How to Grow and Care for Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

An Aromatic, Hardy, and Interesting Plant That Can Be Invasive

Mugwort plant with gray-green sharp-edged leaves clustered closely

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) is a perennial herb with a long history. Known best in herbal terms as a "dream" herb this is an aromatic plant, thought to promote and enhance dreaming during sleep. It has been used over many centuries as a bitter-tasting tonic for digestive disorders and as a flavoring agent in cooking and distilling. The dried leaves have antifungal and antiseptic properties, too, and are occasionally used to relieve itchy skin.

Common mugwort is just one of over 300 Artemisia species, all of which are part of the Asteraceae (daisy) family.

Traditionally grown for culinary and medicinal purposes, this aromatic plant has ornamental value in a wild or meadow garden setting. It's known for being attractive to pollinators like bees and butterflies.

A robust species with strong, woody roots that help support its impressive height—mugwort can grow up to six feet tall. Its attractive foliage develops interesting gray-green tones, and the dark green erect stems have a distinct purple hue.

During the summer, mugwort displays small red, pink, orange, and yellow flowers. Although they aren't as showy as a lot of prized garden plants, they look lovely in dried flower arrangements.

Their height means they can act as an attractive backdrop for smaller border or walled garden plants, and they also give off a pleasant sage-like fragrance.

Mugwort is fast-spreading and is classed as an invasive noxious weed in some parts of the U.S. You should always check before planting, and be aware that it can quickly choke out less robust plants in its vicinity.

Common wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) is frequently mistaken for mugwort, and vice versa. While they're closely related, they're completely separate species. Mugwort can be identified through its foliage which has white hairs on the undersides, and the leaves have sharp edges, rather than the blunt type seen on wormwood.

Botanical Name Artemisia vulgaris
Common Name Common mugwort
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size Up to 6 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun / partial shade
Soil Type Tolerates a variety of well-drained types
Soil pH Tolerates a variety
Bloom Time Summer and early fall
Flower Color Yellowish to reddish-brown
Hardiness Zones 3 to 8
Native Area Asia, Europe and North Africa

How to Care for Mugwort

Although it prefers plenty of sun and well-draining soil, once it's established, mugwort is hardy, drought-tolerant and can cope with a variety of conditions.

It's even thought that infertile soils and dry conditions can increase the longevity and aromatic intensity of the plant, and it won't grow as tall.

Warning

Mugworts rhizomatous roots spread quickly, and their seeds disperse across a wide area; this is why they're often classed as invasive. The plant roots also release a chemical that can be harmful to other plants growing in the same area. If you still want to grow mugwort, but have concerns about their invasive nature, planting them in containers or in isolation could be considered. Check with your local extension office before planting.

Mugwort plant with gray-green and sharp-edged leaves on branch closeup

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mugwort plant with tall thin stems with small yellow flowers near pathway

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mugwort plant with thin tall stems with small green leaves and yellow flowers in sunlight

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Mugwort plant with tall thin stems with sharp-edged leaves and small flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Light

Mugwort prefers a location where they'll receive full sunlight during the day. They can, however, still cope in partial shade, too.

Soil

Mugwort is tolerant of a variety of soil types, including those with high alkalinity or nitrogen content.

Although it prefers slightly moist and well-draining soils, it survives well in dry and infertile conditions. In fact, although the plants won't grow as high, it can result in more aromatic and long-lived specimens.

Water

This plant doesn't appreciate being over-watered. Excessively wet soils will usually result in root rot. Young plants benefit from watering to keep the soil lightly moist, but once Mugwort is well-established, it's pretty drought-tolerant.

Temperature and Humidity

This species is known for surviving across a wide range of temperatures. If you live in a region that experiences high heat and humidity during the summer, however, the foliage can begin to droop and won't look as healthy. The thick and tall stems can be prone to flopping too.

Propagating Mugwort

Mugwort can be easily propagated via basal cuttings or by dividing the rhizomatous roots.

Division of the roots can be done in the spring (before the new foliage appears) or fall, and establishing a cutting is best done in the late spring when new growth starts to appear.

Harvesting

Mugwort harvesting can be done at different times of the year, depending on how you plan to use it. It's most commonly harvested in the fall in advance of the first frosts. The top third of the plant can be cut off and hung in a dry and shady position to dry out.

Growing From Seeds

Mugwort seeds are best sown close to the soil surface in the early spring after a period of cold stratification. They appreciate plenty of light and should be kept moist.

Pruning

Like most herbs, Mugwort will thrive with repeated prunings throughout the growing season. You can take up to a foot off the top which will encourage branching and help give mugwort its appealing shrubby look. In regions with colder winters, this plant can also be cut back to the ground for overwintering. New shoots will begin to show in mid-spring once they are two to three feet tall, you should begin the pruning process.