Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Artemesia - Herb of the Week and the Year - Dusty Miller

I did a post on artemesias back in June 2013 where I gave some history and a short overview. However, since the Herb of the Year for 2014 is Artemsias (meaning all 400 species) I am going to highlight a number of them this year for the Herb of the Week.

Silver King Artemesia
Look for future postings on Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), Silver King Artemesia (Artemisia Ludoviciana var. albula) also known as Western Mugwort, Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), and finally Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua).

Today, I am starting with Artemesia stelleriana known as 'Dusty Miller', because it is so well known as a garden plant.  The culinary artemesia most people know is Tarragon, but I did a post on tarragon back in February 2012.

Dusty Miller Herb of the Week
Dusty miller

Artemisia stelleriana (also called Beach Wormwood and Oldwoman) is a species of plants from the Asteraceae family, that was originally from Japan and Kamchatka. Now naturalized in the United States it is often used as a bedding plant or border because of its attractive silvery foliage and contrasting purple flowers.

Dusty miller is often planted in flower beds and is especially striking in containers where the lacy foliage is viewed up close. Dusty miller comes in several varieties, all of which have silvery foliage, but the shape of the leaves is slightly different. The mature height of the plant ranges from 8 to 18 inches. Although dusty miller is often grown as an annual, it is perennial in hardiness zones 8 through 10.

Dusty miller is a favorite because it looks good with everything. The silvery-white color is a great foil for any type of garden blossom, especially calendula, and the fine-textured foliage creates a beautiful contrast against other plants' green foliage. Dusty miller has also earned its place in the garden because it's delightfully easy to grow, withstanding heat and drought like a champion.

To Grow

It is an annual in zone 4 and can be grown from seed (and will self sow freely) or nursery plants.  It can get to 2 feet in height and as wide as 2 feet as well.  It is said to be a deer resistant plant, which may account for its popularity as a border plant.  There are perennial versions of Dusty Miller, including one called Silver Cascade which seems to be popular currently.  However, some people see Dusty Miller as an invasive plant, so I have always stayed with the annual variety that will die away at the end of the season.

Dusty miller is drought-tolerant and doesn't grow well in damp, soggy soil. Damp, humid conditions put the plant at risk for stem rot, fungus and other moisture-related problems. The plant does benefit from regular watering during warm, dry weather. Water the dusty miller deeply enough to saturate the root zone, and then don't water again until the soil dries. Avoid frequent, shallow watering, which develops weak roots and unhealthy plants.

Dusty miller is a light feeder and too much fertilizer may result in a weak, leggy plant that requires more water. It benefits from a light application of a general-purpose, slow-release fertilizer in early spring, but I have never really fertilized mine. To apply the fertilizer, sprinkle 2 to 3 teaspoons of dry fertilizer around every plant, and then water deeply to prevent scorching and to distribute the fertilizer evenly around the roots. After that, you don't need to fertilize.

Dusty miller blooms throughout the year in mild climates, sending up clusters of creamy yellow flowers. Most gardeners remove the flowers, as the blooms divert energy from the foliage. Cut perennial dusty miller down to 3 to 4 inches from the ground in spring to make room for new growth. A tired, leggy plant is revived in midsummer by removing about one-third of the growth.

To Use

The main use of this totally non-culinary or medical Artemesia is as a texture plant in the garden.  If you are interested in Moon Gardens (plants that have a silver or white character that seem to glow under moonlight) Dusty miller is an excellent choice.  Along with other Artmesias like Silver King and Queen and Sage plants and Lamb's Ear or other like it.

The leaves are covered with woolly hairs making it look fuzzy.  I like it next to Lambs Ear which is also a fuzzy-leafed plant, but without the textured leaves.  Because it is a thicker leaf you can place it in arrangements and it holds up well. 


  1. Thanks as always for the inspiration, Marcy! xo

    1. You are so nice! Hope it did not get too cold where you are! Marcy


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