How Do You Grow Wormwood?

Here is the growth habit of my single, 4-foot wormwood. (Image by Jessie Keith)

“I was considering raising wormwood to use as pain relief, hopefully in a raised bed. Do you have any suggestions as to the type of soil and fertilizers? Thank you.” Question from Kevin of Bellville, Ohio

Answer: I have grown wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), and there are several things you should consider before growing this large, Eurasian perennial herb in the sunflower family. First, it is very big and bushy. Mine was very happy and grew to an amazing 4 feet high and across. So, give it plenty of space. Just a few happy plants could easily fill a standard-sized raised bed.

When it comes to growing conditions, give wormwood full sun, and average soil that is very well-drained and on the dry side. It grows naturally as a field and roadside weed, so it is not too picky, aside from its inability to tolerate moist soils. If you fertilize at all, fertilize lightly. The only amendment you may consider is a top-dressing of compost, such as Black Gold Garden Compost Blend.

The silvery, ferny foliage of wormwood has a resinous, almost minty smell that’s very strong, and the plant as a whole has an attractive, shrubby look. Its small, yellow blooms are quite inconspicuous. Trim back the stems before it sets seed or else it will self-sow everywhere.

Be very cautious about using wormwood as a medicinal for ingestion. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has classified it as unsafe because it contains the neurotoxin thujone, which can be harmful.

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist