Artemisia abrotanum
Common Name: southernwood 
Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Asteraceae
Native Range: Eastern, southern, and south-central Europe
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: August to October
Bloom Description: Yellowish-white
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer, Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Prefers a neutral soil. Avoid wet soils. Appreciates a sheltered location and year-round mulch in the St. Louis area. Established plants have drought tolerance. Cut plants to the ground in early spring. Dividing the clumps every 3-4 years will help keep plants robust. Plants will thrive in dry heat, but generally dislike the hot and humid conditions of the deep South.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Artemisia abrotanum, commonly called southernwood, is a perennial sub-shrub that typically grows on woody, upright-branching stems to form a 3-4’ tall bushy mound of ferny, strongly aromatic, medium to light green leaves, each of which is 1-3 times pinnately dissected into threadlike segments. Southernwood is native to southern Europe, most likely in countries along the Mediterranean from Spain to Italy. It was introduced into the eastern U.S. in the early 1600s, and has naturalized over time into parts of the northeast primarily in disturbed sites (fields, roadsides, and waste areas). It is semi-evergreen in frost-free winter climates, but deciduous in cold winter locations. Although once planted as both a culinary herb and a medicinal herb, it is primarily grown in gardens today for its attractive ornamental foliage augmented by its pleasant citrus to camphor-like foliage fragrance. Leaves retain good fragrance after drying, hence their use in sachets, as air fresheners and for discouraging clothing moths. This plant flowers infrequently in eastern North America. When flowering does occur, nodding yellowish-white flowers (each to 3/16” across) bloom in loose panicles from late August into October. Flowers are not particularly showy. In the northern parts of its growing range, seeds often do not reach maturity for this late-bloomer prior to the onset of cold weather.

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

Specific epithet from Greek means wormwood or southernwood.

This plant has acquired a large number of additional common names over time including lad’s love, maid’s love or old man. French name for this plant is garderobe meaning guard the wardrobe in recognition of the practice of placing plant sprigs in closets or clothing drawers to deter moths.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Susceptible to root rot in moist soils, particularly poorly drained ones.

Garden Uses

Southernwood is an aromatic herb that is grown in herb gardens. It also may be effectively grown in borders or along walks or paths. Low hedge. Herb containers.