- Yarrows: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
- Growing Habits of Yarrow
- 5 Reasons to Grow Yarrow
- 1. Yarrow may accumulate nutrients.
- 2. It attracts beneficial insects and pollinators.
- 3. Yarrow makes a good ground cover.
- 4. It has medicinal uses.
- 5. Yarrow is edible and useful in crafts.
- Related posts:
Yarrows: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
Yarrow is a hardy and versatile perennial with fernlike leaves and colorful blooms. The large, flat-topped flower clusters are perfect for cutting and drying.
Most yarrows grow 2 to 4 feet tall, although low-growing varieties are also available. The plants are remarkably durable, tolerating dry spells and low soil fertility where other perennials would fade. Yarrows bloom from late spring to early summer; some varieties continue blooming intermittently into fall. Flower colors include red, pink, salmon, yellow, and white. Yarrows are versatile and look equally at home in a perennial border, sunny rock garden, or wildflower meadow. Powdery mildew disease may be a problem in humid areas.
Special features of yarrows
Easy care/low maintenance
Good for cut flowers
Tolerates dry soil
Choosing a site to grow yarrows
Select a site with full sun and very well-drained soil. Yarrow thrives in hot, dry conditions and low soil fertility, but won’t tolerate wet soils.
Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to an inch or two above soil line. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years as new growth begins in the spring, lifting plants and dividing them into clumps.
Plant in spring, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. . Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.
There are many herbs that can catapult the success of our gardens. Yarrow is one of those herbs. It’s a medicinal powerhouse and has many uses in the permaculture garden. Here are 5 reasons to grow yarrow in your garden.
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Growing Habits of Yarrow
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is native to the dry, disturbed soils of prairies, meadows, and the edges of forest in the northern hemisphere. This perennial grows best in hardiness zones 3-9.
It grows 36-inches high and produces white flowers. Other varieties produce pink, yellow, red, or orange flowers. Like many other prairie plants, its deep, fibrous roots enjoy absorbing water in my rain garden.
In fact, my first experience growing yarrow was adding it to my rain garden. See: How to Build a Rain Garden to Capture Runoff
I was impressed with the cheerfulness of the flowers, the roots’ hardiness to push through the clay soil, and the number of pollinators landing on the flat flower tops or seeking shelter in the fern-like foliage.
Even if you don’t grow this herb in your garden, it’s a fun herb to forage. You can spot the fern-like foliage in sunny, cleared areas. It’s easy to collect the seeds after the flower heads have died, so you can sow them around your garden.
5 Reasons to Grow Yarrow
Here are five reasons why I enjoy growing yarrow in my garden.
1. Yarrow may accumulate nutrients.
According to Dr. Duke at the USDA, yarrow’s deep roots mine the subsoil for potassium, calcium, and magnesium. And according to sources like Gaia’s Garden and Edible Forest Gardens, yarrow may also mine for phosphorus and copper, making it a potentially nutrient-rich mulch.
We don’t have a lot of scientific data about these nutrient accumulators. For example, does the plant make the nutrients available to the soil if used as a mulch? While the jury is still out, my food gardens seem to be healthier when yarrow is grown in them.
Using yarrow as a potential fertilizer is just one of many ways we can “stack the deck” in our favor of having a thriving, healthy garden. Perhaps not everything we try will yield the result we’re looking for, but with a richness of plant diversity comes a rich gardening experience.
Would you like to learn more about using herbs like yarrow to improve the biodiversity of your garden, reduce maintenance, and increase yield?
You’ll find loads of information just like this in my award-winning book, The Suburban Micro-Farm.
Grow healthy fruit trees. Create healthy mulch and compost.
Because of its potential ability to fertilize, grow yarrow under fruit trees to enhance fruit production. You can also chop and use it as mulch around the garden, or add it to the compost bin to boost nutrient content.
For more about fruit tree guilds, see:
- How to Build a Fruit Tree Guild
- The Cherry Tree Guild and Natural Pest Control
For more about mulching and fertilizing with herbs, see:
- Mulching in the Permaculture Garden
- Fertilizing the Garden with Herbs
Deep-rooted yellow yarrow anchors the rain garden that overlooks my patio.
Create amazing food forests.
In a new food forest, you’ll want to protect the soil until the trees have matured and begin to provide shade. A mixed cover crop can be used in this less-visited area to build soil, mine minerals, break up compacted soil, and attract beneficial insects.
In Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemenway suggests a mixture of the following mix, which would only need mowed once or twice per year:
- annual rye
- daikon radish
For more about food forests, see:
- Create a Food Forest for Low-Maintenance, Edible Rewards
- Benefits of the Edible Forest Garden
Where lead contamination in soil is a concern, yarrow may be able to help with the clean up.
Yarrow may mine copper from the subsoil, which is an important micronutrient for plant growth and an essential amendment for acidic soils.
According to Gaia’s Garden, however, plants that mine for copper can also concentrate lead if it is present in the soil, “such as along the foundation of old houses where lead-based paint may have weathered”.
A simple and inexpensive soil test can inform you whether or not contaminated soil is a concern.
This is why yarrow and many other accumulators of copper and zinc are used to clean up lead-contaminated sites: The lead concentrates in the plants, which are dug up at the end of each season (roots and all) and disposed of.
If this is a concern on your site, do not use these plants for mulching, medicinal, edible, or craft purposes.
2. It attracts beneficial insects and pollinators.
The white, yellow, or pink flowers attract many types of pollinators who prefer umbel-shaped flowers for nectar collection.
A wealth of beneficial insects such as lacewings, parasitoid wasps, ground beetles, spiders, ladybugs, and hoverflies find habitat for egg-laying or overwintering refuge in the fern-like foliage.
According to Carrots Love Tomatoes, yarrow emits a pungent odor that repels pests, so you might consider growing it near pest-prone gardens.
Pink yarrow mingles with other herbs like oregano and fennel here in my herb garden.
3. Yarrow makes a good ground cover.
If left to its own devices, yarrow will grow to about 3 feet high, producing flowers throughout the summer.
However, you can try growing it as a running ground cover. It can handle light foot traffic if it is mowed a few times a year (according to Edible Forest Gardens). It may not flower if it has been cut, but the beneficial insects will still be able to utilize the foliage for refuge.
4. It has medicinal uses.
The flower and the upper portions of leaf and stem have many medicinal uses, making yarrow an important herb to have in your medicinal garden.
A yarrow tea can help to reduce a fever and a yarrow poultice can calm the inflammation and soreness of a bruise.
Yarrow has many first aid uses such as stopping bleeding, or as a general first aid remedy for calming and healing rashes, bug bites, bee stings, cuts, and burns.
According to Homegrown Herbs, the yellow flowers should not be taken internally, such as in teas, tinctures, elixirs, syrup, or honey. Only white or pink flower yarrows should be used for internal medicine. Yarrow should not be taken internally by pregnant women.
5. Yarrow is edible and useful in crafts.
Individual flowers are edible, and Homegrown Herbs suggests using them for a confetti effect in cookie batter. The dried cut flowers also make beautiful wreaths and dried bouquets.
Useful or not, yarrow is a joy to have in the garden!
- 5 Weeds You Want in your Garden
- Attract Beneficial Insects in the Edible Landscape
- What is Comfrey and How to Grow It
What’s your favorite reason to grow yarrow?
>>> Get my free 19-page Guide to Organic Soil Amendments for more ideas: