This so-called Dream Plant, Artemisia, may be the quintessential Californian. And like Californians, many species are non-native (most are from Asia, probably China). While California does have its own native varieties—Artemisia californicus and the Beach Wormwood—they tend to be too scruffy to be popular as ornamentals. In fact, of the 200 - 400 species known of the genus, only a few are used as ornamentals.
A robust californicus below:
The Beach Wormwood:
Photo by Richard Schiell
Artemisias' ability to tolerate hot, dry, and sunny conditions make it particularly Southern Californiphiliac. It prefers well drained soil and full sun (can get "leggy" in partial shade). A good spreader, some species can disperse so prodigiously as to be considered aggressive. Some varieties will therefore require more loving discipline than others.
Artemisia's palette contrasts well with other plants. Its wan color and lacey textures lends itself well to most garden compositions, lending depth and fullness. It can also pair strikingly well with flowers, especially white and blue varieties, and its cloud-like formation blends well with a spikey native like the Juncus patens below.
Artemisias come in a variety of colors from a silvery blueish to darker olive greens. While many species will bloom, the flowers don't amount to much. It's not Artemisia's flowers that we love but its beautiful and aromatic foliage.
Great for accenting, layering, or providing a color backdrop:
Heuchera against Artemisia's silvery field: