Mugwort Plant Profile

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

Close up of fresh growth of mugwort

Sansa55 / Getty Images

The name ugwort is used for a variety of different plant species. Most frequently, however, it's used when referring to the herbaceous perennial common mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).

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 also 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, however, 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
Flowering Mugwort close up
The woody stems of Mugwort have a distinct purple hue Mantonnature / Getty Images

How to Grow 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, despite meaning it won't grow as tall.

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.

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.

A bitter-tasting aromatic herb, mugwort is related to tarragon and can be used as an alternative flavoring. It's also often dried and used in tea, sometimes to treat digestive disorders. The dried leaves have antifungal and antiseptic properties, too, and are occasionally used to relieve itchy skin.

If an excess amount of mugwort is consumed, it can cause gastric problems, and it shouldn't be used by anyone who is pregnant.

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.