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Tanacetum

Asteraceae (Compositae)
Perennials, Flowers

Most species have finely divided leaves (often aromatic) and clusters of daisylike flowerheads. Some have gray to nearly white foliage.

Tanacetum balsamita

Native Europe to central Asia. This weedy, rhizomatous plant is grown for its sweet-scented foliage (used in salads and sachets) rather than its tiny daisies. Leggy stems reach to 3 ft. tall; if these are cut back, the gray-green, finely scallop-edged basal leaves can make a nice edging for an herb garden. Divide clumps and reset divisions in late summer or fall.

Tanacetum parthenium

Native to southern Europe and the Caucasus. Compact, leafy, aggressive, spreading by volunteer seedlings; once favored in Victorian gardens. Plants are covered in small yellow, white, or yellow-centered white daisies in summer. Leaves have a strong peppery scent that some people find offensive. Varieties range from 1–3 ft. tall.

To propagate, divide the clumps in spring; or sow seeds in spring for bloom by midsummer.

Tanacetum vulgare (photo courtesy of Michel Lefèvre/Bios/Photolibrary)
Tanacetum vulgare (photo courtesy of Michel Lefèvre/Bios/Photolibrary)

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Tanacetum vulgare

Native to Europe. Coarse, rather weedy garden plant to 3 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide, with finely divided, bright green, aromatic (some say smelly) leaves. Small, buttonlike yellow flowers appear in late summer. Thin clumps yearly to keep in bounds. This plant is no longer used medicinally, though it is still grown in herb gardens. T. v. crispum, fern-leaf tansy, grows to 2 1/2 ft. tall; it has finely cut foliage and is more decorative than the species. ‘Isla Gold’ has golden yellow foliage.

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