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Guide to Growing Absinthe

Written by Stephanie on February 23rd, 2017

Absinthe (Artemisia absinthium) is also called wormwood.  It is widespread in Crimea, Siberia, Europe, and Britain.  Absinthe is a many branched, aromatic, silvery perennial that grows to forty inches high.  The leaves have silky hairs and are silvery green.  The flower heads are founded, pendent, and borne on auxiliary spikes forming a slender yellow flower.  The leaves and flowering tops are harvested in late spring to early autumn and used to flavor a liqueur.  The liqueur absinthe is illegal in several countries, including the United States of America.

Absinthe grows best in full sun.  It tolerates drought, well drained soil, and low fertility soil.  However, it grows best when it gets regular water and is growing in well drained, fertile soil.  The easiest way to provide such soil is to till the soil to a depth of twelve inches.  Spread three inches of compost on the tilled area.  Till the compost into the loosened soil.  This will not only add fertility to the soil, it will aid it in draining well when it rains.

Absinthe grows best in near neutral pH.  It will tolerate alkaline soil, however.  It grows in zones four to nine and is drought resistant once established.  It is also considered salt and deer resistant.  The flowers are very fragrant and are often used in cut flower arrangements or dried flower arrangements.  The dry flowers are brittle so handle with care.  It is a good idea to deadhead the plant and not allow it to go to seed if harvesting the foliage, as seed heads reduce the quality of the foliage.

Absinthe grows up to three feet and spreads up to two and a half feet.  It is widely cultivated in Europe for the making of the absinthe liqueur.  It can be propagated by seed, division, layering, or cuttings.  Seed germinates slowly, so the most popular means of propagation are division, layering, or cuttings.

Cut back in June to keep absinthe bushy.  You can use the cuttings to root new plants.  Dip the cutting in rooting hormone and stick in a soilless potting medium.  Water the soil and cover the cutting with plastic wrap to keep it moist.  Place in a warm dark place.  Once the cutting has rooted, remove the plastic and move the plant into the sun for hardening off.  Once the plant is hardened off, you can put it in the ground.  Water the plant in and continue watering until it is established.

Divide absinthe in spring or fall when the center growth thins.  Dig up and cut off the new plants.  Discard the center.  Plant the new plants.  Water well until established.

To layer absinthe, lay small branches on the ground and cover with dirt.  Water to keep moist and over a few weeks, the branches will sprout roots.  The new plant may then be cut free from the parent plant and planted normally.

Absinthe is vulnerable to downy mildew, powdery mildew, white rust, and fungal leaf and stem rots, particularly if overwatered.


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