Yarrows (Achillea spp.) are summer-flowering perennials that add interest to the garden even when they're not in bloom.
The delicate, fernlike leaves sometimes have a fuzzy coating with a gray or silvery appearance that contrasts in texture and color with heavier, deeper green foliage in the perennial garden. Of course, it's really about the flowers, and yarrow produces them in bunches, beginning in midsummer and continuing through fall. Large, flat-topped clusters of blooms in yellow, white, red, pink, or mixed pastels put on a long-lasting display when massed in borders. They are also attractive as fresh-cut flowers or in dried arrangements.
Common name: Yarrow
Botanical name: Achillea spp.
Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
Height: 2 to 4 feet
Zones: 3 to 9
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Well-drained, moist soil.
- Moisture: Water regularly for longest bloom period. Established plants tolerate some drought.
- Mulch: Apply 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch around plants to preserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.
- Fertilizer: Apply balanced organic or slow-release plant food sparingly in spring. Excessive nitrogen will promote leggy, floppy growth and may reduce flower production.
- Pruning: Cut flowers in their prime to enjoy in vases, or deadhead after fading to encourage extended blooming and deter unwanted seedlings.
Pests and diseases:
- Foliar fungus diseases like powdery mildew and rust may occur if the plant doesn't receive enough sun.
- Relatively few insect pests attack yarrow, though aphids might feed on it.
- From seed sown directly into the garden
- By division in fall or spring
- ‘Cerise Queen' forms a dense mat of dark green leaves and magenta flowers with white centers. Grows 40 inches tall. Zones 3 to 9.
- ‘Coronation Gold' (pictured here) is clump forming with feathery, silver-green leaves and yellow-gold flowers. Grows 3 feet tall. Zones 3 to 9.
- ‘Fanal' is a mat-forming variety with gray-green leaves and bright red flowers with yellow centers. Grows 30 inches tall. Zones 4 to 8.
- ‘Summer Pastels' produces pastel-colored flowers in shades of pink, red, white, cream, yellow, orange, and salmon. Heat and drought tolerant. Grows 24 inches tall. Zones 3 to 9.
- Young, clump-forming plants take several years to fill in. Mass-forming varieties fill in quickly and require division every two years.
- Taller varieties may require staking.
- Use in wildflower gardens, rock gardens, perennial beds, and borders.
- Achillea has dozens of claimed medicinal uses. Its name comes from the Greek warrior Achilles, who was said to have used it on the battlefield to stop bleeding. People with sensitive skin may experience an allergic reaction to contact with foliage.
All in the family
- The most widely used Achilleas are cultivars of the A. filipendulina and A. millefolium, but since many cultivars are the result of crosses among these and other species, references and labels often identify them simply by the hybrid name. The species A. millefolium is related to the naturalized wildflower, common yarrow, and is more mat forming (and sometimes invasive). A. filipendulina cultivars are usually better behaved clump-forming plants, but tend to be taller and sometimes require staking. Others include A. ptarmica (sneezewort) and A. tomentosa (wooly yarrow)
(Text by Robert Weaver, photo by Eric Agneessens)