Wormwood is a very hardy attractive perennial that will grow almost anywhere even on poor soils often with little water.. Needs full sun to partial shade and little maintenance. Hardy from zones 4a - 8b With silvery gray foliage growing in clumps up to 2-3 feet across it can make a very dramatic statement in the garden. The small yellow flowers that appear on 3 feet tall flowers stalks are almost a bonus to the lovely foliage. Due to its bitter taste and sharp aroma it is disliked by most wildlife making it idea for gardens with deer and rabbits. It's a lovely care free plant for any garden.
Description of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
Wormwood is a very attractive hardy perennial. In its first year it produces a small mound of deeply cut lacy composite leaves. Each leaf stem is light green almost white and has pairs of leaflets deeply cut or lobed in pairs. Leaflets can be up to 3" long making the whole leaf about 12". Leaves are gray-green or silver-green on both sides and covered in fine silvery hairs. From its second year onwards the plants put up tall upright flowering stems that can reach 3 feet in height. These have groove stems with spirally arranged silvery leaves and topped with cascading panicles of small yellow flowers. These are tiny composite flowers almost globular in shape and flower from mid summer to mid fall, giving the plant a longer flowering season. This is followed by tiny wind blow seeds.
Wormwood forms large clumps spreading by underground rhizomes and sending up new shoots to increase its size. Plants can reach 2-3 feet wide and make an impressive display of silver green foliage. The leaves and flowers have a bitter odour which some report as similar to sage with bitter overtones.
Growing Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium) from Seed.
Seeds are very small so starting indoors is recommended. Start in good potting soil and sow seeds on the surface of the soil. Seeds need some light to germinate so either don't cover them or give them a light dusting to help get a good soil contact. Keep moist until seedlings appear, seedlings are very small and delicate and take quite a while to grow to any size. When large enough to handle pot into individual pots and grow on until large enough to transplant to their final location. This can take several weeks as they grow very slowly to begin with . For more detailed instructions on starting seed see our general growing instructions. Seedlings grow fairly slowly to begin with as they establishing themselves in the first year. Plant at least two feet apart as plants can become quite large once established.
Seed can be sown from spring through early fall if desired. However since seed is small and takes a while to grow to a reasonable sized plant they can easily become overwhelmed by weeds. If you have a lot of seed and only want a few plants then outdoor seeding is fine, but if seed is limited we recommend indoor seeding to maximize the number of plants you produce.
Location and Care of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
Wormwood is a tough plant, it can tolerate many different climatic types and poor soil. It is a native to Europe and Asia growing all the way from Siberia to northern Africa. It will grow quite happily from U.S. zones 4a - 8b. Its preferred location will therefore depend on its latitude. In cooler areas it prefers full sun and is commonly seen on grasslands and pastures. In warmer areas it prefers some shade especially from the noonday sun.
Wormwood will grow on a wide range of soil types and is often found on poor soil that is semi dry in its native grasslands. In warmer areas it prefers a slightly richer soil and more water. You may need to experiment with your plants location to determine what it likes best in your area. In most cases, plants in shade and those that have more water tend to be less silvery and more green. Plants under more stress produce a much stronger silvery appearance. It will not grow well in moist to wet soils.
Fortunately wormwood does not mind being transplanted so moving it around until you find its best location should not be a problem Wormwood is however a fairly short lived perennial, usually living about 3-5 years. It does however reseed easily so keeping your wormwood patch going is realtively easy.
Once established wormwood needs little care, it's a tough plant and usually
does not need much watering, but in hotter areas may need some additional watering
if insufficient rainfall. Plants die down in the winter, surface material can
then either be cut to the ground or left until spring to provide winter interest
in the garden.
Since the seeds are windblown it can seed itself in unwanted areas so cutting down seed heads before they have chance to spread the seeds may be desirable, especially if you are close to open range or pasturelands.
Prune back flowers if plant is being grow for leaf harvest as flowers inhibit good leaf production.
Wormwood contains large amounts of a compound called absinthin which is a water
soluble growth inhibiting toxin. It is secreted from the roots and can wash
off the plants into the area around it. This will cause any plants around it
to become stunted and they may even die. So don't plant wormwood too close to
any other plants especially ones that you treasure.
However if it is planted as a 'hedge' around vegetable gardens or delicate plants it can act as a barrier helping to prevent soil organisms from travelling into the vegetables. It may also confuse other pests such as carrot
The strong acrid scent of the plant makes it very unattractive to animals so it's a great deer resistant plant.
