Pearly everlasting is an erect, rhizomatous perennial to 9 dm tall. The stems and leaves are loosely white-woolly. The leaves are mainly on the stems, entire margined, and lanceolate to narrowly oblong or linear in shape.
The flower heads are terminal, clustered in short, broad inflorescences. Individual flower heads are spherical, less than 1 cm wide, and papery. They are white with yellow centers.
In the garden, pearly everlastings can sometimes be a weedy species as they spread readily by underground rhizomes. When kept from wandering and kept in a tight cluster, it can make a nice garden flower.
Pearly everlastings are a plant of forest openings, from the lowlands to moderate elevations in the mountains. They may also be found in disturbed meadows and roadsides.
Pearly everlastings are a widespread species, found in eastern Asia, and over much of northern North America, as far south as North Carolina, Kansas, Arizona, and southern California.