Sneezewort – info, planting, care and tips

Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica)
Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica)

Its long flowering period and robust nature make the white flowering sneezewort an asset to any garden.

Profile of sneezewort:

Scientific name: Achillea ptarmica

Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)

Other names: sneezewort yarrow, bastard pellitory, European pellitory, fair-maid-of-France, goose tongue, wild pellitory, white tansy

Sowing time: spring

Planting time: spring or autumn

Flowering period: July to October

Location: sunny to partially shady

Soil quality: gravelly to clayey, lime tolerant, moderately nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, pond planting, borders, flower garden, natural garden, water garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 5 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of sneezewort

Plant order, origin and occurrence of sneezewort

Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) is a widespread perennial throughout Eurasia, found mainly in temperate climates. It is absent at higher elevations above 1,200 meters (3,900 ft). Its natural occurrence includes moist to wet pipegrass meadows, ditches along rivers and streams, and soil-wet perennial meadows. The true species is rarely traded, as there are several cultivars of sneezewort with more showy floral displays that have become well established in garden culture. In botanical systematics the wild perennial is subordinated to the daisy family (Asteraceae). In folk medicine, its hot-tasting root was once used as a sneezing powder and was also used as a tonic and hemostatic agent.

Characteristics of sneezewort


Thanks to its underground runners, the sneezewort grows over the years into a wide clump. Its growth height is very variable and depends on the accompanying flora, resulting in actual final heights of 30 to 100 centimeters (12 to 40 in). In the fall, the above-ground parts of the plant die back and the following spring the perennial sprouts fresh again.


Unlike most other yarrow species, the leaves of the sneezewort are not finely pinnate, but entirely undivided. They have a linear-lanceolate shape with a finely serrated leaf margin and are alternate on the stems.


The flowers of the sneezewort are grouped together in terminal cymes. Its typical capitulum flowers burst from 8 to 13 ivory florets arranged around a center of gray tubular florets with yellow anthers. With a diameter of about 1.5 centimeters (0.6 in), the individual flowers are relatively large. Sneezewort blooms for a pleasingly long period, from early July to September, and sometimes into October. It is considered a valuable insect pasture and is pollinated by bees and flies.


In the fall, sneezewort develops small, nut-like fruits that are spread by the wind.

Sneezewort – cultivation and care


Sneezewort prefers a sunny spot, but it will also thrive in partially shady areas, but will not grow quite as vigorously.


As far as it concerns the soil, the sneezewort shows itself to be remarkably undemanding. Although in nature it is found on moist, lime- and nitrogen-poor substrates, in cultivation it also copes very well with the exact opposite.


Potted plants can be planted virtually all season, but for practical reasons, spring and autumn have proven to be the best times for planting. If you submerge the pot ball in a bucket of water until no more air bubbles rise before planting, it will be optimally moistened and the sneezewort will grow better. When used in an area, six plants per square meter (10 sq ft) is enough, the recommended planting distance is 40 centimeters (16 in).


Sneezewort also thrives without any special care, sometimes even too well: If it becomes too prolific, it is advisable to cut back its stems immediately after flowering. If it presses too hard on neighboring plants, it can be brought back within its limits by cutting off the stolons. As long as the plant grows well and looking healthy, there is no need for watering or fertilizing. In longer lasting summer droughts it might be a good idea watering once in a while.


If the sneezewort is cut back in the summer after the first flowering phase, it still delights in the fall with a brilliant secondary bloom. At this time of year at the latest, the stems should then be cut down. This prevents the unwanted spread of the flower


Dividing becomes necessary whenever the sneezewort spreads too much by its runners. The best time for this is in spring, just before budding, or in autumn, after flowering.


Sneezewort is easy to grow from seed in the spring, and since the wild species is rarely offered as a pre-cultivated plant, it is the easiest way to get it into the garden. If you already have a specimen from which you want to obtain offspring, or if it is a variety of Achillea ptarmica, you can easily propagate it vegetatively by cuttings or dividing. The best time to obtain cuttings is early May. Cuttings are obtained by tearing off a shoot at least 5 centimeters long from the mother plant, so that a piece of the rootstock comes with it. Dividing the root ball is most easily done with a sharp spade blade and is a good idea when the mother plant has become too sprawling.

Diseases and pests

Sneezewort is largely spared from pests and plant diseases. Occasionally mildew may spread on the leaves.


Achillea ptarmica proves to be a very hardy, weather-resistant perennial. Thus, it defies cold and winter precipitation and can spend the cold season outdoors. Additional frost protection is not necessary. Only when kept in a planter, care must be taken to ensure that the pot does not freeze completely. For this wrap it with fleece and place it on a wooden block.

Use in the garden

The wild form of the sneezewort is a wonderful companion perennial on wet meadows, along pond edges and in bog beds. Cultivated forms can also be integrated well into perennial beds and appear elfinly delicate as a front planting for woody plants. They are also popular as cut flowers, which also dry out beautifully.


A very old selection is the double flowering variety Achillea ptarmica ‘Schneeball (Snowball)’, which was cultivated as ‘Boule de neige’ by Victor Lemoine in France in the 19th century. Another synonym for this variety is ‘The Pearl’. It grows between 30 and 70 centimeters (12 to 28 in) high and blooms very reliably. The variety ‘Nana Compacta’ remains much lower than the wild variety at 30 centimeters (12 in) and, like it, has only single flowers. A more recent cultivar is Achillea ptarmica ‘Peter Cottontail’, which is about 50 centimeters (20 in) tall and has white, double flowers.

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