Artemisia

Mixed bouquet of flowers with stems of silvery foliage standing up and above them
Mixed bouquet with silvery stems of Artemisia foliage sticking up

Artemisia ludoviciana albula (or A. albula) Silver King, often referred to as wormwood

‘Silver King’ artemisia is a foliage plant that grows easily. It’s deer resistant and needs low water. Once it gets established it produces a lot of stems. You’ll cut the stems. It spreads fairly fast by rhizomes, so give it some room. It may creep into your other flowers. But you may not mind that, it is a nice filler for fresh bouquets and it’s a great filler when it dried for wreaths.

The species is native to deserts and mountains of western US. There are two other varieties than Silver King, there’s ‘Silver Queen’ and there’s ‘Valerie Finnis’. More on those below.

These are the best Artemisias for use as cut foliage and dried foliage. Don’t confuse them with ‘Powis Castle’, or other landscape plants,

What Artemisia Flowers are Like

Flowers appear at the ends of the foliage stems. The buds appear as little silvery balls and open to small yellow, insignificant flowers. It’s best to harvest them before they open, because the flowers darken when dried. But in bud they add texture to the foliage. You may end up harvesting the foliage before the buds appear.

Silvery grey foliage plant in the garden with several stems with ball-like flower buds
'Valerie Finnis' Artemisia with round flower buds at the ends of the stems. These buds add a nice texture to fresh and dried bouquets.

What the Plants are Like

Silver King grows to about 3 ft. tall. It looks like just stems growing up, the foliage is slightly divided into three to five lobes. Many artemisia foliage is fragrant, but this one is not.

Another variety is ‘Valerie Finnis’. It’s shorter than Silver King, at 1½ ft. – 2 ft. tall. It spreads faster, its foliage is grayer, and a little wider and lobed mostly at the end.

How to Grow Artemisia

Zones: 4-9, Full sun; average garden soil, with good drainage, keep on the dry side.

Deer resistant. Give them room.

Harvesting Artemisia Foliage

Cut the stem as far down as you can go. Put into water to work with them in fresh bouquets, condition as usual.

To work with dried artemisia foliage, let the stems dry by hanging or by laying them flat. If they get too dry you may need to wait for moist weather to let them become more flexible. Or let them dry till they’re still pliable but won’t flop when they’re in an arrangement.

If you live in a damp climate, the foliage may flop on you. So you may need to work the stems into flowers that will support them to stay upright.

Silvery grey dried wreath with Artemesia foliage, german statice, pink gomphrena, and lavender
Wreath made with Silver King artemisia, pink gomphrena, lavender, and German statice

My Favorite Variety

‘Silver King’ is my favorite because of its lobed foliage and silvery color and its height.

Sources for Artemisia

There are seeds available for sale, but starting with roots or potted plants is much, much quicker.

Silver King:

Richter’s Herbs

Rare Roots

Valerie Finnis:

Bluestone Perennials

Rare Roots

Flowers to Go With Artemisia Foliage

Here are some flowers that go very well with artemisia foliage:

Lavender: Both fresh and dried, ‘Grosso’ lavender is best because of its deep blue color.

Gomphrena: Both fresh and dried, the soft pink is nice

Statice: Both fresh and dried

Perennial Statice: any of them, fresh and dried, German statice is mixes well with the artemesiea foliage providing structure and support when needed.

Strawflowers: The bold colors are a good foil for the silvery artimesia foliage, and the soft colors are nice and gentle with each other, fresh and dried.

Echinops ritro: The blue and silver globe flowers go extremely well with the silver artemisia foliage.