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Artemisia abrotanum

(ar-tay- MIS-ee- ah a-BROT- an-um)

COMMON NAMES: Silver southernwood, lad’s love, lover’s plant, maiden’s ruin, old man, southernwood

FAMILY: Compositae

TYPE: Hardy evergreen perennial

LOCATION: Full sun

PLANTING: Spring through fall by cuttings, layers or transplants.

HEIGHT: 2 to 4 feet

SPREAD: 4 to 5 feet

FINAL SPACING: 24 to 36 inches

BLOOM/FRUIT: Small yellow flowers in late summer.

GROWTH HABITS/CULTURE: Shrubby evergreen with thread-like foliage. Soft gray- green feathery aromatic foliage that is silky to the touch. Very fragrant, much like tangerine. Cut back in the spring to encourage new compact growth. Zones 5-11.

PROBLEMS: Gets leggy unless pruned back annually.

HARVEST/STORAGE: Cut the foliage and dry anytime during the summer.

CULINARY USES: Most herbalists don’t recommend any culinary uses. The pungent aroma makes it difficult to perceive of Southernwood as a culinary herb, but it has been used as such in the past. Reputed to have been used with fatty meats but gives a bitter taste.

MEDICINAL USES: Used to treat insomnia, skin diseases. Vermifuge. Use leaf tea as a tonic and to dispel internal parasites. Somewhat toxic when taken internally.

LANDSCAPE USES: Good landscape plant for tall groundcover. Also good companion plant for roses. Good in containers. The flowers are small yellow buttons that turn a most disagreeable brownish cream. Shearing the plants to between 18 inches and two feet produces not only sturdy growth, but eliminates the odd flower stalk.

Southernwood showing freeze damage.

OTHER USES: Place among clothes to function as a moth repellent. Makes a good vinegar. Rub on skin to repel flies. Leaves are sometimes put in pillows to ease insomnia. Good in wreaths. Southernwood leaves keep their fragrance when dried which makes them a good choice for adding to sachets or potpourri.

INSIGHT: Good for the fragrance garden. Somewhere in the late 1500's or so, Southernwood was introduced to the British. Because it was native to Southern Europe and, because the British were already familiar with their native wormwood, it became the southern Wormwood. Eventually, this was shortened to just southernwood.


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