Grow Sweet Annie for Fresh or Dried Bouquets and Wreaths

Bouquet with dark red, pink, yellow, and orange flowers with green, airy sweet annie bouquet filler
Sweet Annie as a bouquet filler for late summer flowers: amaranth, golden glow, and orange marigolds

Artemisia annua

Sweet Annie is an annual artemisia. It has a wonderful fragrance, it’s a tiny bit sticky with resin. Its foliage is ferny and delicate making it a perfect summer, fragrant, bouquet filler. Plus it dries well for dried bouquets and for wreath making.

 And it’s very easy to grow.

Being an artemisia it joins some other artemisias that are often called wormwood, though the term usually refers to Artemisia absinthium, which has a psychoactive compound, thujone.

Sweet Annie does not have this compound but it  has been used medicinally for centuries, mostly as a remedy for malaria. But the World Health Organization advises not to use the plant as a malaria medicine. See Special Info below for more.

Most of the wormwoods have a strong, pleasant fragrance, and Sweet Annie has one of the sweetest and most pleasant.

What Sweet Annie Flowers are Like

They’re small, petal-less, ball shaped flowers. Fairly insignificant.They need to be harvested just before they start to drop their pollen so they don’t get too messy. Or you can wait till the pollen is dropped to harvest. See more on harvesting below.

Close up of tiny Sweet Annie flowers that are in a bouquet of flowers
Close-up of little Sweet Annie flowers just right for harvest

What the Plants are Like

Annual plant up to 6 ft. tall spreading 4-5 ft. wide with horizontal branches.

How to Grow Sweet Annie Plants

Full sun is best. They’re easy to start by seed in seed trays or direct sow. They need light to germinate so don’t cover, or just barely cover with soil when you plant. To direct sow into a garden bed you can sprinkle the seeds and lightly rake over them. Thin them to about 12 in. apart when they’re several inches tall.

Days to maturity from seed is about 100 days. The plant is at harvest stage when the little flowers are developed. This is late summer.

Sweet Annie tolerates drought but grows bigger if it gets regular water. It tolerates a wide range of soils, so it can go into one of your less fertile garden beds.

It’s said to resist deer. I do believe that because all the artemisias I’ve known do, but I simply haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t vouch for that yet.

If you let a plant go to seed, which is easy to do, you’ll likely end up with volunteers the next summer.  Just shake the ripe branches (with flowers that are past the pollen dropping stage) around where you want them to grow next.

How to Harvest Sweet Annie

The foliage is ready to harvest in late summer.

Harvest once the little flowers have developed, they’ll be plump and round, but before the pollen drops, so don’t delay. If you harvest too early the stems are thin and don’t last well in the vase.

If you harvest too late the tiny flowers will drop pollen or seed everywhere. But you can still use them.

You can harvest whole branches for fresh or dried use.

 If you’ll be drying them, keep them in smaller bundles because they can get brittle once dry and they could break apart too much. But they are fairly forgiving.

If you harvest them when the flowers are just full but not shedding pollen, seeds, or other little bits then you can hang them to dry. If it’s too early the ends will droop and be straight rather than naturally curved. And they’ll be more likely to droop in damp weather.

If you want to dry the branches, but harvested too late, they tend to lose their green color and turn brown. This will also happen if any finished dried flowers are in too much light.

And when harvested at the right time. Your can put them upright in a vase to dry…making a nice instant arrangement.

My Favorite Varieties of Sweet Annie

It’s the only one. There are other artemisias, though. The other one I love to use is ‘Silver King.’

Sources for Sweet Annie Seeds or Plants

Many seed companies offer Sweet Annie seeds. Johnny’s Seeds and Botanical Interests carry them. You’ll rarely find plant starts in nurseries, but if you poke around small local plant sales you could very likely find starts for these. But it’s super simple to start them yourself.

Special Info on Sweet Annie

The compound in Sweet Annie that is used in anti-malarial medicines is artemisinin. Currently all strains of malaria can be treated by it. And medicines are made with it. But in many areas with high malaria rates the medicines are unavailable or too expensive to buy, leading people to use homemade substitutes.

Homemade preparations can vary greatly in their potency. Malaria is a deadly disease from parasites and dosages need to be effective to kill all the parasites. One of WHO’s concerns is that the herbal remedies could hasten the development of artemisinin resistance.

Read more on this at the World Health Organization’s website.

Flowers that Go Well With Sweet Annie:

These are flowers that will likely be blooming when Sweet Annie is ripe:

Amaranth

Sunflowers

Marigolds

Tithonia

Perennial Sunflowers

Golden Glow

For dried arrangements:

Strawflowers

Gomphrena

Poppy pods

Dried wreath with gray foliage, yellow, purple, and pink flowers andtouches of green dried Sweet Annie flower sprigs
Dried wreath with a gray foliage from lamb's ears, silver king artemisia, statice, gomphrena flowers and green sprigs of Sweet Annie
Dried wreath with silver king artemisia, lamb's ears, golden yarrow, celosia, statice, and dried orange marigolds, with green sprigs of Sweet Annie.