By: Heather Rhoades
The yarrow plant (Achillea millefolium) is an herbaceous flowering perennial. Whether you decide to grow yarrow in your flower beds or in your herb garden, it’s still a lovely addition to your yard. Yarrow care is so easy that the plant is virtually care-free. Let’s take a look at how to plant yarrow and also tips for how to grow yarrow.
Yarrow is most often propagated by division, so chances are you’ll buy your yarrow as a plant. Space your plants 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm.) apart if you’re planting more than one yarrow plant.
You can also start your yarrow herb from seed. Start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before your last frost date. Sow the seeds in moist, normal potting soil. The seeds should just barely be covered by the potting soil. Place the pot with the yarrow seeds in a sunny and warm location.
The seeds should germinate in 14 to 21 days, depending on the conditions. You can speed up the germination by covering the top of the pot with plastic wrap to keep in moisture and heat. Remove the plastic wrap once the seeds have sprouted.
Regardless of whether your yarrow plants are grown from seed or bought as full plants, you will want to plant them in full sun. They thrive in a wide variety of soils but do best in well drained soil. Yarrow plant will even grow in very poor dry soils with low fertility.
Some caution should be taken when growing yarrow, as in the right conditions, it can become invasive and will then be in need of control.
Once you have planted your yarrow, it needs little care. It doesn’t need to be fertilized and only needs to be watered during times of severe drought.
While yarrow needs little care, it is susceptible to a few diseases and pests. Most commonly, plants will be affected by either botrytis mold or powdery mildew. These will both appear as a white powdery covering on the leaves. Both can be treated with a fungicide. Yarrow plants are also occasionally affected by spittlebugs.
Yarrow has many uses as an herb. It is commonly used as a medicinal herb that can treat the bleeding of minor wounds, swollen or cramping muscles, reducing fever or to help with relaxing. As with any medicinal herb, yarrow herb should not be taken without first consulting a physician.
On the non-medicinal side, yarrow herb is an astringent and makes a good facial wash or shampoo.
Whether you grow yarrow as a decorative plant or an herb, you can be sure that it will add beauty to your garden. Since yarrow care is so easy, you have nothing to lose by giving this ancient herb a small place in one of your flower beds.
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Growing Yarrow is easy for beginner gardeners and in this article you’ll learn how to grow gorgeous, healthy Yarrow plants in your garden.
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Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is native to North America and will grow in most areas that get plenty of sunshine throughout the day.
Yarrow is a popular perennial because it’s hardy, drought tolerant, pest resistant and attracts butterflies, lady bugs and other beneficial insects.
It has ferny foliage and flower heads made up of clusters of tightly-packed flowers. The flowers can be white, yellow, pink and red.
Typically zones 3-9, but can vary depending on the cultivar.
Early summer to early fall, depending on the climate. In warmer growing zones, flowering begins earlier in cooler zones it often continues into fall.
Varies by species, ranging anywhere from 8 inches to 5 feet.
Yarrow produces an abundance of broad, flat-topped flower clusters (or corymbs) made up of dozens of tiny daisy-like florets. Colors range from white and soft pastels to brilliant shades of yellow, red, orange and gold. Some cultivars, such as ‘Red Velvet’, have flowers with contrasting center stamens. The feathery foliage is also attractive, with finely divided gray or green leaves that remain evergreen in warmer climates.
By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
A fuss-free, heat-loving bloomer with large clusters of canary yellow flowers held above ferny, grey foliage, just stunning. Sunny borders and rock gardens are perfect or planted in a mass to create a bold band of color throughout summer. Mountain tough, you can’t kill this perennial that blooms better each year it returns. Javelina and rabbit detest the summer blooms.
The perennial flower yarrow goes by several names – gordaldo, nosebleed plant, and old man’s pepper. In the Mountain West, it’s often referred to as a plumajillo, or “little feather” in Spanish because of the plant’s leaf shape and texture.
We simply refer to this delicate beauty as Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It’s native to temperate regions of Northern Asia and Europe and introduced to North America during the Colonial times. The plant features flower stalks that are nearly four times its foliage height and fern-like feathery leaves.
