Wormwood: [Cultivation, Irrigation, Care, Pests and Diseases]

Artemisia absinthium, better known as wormwood, holy herb, teacher herb, among many other variants, is a plant with incomparable historical medicinal value.

Known and appreciated since ancient times by the Egyptians and the Greeks, wormwood was used as an anthelmintic, that is, to eliminate parasite infestations in the intestine.

Wormwood was also traditionally used to improve digestion, to improve liver and gallbladder problems, as well as to stimulate menstruation.

In fact, within an ancient medicine book called The Poor’s Treasure, wormwood was listed as «the mother of all herbs» due to its numerous medicinal and aromatic applications.

Currently, wormwood has become one of the essential plants in today’s orchards. Now, what steps must be followed to cultivate it? Below we share some important points about growing wormwood.

Important points when sowing wormwood

  • Scientific name: Artemisia absinthium.
  • Common name: Wormwood, holy herb, bitter artemisia, teacher herb, prodigious, alosna, artemisa.
  • Height: 40 cm and 1 m.
  • Need for light: Sun exposure and semi-shade.
  • Temperature: Warm.
  • Irrigation: Controlled.
  • Fertilizer: Natural and artificial fertilizers.

What characteristics does wormwood have?

Artemisia absinthium is one of the 474 accepted species of the 1449 described by specialists. With branchy and deciduous stems, wormwood produces straight branches that measure between 50 centimeters and 1 meter in height.

The branches of wormwood dry up in autumn and winter, but they grow again during spring, when clusters of yellow flowers appear and produce an achene fruit, that is, a simple and dry fruit with a strong and penetrating smell.

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Both the branches and the leaves have a whitish color due to the thick gray hair that covers them. In fact, one of the most important characteristics of wormwood is the bitter taste of its leaves caused by an alkaloid known as absintine.

There are theories that explain that «Artemisia» was named in honor of the Greek goddess Artemis, the goddess of hunting, of the healing virtues of women’s diseases, fertility and virgin land.

When to sow wormwood?

Although some species can be found in the wild, Artemisia absinthium is usually planted during the last days of winter and early spring, since it is in this season that the necessary conditions for its growth are presented.

Where to plant wormwood?

Wormwood is native to Europe, Asia and North Asia, so it grows in cool terrain and environments with moderate rainfall (less than 400 liters per year), where there is protection from the wind so that it cannot spread the small seeds of wormwood. plant.

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Specialists recommend growing wormwood in a planting frame of between 70 x 30 centimeters and 60 x 80 centimeters facing south or southwest to favor exposure to the sun.

How to prepare the land?

Wormwood is a plant that does not require too much care. It grows very well in dry, light and deep plastic soils, especially if grown in enriched and well-drained substrates. Care must be taken that the soil is not very clayey or excessively moist, as these conditions are unfavorable for the plant.

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On the other hand, in large plantations it is expected that the soil be well fertilized, either with manure, or with mineral components such as nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potassium in different measures and proportions.

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If you want to grow in small gardens, it is recommended to make a basic mixture of 50% earthworm humus, with organic nutrients and chemical retention, and 50% coconut fiber, a light fiber that helps retain moisture and that the substrate has an optimal pH (between 4.8 and 8.2).

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There are other proportions to have an improved substrate. For these cases, a mixture is recommended in which the substrate contains 40% earthworm humus, 40% coconut fiber, 10% agrolite and 10% vermiculite, with which decompaction, aeration and chemical retention are favored. of nutrients.

How do we water wormwood?

Although wormwood is resistant to drought, it is more productive if it is subjected to regular and controlled irrigation, monitoring the moisture levels of the substrate and avoiding waterlogging.

How often do we water the wormwood?

It is important to water wormwood seeds daily when they are planted, about an inch of water each week, especially during the summer.

However, as the plant becomes established and mature, the risk should decrease dramatically. For example, in summer it is recommended to water the plant every two or three weeks, and increase the frequency during times of drought or extreme heat.

On the contrary, irrigation of wormwood should be limited during the rainy season or in climates where there is greater humidity to prevent the plant from weakening or fungus sprouting.

How to sow a wormwood step by step?

Wormwood can be grown in different ways:

by seed

  1. The seeds are placed in a seedbed, well covered by a light layer of fine sand. It can also be sown broadcast, as long as the seeds are covered by sandy soil.
  2. Let the seeds germinate for 15 days with daily and light watering until a couple of leaves sprout from the seedlings.
  3. When the plants are 6 or 7 fingers tall, transplant them in rows 70 to 80 centimeters apart.

by stakes

  1. Look for a mature wormwood plant with one-year-old branches.
  2. Cut branches into sections of approximately 15 to 20 centimeters.
  3. Strip the leaves and bury them in rows 3 to 4 centimeters apart, leaving two or three buds from the cutting outside.
  4. Water daily without over-wetting the soil.
  5. Transplant the cuttings once they have taken root, especially during the spring.

by layer

  1. Choose a young branch of wormwood.
  2. On one section of the branch, remove or carve about 1 cm of bark.
  3. Surround the area of ​​​​the branch with sawdust or moistened moss between 8 and 10 centimeters.
  4. Cover the area with plastic and tie it firmly.
  5. The layer can be separated from the plant only if a large number of roots are observed in the intervened area and then it is transplanted.

What care does wormwood need?

One of the main precautions for wormwood is to monitor the level of humidity in the soil and avoid flooding, as humidity can favor the appearance of fungi and seriously harm the plant. During the summer the wormwood plant should be watered more frequently. It is also important to weed the land to remove weeds, as well as to control ant colonies.

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It is also important to prune wormwood in the fall to prevent uncontrolled spread. The procedure for pruning or harvesting the plant is done by cutting tender external stems and allowing the central branches to thicken so that it can recover.

What pests and diseases affect wormwood?

As such, wormwood is not known to have specific diseases or pests. In fact, the leaves are a very effective natural remedy to control the pests of different crops.

However, wormwood can develop fungus due to excess moisture in the soil. The fungi that usually affect this plant are Puccinia absinthii and Phacopsora compositarum.

On the other hand, if drooping stems, loose foliage and discoloration are observed, it is important to check the soil moisture level and stop watering for a week or two to allow the wormwood to regain its strength.

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