, trim back the growing tips of the leaves to keep plants compact and to encourage the development of new stems. Pests seldom bother aromatic artemisias, which are naturally repellent.
Increasing the Bounty
Most artemisias root from stem cuttings taken in late summer, but it is far simpler to divide clumps in early spring. Dig a clump and pull its roots apart into 2 or 3 equal sections. Or dig just a bit from the outer edge of the clump, and replant immediately.