Artemisia vulgaris, commonly known as mugwort, is a hardy herb with a legacy of beneficial properties. Native to Asia, North Africa, and Europe, it was brought to America centuries ago for its healing properties and culinary zest.
Growing mugwort is simple compared to other plants. As a perennial, once you get it started, there really isn't much for you to do care-wise. That's great news for beginner and established gardeners, alike!
Herbaceous mugwort can become quite large, so it's best to allow it to flourish outdoors. Its preferred soil type isn't set in stone, and if tended to properly, it will thrive in almost anything, so you don't need to be an expert or buy fancy soils to grow it.
High alkalinity and nitrogen-rich soils seem to work best. Fertilizing is optional, but if you go that route, do it sparingly. Just make sure that, when planting, you rid the area of any weeds, rocks, and other impurities. Add some organic matter if you want, aerate it, and you'll be good to go.
With the potential to grow six feet tall and spread, like many perennials, mugwort needs its space. You should leave a free area of around 12 to 18 inches between plants. And don't inundate your garden with mugwort. It's considered invasive in many regions, so it won't hesitate to spread.
Mugwort has the tendency to suffocate other roots if they're planted too closely together. Some people prefer to plant it pot and all to keep the roots under control. Regardless of your method, the depth shouldn't be anything extreme. Plant the seedling no deeper than the pot's soil level. Alternatively, just leave them on their own in planters above ground so they don't become a threat.
Mugwort thrives in full sun, but partial shade works well, too. It's a resilient herb that will go along with pretty well whatever situation it's given and has evolved to withstand just about anything.
Its hardiness is versatile, too. Zones 3 to 8 are all acceptable for mugwort. This means that it can grow almost anywhere in the United States. It will survive freezes as well as high heat and humidity, though it can appear droopy if the temperatures increase dramatically.
Mugwort is prone to root rot, so don't over-water your plants. Typically, younger chutes need more water until they have established themselves. But once they're thriving, you can back off.
It's important that the soil is well-draining, too. Slightly moist is best, though mugwort can survive in infertile, dry conditions. It often demonstrates adaptable qualities for such a situation, not growing as large, but becoming more aromatic with prolonged longevity.
In many parts of the world, mugwort is deemed invasive — as with many invasive species, it doesn't have many enemies.
Conversely, mugwort is often employed to deter pests. Some people use its dried flowers as insect repellent. Also, placing its branches among vegetables will cast away threats like cabbage and carrot flies.
Just as mugwort doesn't suffer from a specific enemy, diseases also tend to avoid this herb. Historically, in fact, it was used to fend off ailments in humans. It's widely believed that mugwort has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. Additionally, the herb helps relieve gastrointestinal issues.
In a concentrated form, though, it can cause burns and adverse reactions when overused, so if you're planning to grow mugwort for its folk medicine qualities, use care.
Since mugwort is sometimes considered a weed, it tends to find a way to grow and needs no special nutrients. The special care it needs revolves more around keeping it in hand so it doesn't overtake your garden. A primary safeguard is to implement some sort of root barrier when planting, like including the pot, so it doesn't assume full control of an area.
After the first year of growth, you'll want to prune the branches to create a bushy plant. In colder zones, it's okay to cut down the shrub before winter, as it will come back the next spring.
Not surprisingly, mugwort propagates well all on its own. But if you're interested in expanding your plant count or gifting a cutting to friends, you can deliberately duplicate your plant.
Due to its rhizome status, mugwort bears roots that can easily be separated to form new plants. This method works best in the spring or autumn. For propagation in between these times, basal cuttings are the way to go. Just cut off the stem of a newer chute, apply a rooting hormone if you want, and put it in dirt or water. It will soon sprout roots of its own.
As long as it's growing, you can harvest mugwort. For a larger harvest though, the best time is autumn, prior to the first frost. The preferred method is to take the top third of each branch. Hang these clippings in a dark, dry location.
Allow them to dry out completely, then use them for insect repellent, flavoring dishes, or medicinal purposes. Just be sure to not go overboard in whatever application you choose.
Mugwort is just one of around 300 different varieties of Artemisia. All are under the umbrella of the Asteraceae, like daisies. Artemisia vulgaris is the common mugwort, though other familiar types include: japonica, indica, lactiflora, verlotiorum, and norvegica.
Artemisia vulgaris is often confused with Artemisia absinthium, which is actually wormwood. To tell them apart, look for white hairs on the undersides of the sharp leaves. This is mugwort, while wormwood leaves are blunter.