There are two types of southernwood, lemon southernwood with its fresh scent of citrus fruits and camphor southernwood with a very special, sweet and cola-like scent. Both can be grown in the home garden. They don’t bloom reliably in our climate, but if you want to use southernwood, you only need the leaves anyway. The maintenance is quite easy. You can read what you need to know about it in our text.


  • Korbblüts
  • Medicinal and spice plant
  • Related to mugwort and wormwood
  • Original home ranges from Albania, Croatia to the southern European part of Russia and the Ukraine, also to Turkey
  • worldwide cultivation
  • Subshrub or perennial herb
  • Smells aromatic
  • Thick roots which become woody
  • Upright, branched stems
  • Bipinnate to tripinnate grey-green leaves
  • Flowering time – from late summer to autumn
  • Tubular flowers in white to yellow
  • In parts of Europe, including Germany, flowering can fail due to cold weather
  • Plant contains a lot of essential oil and other valuable substances
  • Southernwood drives away flies and parasites

The care of southernwood

Southernwood is a fairly robust plant. The plants are not particularly demanding and grow well provided they have the right location and substrate. The plants are very drought tolerant, but struggle with moisture. This can be a problem, especially in winter. A sunny, warm location is important for southernwood. A sheltered spot is good.

Above all, the plant substrate must be permeable. Some lime in the soil is beneficial. The plants should not be placed too densely, because they spread out vigorously. You don’t have to water much, if at all. Only southernwood in containers needs a regular supply of water.

The pruning takes place in the spring. You can safely grab the scissors. In terms of temperature, hibernation is not a problem. Only wetness is bad, which is why the plants should be covered with brushwood, just so that the soil does not remain permanently wet. Southernwood is propagated by sowing seeds, cuttings or division of the rootstock. Diseases and pests are rare.


When it comes to the location, it is important that it is very sunny, warm and dry. The plants need a lot of sun and get along much better with dry soil than with moist. It is important that southernwood is not placed too close to other plants.

  • Warm
  • full sun
  • sheltered from the wind

plant substrate

It is important for the plant substrate that it is dry and permeable. Too moist substrate is unfavorable, then a drainage should be created so that excess water can run off well. Waterlogging is not tolerated.

  • Loose and permeable
  • Slightly calcareous
  • No waterlogging
  • It is best to work sand, gravel or stones into the soil to make it more permeable
  • In the herb garden, adding additives such as pumice or zeolite is recommended.
  • Moderately dry soil
  • Protect the soil from excessive moisture, especially in winter


Southernwood tends to proliferate. It is therefore important to leave enough space around the plant, otherwise the neighboring plants will be threatened. At the same time, however, they benefit from southernwood, because its essential oils keep unwanted predators at bay.

  • Planting distance about half a meter
  • Change location every three to four years to ensure the nutrient supply
Note: Southernwood should not be planted too close to other medicinal plants because the leaves contain growth-inhibiting substances that can spread to neighboring plants.

watering and fertilizing

Little, if any, is poured. Planted specimens usually have enough rainwater. The plants are only grateful for additional watering if the drought lasts for a long time. Plants grown in containers need to be watered more regularly. The root balls should not dry out completely.

  • Water sparingly
  • Planted specimens usually get by with rainwater and do not have to be watered additionally.
  • Plants in containers should receive water
  • The plants cope much better with drought than with moisture
  • Mix horn shavings or compost into the soil in spring
  • Enrich lime-poor garden soils with garden lime

To cut

You can cut southernwood, but you don’t have to. It makes sense to shorten the shoots in spring until the woody main shoot is reached. The southernwood then drives out vigorously again. I have also read repeatedly that the plants are cut down to the ground in the fall. Maybe you should try both variants and then decide which one works better.


Southernwood is sufficiently hardy. The plants actually do not need any protection against the cold. The problem is wetness. Cold combined with wet soil is bad for the plants. Therefore, it makes sense to cover the soil with brushwood in winter. This protects the soil from the usually numerous precipitation in winter, no matter what form.


