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Plant Profile: Southernwood (Artemesia abrotanum)

Artemisia-Abrotanum-2Also known as Old Man, Lad’s Love and Maiden’s Ruin, this bushy sub-shrub is native to southern Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa and is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflowers, daisies, and lettuce. The plant has erect branching stems and finely divided gray-green leaves that are 1.5 to 2.5 inches long and have a pungent camphor fragrance. The small dull yellow nodding flowers are carried in loose panicles and appear in the late summer but are not ornamentally interesting. The plant is grown for the appearance and fragrance of its foliage and is suitable for both the herb garden and perennial border. It is especially nice when planted near a bench or path where the foliage can be touched to give off its fragrance but unfortunately does not do well in hot humid conditions.  The genus name, Artemesia, is the name of the Greek goddess of chastity, the hunt, and the moon. The specific epithet, abrotanum, is the ancient Latin name for the plant.

Type: Sub-shrub

Bloom: Small dull yellow flowers in late summer; not ornamentally interesting

Size: 3-4’ H x 18” W

Light: Full sun

Soil: Lean to average, moderately moist to dry, well-drained ; drought resistant

Hardiness: Zones 5-8

Care: Prune back hard in spring and early summer to maintain attractiveness.

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Semi-hardwood cuttings in late summer, root division, seed

Companion plants: Rosemary, lavender, sage, santolina, yucca, ornamental grasses, lamb’s ear, autumn crocus, aster ‘Purple Dome’, Mother-of-thyme,