Artemisia californica 'Canyon Gray'

Overall plant
Common Name: California sagebrush 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Asteraceae
Zone: 7 to 10
Height: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Flowers not showy
Bloom Description: Pale yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Colorful, Fragrant, Evergreen
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Deer, Drought, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil


Best grown in dry, sandy, well-draining soils in full sun (coastal climates) or with some afternoon shade (inland climates). Tolerant of heat, drought, salt spray, poor soils, and clay soils (as long as they are well-draining). Plants will go dormant or semi-dormant in summer during periods of drought and the foliage will drop or shrivel, but growth quickly resumes when wet weather returns. They have a shallow, fibrous root system which helps to quickly absorb available moisture as well as retain soil. Established plants require little to supplemental irrigation. Supplemental irrigation can be provided in the summer to keep plants from entering dormancy but is not necessary and should be provided only sparingly. Can be pruned to shape after flowering. Hardy in Zones 7-11. Best growth in warm, Mediterranean climates in Zones 9-11.

Hardiness information for 'Canyon Gray' varies widely between sources, with some claiming cold hardiness only down to Zones 8 or 9. Survival in the colder end its hardiness range will most likely depend on providing well-draining soil and a protected growing site. Prune after flowering as needed to keep plants dense and avoid legginess.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Artemisia californica, commonly called California sagebrush or coastal sagebrush, is an aromatic shrub native to scrublands, dunes, bluffs, chaparral, and dry foothills mostly along the coasts of California and northern Baja California, although it also occurs more inland with a scattered distribution. Mature plants will reach 2-8' tall and spread to fill a 3-6' area with a freely branched, spreading to arching growth habit. The fragrant, grey-green, leaves will reach 0.75-2" long (rarely up to 4") and can be finely divided or linear and unlobed. Loose panicles of small flowerheads bloom at the terminal ends of the branches from late summer into winter (depending on location and climate). The round flowerheads are made up of numerous, pale yellow to red tinged, minute florets and nod when in fruit. This plant creates important habitat for small birds including Bell's sage sparrow and the California gnatcatcher, as well as for small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles.

Genus is named for Artemis, Greek goddess of the moon, wild animals and hunting.

The specific epithet californica refers to the native range of this species.

Sagebrush is a common name associated with several species of Artemisia native to western North America. These plants are not true sages (genus Salvia), but they have similarly fragrant foliage. The common names California sagebrush and coastal sagebrush refer to the native range and preferred habitat of this species, respectively.

'Canyon Gray' is a prostrate selection of California sagebrush that features a low, spreading growth habit and finely dissected, fragrant, silvery foliage. Mature plants will reach 1-2' tall and spread to fill a 4-10' area. This selection was discovered growing on the windswept San Miguel Island off the southern coast of California by Ralph Philbrick (1934-2017), botanist and former Director of the Santa Barbra Botanic Garden. The flowers are not considered horticulturally significant.


No major pest or disease problems of note. Deer tend to avoid this plant. Overly moist soils will lead to rot.


Erosion control, native gardens, wildlife areas. The leaves were used by indigenous peoples both fresh and dried for the treatment of various ailments including colds, coughs, menstrual cramps, and as a general pain reliever.

The low growing and spreading habit of 'Canyon Gray' makes it suitable for use as a ground cover or planted at the top of low walls to create a cascading effect.