Diseases of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
While wormwood is fairly resistant to most diseases it can on occasion have fungal problems. This is usually in the form or White rust ,Downy mildew, Powdery mildew and Fungal leaf and stem rots especially in overly moist sites. This is more common with plants grown in warmers climates, those in shaded areas and moister locations. Those grown in sun on dryer soils seldom get problems.
Harvesting of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
All healthy leaves and flowers stalks can be harvested for later use. Choose a dry sunny day and harvest after all dew has dried from the plants. Take only the good healthy leaves, discard any that are discolored or old. The best time to harvest is just as the flowers are blooming this is when the phytochemicals (in this case mostly absinthin) are at their highest. Collect into small bunches and fasten with a rubber band, hang to dry in a warm dark area with a reasonable air current. When dry fold into air tight containers and store for later use.
Medical uses of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
Wormwood has a very long history of use as a medicinal herb, it can be traced back to early Egyptian use in 1600 B.C. Wormwood got its name because it is extremely good at removing intestinal parasites hence 'worm wood'. It is also extremely effective to help aid digestion, it can help with indigestion and gastric pain. It has been used for centuries as a tonic for the liver gall bladder and digestive system. It is an extremely useful medicine for those with weak and under-active digestion as it helps to increase stomach acid and bile production, improving digestion and the absorption of nutrients. The leaves have also been used effectively to treat anorexia nervosa. It is also a powerful blood stimulator helping to improve overall circulation. Recent studies are considering its use for beast cancer support. There are also reports of it being used to give relief in morning sickness, prevents threatened miscarriage, soothe earaches and ear infections, and treat obesity.
Homeopathically, wormwood is employed to treat such ailments as epilepsy, nervous ticks and muscle spasms. Externally when made into a warm tea or poultice it is applied to bruises and bites and on sprains and strained muscles to relieve pain and swelling.
It is also reported that wormwood will counteracted the effects of poison hemlock.
Culinary uses of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
Wormwood is used to flavor the one spirit absinthe a popular alcoholic drink. It is also used in some forms of vermouth and wines. In 18th century England when access to hops was scarce wormwood was used as a substitute. It was also used the Middle Ages it was used to spice mead.
Is it poisonous?
To start with, anything taken in large enough doses is poisonous. Wormwood is never usually ingested in such large quantities as to cause any harm. It has also been reported widely that some of the compounds especially thujone causes hallucinations and other mental instability. Recent research has shown that this is totally untrue. It does none of these things. The whole story was based upon historic use of absinthe. At this particular time alcohol was in shorter supply and poor quality substitutes were used. (similar to some of the poisonous stuff that was produced during prohibition in the United States). It was these compounds in the alcohol used to make cheap wormwood that were the cause of hallucinations, addiction and mental instability. Even today if you choose to flavor paint thinner with wormwood and drink it, you would get the same results, but it would not be the wormwood at fault.
Other uses of Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).
The compounds in wormwood are very repellent to many kinds of insects including, ants, fruit flies aphids, cabbage moths, beetles, mites, fleas, and others. The dried leaves can be scattered around ants nests, the base of fruit trees or vegetable gardens to deter insects and also slugs and snails. Or a tea can be made from the leaves and sprayed onto the plants as an insecticide. Adding the tea to a dogs bath can help deter fleas.
The fresh herb can also be rubbed onto the skin to act as a natural insect repellent or spray yourself with the tea.
Protecting plants from insects.
Wormwood can also be used as a 'hedge' around vegetable gardens to help deter insects from attacking the plants. Just ensure that the plants are not too close to the wormwood so they become stunted from the absinthin exuded by the plants. The roots also produce this compound and this will help deter any soil living pests from passing them and entering the vegetable plot. It may also deter deer from entering since they also dislike the plant.
Wormwood also makes a interesting range of natural dies from light to nettle
Wormwood is also a very attractive dried flower and makes a wonderful 'filler' for displays.
Absintalsem, Absinth Sagewort, Absinth Wormwood, Absinthe, Absinth Ajenjo, Ajenjo Oficial, Common Wormwood, Feuilles Ameres, Niga-Yomogi, Old Woman, Oldman, Pelin, Wormswood, wermuth, wermud,
Also. Absint-alsem (Dutch), Absinthe, Ambrosia (Ancient Greek), Assenzio Vero (Italian), Gengibre Verde (Spanish, 'green ginger'), Green Muse, Grune Fee (German, 'greem fairy'), Hierba Santa (Spanish, 'sacred herb'), Rihan (Arabic), Sage of the Glaciers, Wermod (Saxon), Wor-mod (Old English).