Southernwood is a bushy shrub that is grown in many cottage gardens and herbaceous borders as a decorative plant. It is strongly aromatic and said to repel bees. The French call it garde-robe because they use it in wardrobes to ward off moths.
The plant can grow to a height of three feet with a spread of two feet. The woody stem has many soft, branching shoots covered with strong, feathery, gray-green leaves. The tiny flowers, which appear in late summer, are golden yellow.
Southernwood is an undemanding perennial which is only hardy in temperate regions. It needs a sunny location with well drained soil that has been enriched with leaf mold or compost, and should be protected form strong winds. Take cuttings of new growth in early summer. Cuttings of hard wood are taken in fall and allowed to heal before rooting. Leave all the growth on through the winter in spite of its bedraggled appearance as this growth will protect the woody stems from the effect of cold winds. Cut back in early spring to produce lush fresh growth. Flower heads should be removed as they appear.
Hang prunings in bunches to dry out or cut fresh as required.
Dried leaves can be used in linen bags to prevent insects and in potpourri, and a yellow dye can be extracted from the stems.
An infusion of the leaves can be used as a hair rinse to combat dandruff.