Botanical Name – Achillea millefolium
Common Name – Yarrow, gordaldo, nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, thousand-seal
Plant Type – Herbaceous flowering perennial
Mature Size – 1′ foot x 2′ feet wide
Sun Exposure – Full sun
Soil Type – Sandy, loamy, clay, well-draining
Bloom Time – June to September
Flower Color – White, yellow, paprika, pink, red
Hardiness Zones – 3 to 9
Native Area – Northern Asia, Europe, and North America
How to Grow Yarrow
Yarrow is most often propagated, so you will likely buy it as a plant. To add it to your garden, loosen the soil about 12 to 15 inches deep and add 3 inches of Watters Premium Mulch blended into the soil. The soil should be well-drained, as Yarrow doesn’t like wet soil. Space plants at 1-2 foot center and they fill in quickly. Extremely drought tolerant and grows well in poor soil, this plant is ideal for xeriscaping in desert environments.
Yarrow prefers full sunlight, but it can grow in partial shade. If the plant doesn’t get enough sunlight, the long, thin stems can become floppy and need to be staked. Best grown in 6+ hours of sun during the growing season.
Yarrow grows best in dry soils that drain well. It tolerates poor garden soils where few other perennial thrive. Soils too nutrient-rich encourage aggressive growth.
Yarrow is drought-tolerant, but if the garden receives less than 1 inch of rain in any given week, give the plant extra water.
Temperature and Humidity
Tolerates both hot, humid days, as well as dry drought conditions. This bloomer is tough.
Yarrow adapts much like mountain wildflowers when treated with any care. Feed with Watters 7-4-4 All Purpose Food three times per year in March, July, and October for a super bloom each year.
The plant can be divided every 2-3 years and replanted throughout the gardens. This also maintains the vitality of your perennial.
Toxicity of Yarrow
Yarrow is toxic to deer, rabbits, and javelina. It is also bad for dogs, cats, and horses. Consumption can cause vomiting and diarrhea, as well as depression, anorexia, and hypersalivation. In humans, touching Yarrow can, in rare cases, cause skin rashes as well as increase the skin’s photo-sensitivity.
Yarrow needs to be pruned regularly for a few reasons. Deadheading will keep the flowers in near-continual bloom. Cut back the plant in late winter to reduce the plant height and avoid flopping.
Growing Yarrow From Seeds
Start Yarrow from seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last predicted frost. Sow the seeds in Watters Potting Soil, and put the plant in a warm, sunny location. In about 14 to 21 days, the seeds begin to germinate. Plant outdoors in spring after the risk of frost.
Common Pests and Diseases
Yarrow doesn’t need much attention, but it can be susceptible to botrytis mold and powdery mildew, both of which appear as a white powder on the leaves. Treat it with an appropriate fungicide. Yarrow can also be affected by Spittle-bugs, which looks like spit on plants. If the number of bugs seems overwhelming, first hose them off with water and then move onto using an insecticide applied under high pressure.
Portulacatolerates the blazing sun, where the neon flowers attract butterflies. Available in red, orange, violet, white, and pink. Great for containers, rock gardens, between sunny stepping-stones, or any hot, dry garden space where nothing else grows. The brighter, the better!
Sunburst Honeylocust – This mountain native cheerfully shouts, “Hello, Spring!” with its glowing yellow leaves. As summer heats up, it settles down to a naturally cool green, only to turn gold again in autumn. This Watters exclusive casts a dappled shade perfect for reading a book or sharing an outdoor meal. Take the sun and wind, yet easy on your time, water, and maintenance, even the fall cleanup is a piece of cake! Impervious to deer.
Halls Japanese Honeysuckle – An outstanding mountain vine with fragrant yellow flowers that loves blooming in the summer heat. Wind, drought, deer, javelina are no problem. Ideal at growing up fences, walls, or as a ground cover. An excellent solution for a fast-growing screen, even in the poorest of soil. Summer is the preferred planting time for this heat lover.
