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A Silvery Herb for Tough Spots

December 9, 2016 Back to Picks >

“Silver King” western mugwort (Artemisia ludoviciana albula) is an herbaceous variety bred from artemisias native to the Western U.S. It’s popular in the garden for its relatively compact form and lacy silver leaves. This member of the artemisia family grows one to three feet high with slender spreading branches. In late summer it sports the small yellow flowers characteristic of this family of herbs.

Being native to hot, dry regions Silver King has minimal water requirements and prefers full sun in a dry location. It also tolerates poor soils, making it a good candidate for the problem spots every gardener seems to have. Try growing this native on steep slopes or rocky terrain where it is hard to grow anything else. It is also a generally trouble-free herb. The pungent scent discourages most insects.

The strong roots of Silver King make it useful on slopes and areas requiring erosion control. However those same roots tend to spread easily into unwanted areas, often colonizing a space three feet in diameter. Pull up unwanted side shoots when weeding the garden. You should also mow this artemisia in the fall to encourage compact growth in spring.

Like many artemisias, Silver King has been used in Native American medicine. A tea was made from the leaves to combat upset stomach. Tea made from the roots helped with constipation and problems urinating. The aroma also made it popular as incense for religious ceremonies.

In today’s home Silver King can be used as cut foliage in fresh or dried arrangements. The finely divided gray leaves make a nice contrast with fresh green leaves and strongly colored flowers arranged in a vase. Branches of Silver King cut and bundled together can also be dried upside down and used in dried wreaths and swags.