Southernwood can be propagated by seed, cuttings or by dividing the rootstock. You can rarely harvest seeds yourself, as the plants tend not to flower in our climate. But there are seeds to buy, that’s no problem. Sowing succeeds reliably, is not difficult. The propagation of cuttings also works.


  • Sow in April
  • light germinator
  • Scatter seeds loosely on the soil, press lightly and do not cover
  • Keep slightly moist
  • Prick young plants individually into pots as soon as a few leaves have formed
  • Plant out plants when they are strong enough


  • Spring is the best time
  • To do this, cut off a long shoot with the tip of the shoot
  • Slightly woody shoots are best
  • Stick in some moist soil
  • Put the bag over the jar
  • It takes a long time for roots to form
  • Success rate about 40%
Tip: For the propagation of cuttings, you can use the shoots that come up when pruning in the spring.

Share rootstock

  • Take the plant and its roots out of the ground
  • expose root
  • Divide and plant again

diseases and pests

Diseases and pests are very rare. Southernwood can even keep pests away from other plants, which is why the plant is often interplanted in mixed cultures. With its ethereal fragrances, for example, it keeps the cabbage white away from the cabbage.

Aphids on the leaves and shoots – there are various types that damage the plants through their massive sucking activity. You can see deformed shoot tips, curled, yellowed and dried leaves and honeydew, i.e. aphid excretions that are sticky and shiny. Sooty mold grows on the honeydew and additionally weakens the plants. Here help to simply rinse off the pests with a sharp jet of water. Spraying with a water-curd soap solution is also helpful. Chemicals should only be used in extreme emergencies.

The use of southernwood

When using southernwood, it depends on which of the two culture types you have in the garden. There is the one with an overpowering lemon smell, the lemon southernwood and then the stronger-smelling camphor southernwood. It is important that you dose the plant parts carefully, because the taste is very intense and bitter.

  • In the kitchen, southernwood is mainly used to refine fatty meat
  • The bitter substances make the meat more digestible and have a digestive effect

Southernwood is also a surefire way to prevent moths. The dried herb is simply put into a cotton bag, which goes in the closet. The essential oils keep substance-eating insects at bay. Lemon southernwood is found in almost every fresh-smelling potpourri. The scent lasts well and doesn’t go away quickly.

Southernwood hardly plays a role in medicine anymore. It used to be much more appreciated. The tannins and bitter substances were of particular importance. These stimulate the digestive juices in the stomach, bile and liver.

  • In folk medicine, southernwood was used for a wide variety of things
  • In ancient times it was considered a gall and liver remedy.
  • The herb was also used as a dewormer.

It was later used to treat jaundice and shortness of breath.

  • The effect on nervous stomach complaints and as an appetite stimulant has been confirmed.
  • The plant strengthens the digestive and urinary organs
  • Used for cough and bronchitis
  • Supposedly southernwood also helps against male baldness. To do this, the ash of the plant must be mixed with salad oil. Then the mass is applied to the bald spots.

use as a tea

Southernwood leaves can be used as a tea. The fresh shoots are harvested for this, from around June until flowering. The leaves can be used fresh or dried.

  • Prepare an infusion with one or two teaspoons of leaves
  • Leave for 5 to 10 minutes
  • Drink one to three cups daily
  • Leave the dried herb for 5 minutes, fresh 10 minutes

Use as a tincture

  • Prepare tincture like the tea, but stronger
  • 10 to 50 drops up to three times a day

Frequently Asked Questions

Cola plants are often offered commercially. Is this Eberrue?
Yes, this is a trick in plant markets. Many hobby gardeners know that Southernwood is very bitter. That seems rather repulsive when buying. Coke plant sounds much better.

What kind of southernwood is better to grow?
When it comes to cultivation, there are actually hardly any differences. However, southernwood with its lemony aroma is much more versatile. Its leaves are not bitter and can be used in any salad. However, the bitter ones are more helpful when it comes to health. So it depends on what you intend to do with the plant. I would plant one of each species, then you have a free choice.

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