Gilt Edge Silverberry – Variegated leaves of bright gold and blue provide interest every month of the year. Growing to head high, she screens out the most obnoxious neighbor while standing up to blistering heat and wind. The super sweet flowers are utterly animal proof, even javelina and deer don’t like the taste of this local shrub. Best planted in the heat of summer for faster growth.
Give your garden a shot of easy-care color by adding yarrow to the planting mix. Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and fernleaf or yellow yarrow (Achillea filipendulina) bring summer-long color to garden beds and borders. Planting yarrow is an easy chore—even finding the just-right spot isn’t difficult. Growing yarrow is equally simple. Plants are fuss-free and undemanding.
When planting yarrow, start with a spot in full sun. While plants can survive in the lower light of a partial sun or part shade setting, flower stems will stretch and become floppy. At this point, you’ll definitely need to stake plants, which would otherwise not be necessary for common yarrow and the shorter fernleaf yarrow varieties. Staking is wise for common fernleaf yarrow, since its stems can grow four feet tall and higher.
Planting yarrow in a somewhat sheltered location—where winds don’t whip through too often—makes sense when you realize that flower stems can appear on plants for the entire summer. The stems stand above a clump of fern-like leaves, making them vulnerable to strong winds.
The other consideration for planting yarrow is soil type. Select a spot where soil is average to lean. Too-rich soil or soil with high fertility leads to lush plants with weak, floppy flower stems. Soils need to drain well so plants don’t rot. Avoid heavy clay soils, which don’t drain well.
Growing yarrow is one of the more undemanding chores you’ll tackle in gardening. Plants don’t need much attention during the growing season. Some gardeners clip spent flowers, snipping flower stems down near the main foliage clump. This can lead to an autumn rebloom in common yarrow and some of its hybrids. Fernleaf yarrow doesn’t rebloom.
It’s a good idea to clip spent flower heads before they set seed for several reasons. First, some of the common yarrow types self-sow freely, and leaving flowerheads in place can result in a yarrow takeover in the garden. Second, yarrow crossbreeds vary readily, which means that if plants do self-sow, you could wind up with seedlings that have reverted to the parent types—likely the wild yarrow with white to gray blooms.
One aspect of growing yarrow you’ll need to master is curtailing the spread. Common yarrow and some of its varieties tend to spread from the central foliage tuft via underground stems. This can also lead to yarrow overrunning garden beds. In early spring, as new growth appears, it’s easy to pull up spreading stems by hand, especially if you tackle the task after rain when soil is soft. Fernleaf yarrow and some of the common yarrow hybrids don’t spread as aggressively as the wild, common type.
Yarrow is a hardy, cold- and drought-tolerant perennial that blooms from June to September. Its stiff, flattened flower heads are made up of multiple tiny blossoms, some with contrasting centers.
The ideal soil is sandy, and of average to poor quality. This is one plant that does not have a preference for organically-rich loam.
It can grow in fertile soil, but will likely grow too fast and become “leggy,” and this can result in the stems flopping under the weight of heavy blooms.
The soil pH should be between 4.0 and 8.0. A measurement of 6.4 is considered optimal. To determine your soil’s pH, conduct a soil test through your local agricultural extension office.
The soil quality may be somewhat poor, but the drainage must be excellent. Yarrow is not a plant that puts up with wet feet, nor does it appreciate humid conditions.
Achillea thrives best in dry heat. However, there are cultivated hybrid series such as Galaxy and Seduction that tolerate some humidity.
Plants average two to four feet tall at maturity, although some botanical species (as found in the wild) may be shorter, and there are hybrids that may top out at a towering five feet.
Widths range from one to three feet.
Be sure to account for mature dimensions when choosing your planting location. Achillea species are vigorous growers, and reach mature dimensions in the second year of growth.
Whether you start with seeds, divisions, or tip cuttings, new plants require about an inch of water per week to help them to establish strong, deep roots. If it rains an inch, you can skip the additional irrigation.
Once established, yarrow is a water-wise, drought-resistant powerhouse. However, if a dry spell is prolonged, please water it rather than test its tolerance.