Sweet Annie Smells Like the Old General Store

We harvest plants for many reasons. The plants in the vegetable garden and other edibles, like blackberries, elderberries and blueberries, provide for our sustenance and good health. The herb garden plants also find their way into the kitchen where they’re hung to dry for the cook. Other plants are harvested for their beautiful flowers and still others are gathered and dried for their medicinal content or used in crafts and decorations.

I’m sure it doesn’t surprise anyone that some herbs are appreciated for their scent alone. Who wouldn’t like to lay their head on a lavender pillow?

Another example of an herb that is appreciated for its scent is called Sweet Annie, Artemisia annua. Sweet Annie is also known as Annual Wormwood, but I like the more descriptive Sweet Annie.

Sweet Annie has been used for a long time as a natural room air freshener. Folks in the old general store would hang a bunch of Sweet Annie from the corner of a room to cover up musty odors. In the olden days, and most likely in many Amish and Mennonite homes yet today, Sweet Annie would be hung in the pantry to give a pleasing scent, but also to act as a pest deterrent. We have a small bunch hanging from a towel rack in the bathroom.

Sweet Annie is grown in herb gardens for its aromatic foliage, but it has escaped cultivation to become established in the U.S. Even though it can be classified as an alien weed, Sweet Annie is here to stay.

In the following picture you can see the numerous small, hanging flower heads. As a member of the composite family Sweet Annie will produce many small seeds from each little flower. Its flowers are tiny, yellow-green and ray-less.

Small yellow flowers of Sweet Annie.

Holding up the Sweet Annie stem, you can see the spikes of yellow flowers rise up from the leaf axils.

Many blooms of Sweet Annie.

Ok, do you think Sweet Annie has a chance of re-seeding itself?

Remember, it’s a composite family member so each little yellow bloom will produce several smaller-than-poppy-seed small seeds!

Foliage of Sweet Annie is deeply and finely cut, fern-like, and stands up to 3-4 feet tall. You’ll find it in waste places and along roads.

Leaves of Sweet Annie.

The finely-cut leaves of Sweet Annie.

Related plants in the genus Artemisia are typically very fragrant and include the mugworts and wormwoods.

Leaves and seeds are used medicinally, so Sweet Annie is appreciated for more than just her scent. Leaf tea can be used to treat colds, fevers, and diarrhea, while poultices can be used externally to treat abscesses and boils. Compounds that can be derived from Artemisia annua have been researched for their antimalarial and herbicidal properties.

13 thoughts on “Sweet Annie Smells Like the Old General Store”

  1. Pls keep me up date of sweet wormwoody( Artemisia annua}If new uses of this herb come to known.I am in India helping poor people here.To save them from Parasits & malaria ect.
    Thanks lot for informations.

  2. Hi Bill,
    I found it very interesting that this herb has potential use as a pesticide. We love the natural way of doing things here! Does sweet wormwood grow in your area? We planted it around our deck to help keep the gnats and bugs away from our outdoor sitting area. It sure seems to help. The sweet annie got mowed down this year and this year is the first time we’ve been bothered by gnats out on the deck. We’ll make sure that sweet wormwood gets planted around the deck again next year.

    Here in Pennsylvania we regularly rub catnip on our legs and arms and necks to drive away pesky gnats and flies. The only compromise is that we’re very desirable by the neighborhood kitties! I mention this because there may be other plants that you could try to grow for the same purpose, like catnip.

    It’s fantastic that you’re there to help other people, Bill. Good on ya!

  3. Hey Marlene, I love the smell too!

    Sweet Annie is related to the ragweeds, and you’d really think so if you’re looking at the common ragweed. It has finely divided leaves just like those of Sweet Annie, but I would say the Sweet Annie leaves are more finely divided than those of the common ragweed. A close cousin, giant ragweed, has larger three-lobed leaves. The flowers are just as small and just as full of pollen.

  4. I just received a sweet annie. The smell is fabulous! Where should I plant it? I live in a very woody area.

  5. Hi Julie!

    The smell IS fabulous! I would find the sunniest location you can for Sweet Annie. The plants we had were planted on the north side of the house and didn’t receive as much sun as they would have liked. We’re in the woods too and sunny spots are in short supply. Before the frost hits take a few snips indoors and hang in the kitchen or pantry. Enjoy!

  6. Was looking for info on goldenrod i.e. is it the same as ragweed? I found your site and you gave the answer. Thanks! I live in southern IN near the river.

  7. Hey Tracy!
    Glad it helped. Are your allergies making you suffer? Ragweed seems to bother a lot of people.
    Thanks for chiming in!

  8. Hi! Where can I find or purchase sweet annie? Does Walmart sell them? I heard tons of good things about this plant so I want to plant it around where I live. I love scented herbs and I love that we share the same name. I learn that you can even make wreaths out of them.

  9. Hi Annie,
    I’ve never seen Sweet Annie at Walmart or any garden center near me, but I did find that if you search for “Artemisia Annua” on ebay you can find several sellers that offer seeds. At least you could have some for next year! Make sure the plants get full sun, too.
    Good luck!

  10. I always saw people carrying bundles of weeds each year at the feast in Lafeyette, Ind.
    I loved the scent that they gave off. This year I found out what it was and bought a bundle of it to make the tipi smell better. I brought it home and hung it upside down in the garage. If I take it out in the field and shake it, do you think the seeds will sprout next spring. The bundle is pretty dry by now.

  11. Hi Gary!

    Yes, I would definitely shake the seeds out in the field. Probably would do so before a rain in hopes that some of the seeds would be worked into the soil a bit. That way the birds and other seed-eating critters might not ingest them all.

    How fun to have a tipi! Do you set it up other places than The Feast of the Hunters’ Moon?

    Good luck. Come back and let us know how you make out next year.

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