If you enjoy working with sweet smelling herbs then Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua) is the one for your garden. Its fluffy look and pleasant fragrance makes a popular herb for dried arrangements.
It sports finely divided aromatic leaves on a bushy plant with arching stems. These abundant lacy open branches of this herb can reach five feet. Like other members of the artemisia family (wormwood, mugwort, southernwood) it grows best with full sun. Plant this herb where it will have lots of elbow room. It propagates very easily from seed which can be started indoors and transplanted or sown in place. Regular watering will encourage growth of the long stems but it can withstand some drought.
To harvest for crafts and dried flower arrangements, clip the long stems just before the tiny flowers open. To use them in wreaths, wind the stems around a wire wreath base while still fresh and allow them to dry in place. Otherwise hang the stems upside down to dry. If you plan to use the leaves in potpourri, remove them from the stem once dried and store for later use.
Sweet Annie can do more than provide fragrant arrangements. It also has medicinal virtues. The oil from this herb has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. A tea made from Sweet Annie has anti-malarial effects. It has also been shown to have some benefits in fighting cancers of the thyroid and lungs.
Despite its gentle name, Sweet Annie can be a wild child in the garden. It self-sows and returns year after year, so plant it where you’ll be happy to have it growing for a long time. This annual herb escaped domestic gardens long ago and can be found growing wild in temperate areas of the country. Its prolific nature extends to the pollen which can cause a reaction in allergy sufferers. Those with sensitive skin may find it irritating to the touch.