Tuesday, January 18, 2011

O, The Wormwood and the Gall

Artemisia 'Powis Castle' in summer

Artemisia, once referred to as wormwood, is a varied family of mostly silver-leaved herbs, many of which are great garden plants. Growing up, my mother adored 'Silver Mound', unfortunately for her, so did our cats. Without fail, ever summer as they reached the peak of their beauty, our cats would have a slumber party on them, smashing them flat and ruining their look for the rest of the season. Sharing the same silvery-green color, but much, much larger, is 'Powis Castle'. Its size seems to vary, depending on its growing conditions, in my garden, it gets 2-3' tall, and spreads to at least 6'.


Here it is last fall, as you can see, it looks pretty healthy and has a good spread. However, if you look at the upper portion, above the crown, you can see all the bare stems. As fall wore on, it became worse and worse, after the 2nd frost this winter, it seemed to lose almost all its foliage and collapsed.


Yikes, as you can see from the above photo, taken 1-17-2011, it looks a bit sad. Ryan Miller, of gnomiscience, and I have been having a conversation about what is the best time and procedure for pruning this puppy. From what I've gathered, the best time to prune is in early spring, just before, or as it starts growing.


You want to cut back any dead and broken stems, but leave plenty of buds (like the above), as the plant will apparently not sprout from the woodier portions of it's stem. I'm thinking February will be a good time to try it out, as its still a bit early (depsite some signs of growth). Wish me luck...do you have any experience with 'Powis Castle'? What do you do when it needs pruning?

Ryan Miller and I have each been claiming that OUR 'Powis Castle' is definitely the ugliest at the moment...what do you think...whose is worse?!? Please, don't worry about hurting our feelings :-) Here's his post on the subject.

My Artemisia

The Moldy Octopus
Ryan's Artemisia


  1. Those are both pretty bad, but I would take either - that artemisia isn't hardy for me here, so I put it in every year as an annual - so much nicer the 'Silver Mound.'

  2. I have had Powis Castle in Virginia. I would prune it late winter/early spring. It seemed that pruning it too early and the ice can get into the stem.
    I think they both are about the same ugliness (?) It does get pretty ugly in the winter. The nice thing to me is that it is deer resistant. Super plant!!

  3. I know this sound cruel but I relly enjoy the season of drastic cutting back - stripping perennials back to their base - even the digging upo and chucking out of plants - i enjoy the idea of cutting back to bare earth and letting it all come through again every year

  4. Thanks all for your kindness!

    Cyndy: I agree...Silver Mound is just kind of hard to site...and not nearly as robust as 'Powis Castle'

    Janet: Thats a very good point about the ice...hadn't thought of that. It really is a great plant, and I'll hopefully take better care of it in the future :-)

    A Year in My Garden: I feel the same way...I am really itching for spring so i can cut it all back again. I love seeing all the new growth and anticipating the new year. We're in the home stretch, though, spring is just around the corner!

  5. I don't have 'Powis Castle' but I do have Artemisia abrotanum, another woody one. I prune just before growth starts and generally have excellent luck rooting the tips I cut off as well (handy since this one often needs re-starting to keep it looking good).

  6. Yours is simultaneously the ugliest and the most interesting. It looks much as my sage looks at present.

    Thanks for becoming a follower of Esther's Garden Notes.


  7. I think I might take your February prompting as a good time to cut back my Artemisia afra. It is about as tall as I am. That will be before our winter rain and cooler temperatures make everything explode into growth.

    Bit wary, the roses seem to have started their autumn flush. Wish I could warn them, there's still February's heat to survive!

  8. I also have an entry into the ugliest Powis in America! I cut mine back in late January last winter and thought it was over as I have experienced before. But the new growth started on a 2" stump and finally matured in August again.

  9. I cut my 'Powis Castle' back in mid-February, just before the new growth starts here in Austin. I whack it back to the ground, and it comes back fresh and lovely.

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