Yarrow

Achillea millefolium, commonly known as yarrow or common yarrow, is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae. Other common names include old man's pepper, devil's nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier's woundwort, and thousand seal. The plant is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and North America. It has been introduced as a feed for livestock in New Zealand and Australia. Achillea millefolium mostly has white flowers but can vary with light yellow petals and yellow centers.



Yarrow forms dense clumps of basal leaves and are deep-green, feathery, and aromatic. The name ‘millefolium’ comes from the Latin meaning, ‘thousand leaf’, reflecting the feathery foliage. Branching spikes of white flowers develop in summer and last through to fall. The leaves produced on the stems are much smaller and less abundant. The plant is also an aromatic herb which has many healing properties. Common yarrow can be toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, yet poisoning is rare, as the tannins in the plant give it a bitter taste that deters animals from overconsumption.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

2 - 4 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

2 - 3 inches


Approximate pH

between 4.0 and 8.0


Types of Yarrow


In the wild, yarrow typically blooms in lace-like shades of white or cream, but cultivated yarrow comes in many colors, like yellow, purple, pink, and red.


Apple Blossom



'Apple Blossom' syn. 'Apfelblute' is cross between A. millefolium and A. taygetea. Apple Blossom yarrow has soft pink to pale-rose colored flower clusters. The herb loves full sunlight and blooms from early to late summer. It grows at a fast rate and can be about 18-24 inches tall at maturity.


Apricot Delight



Achillea millefolium 'Apricot Delight' bears reddish, apricot-color blooms that fade to lovely shades of peachy coral as they age. The long-blooming flowers form on compact plants.


Cerise Queen



This A. millefolium cultivar is known for its deep pink flowers, with dark green foliage and a mature height of twelve to 36 inches. With a long vase life, you can brighten up the garden beds as well as rooms of your house with these pretty, colorful blooms.


Paprika Yarrow



Paprika yarrow is a long-lasting hybrid variety that blooms in large clusters of dusty brick red flowers with a distinctive yellow eye. The flowers delicately fade to light pink and creamy yellow hues, giving the garden a beautiful multi-colored effect.


Moonshine



A. millefolium ‘Moonshine’ sports beautiful bright yellow flowers with silvery-green foliage, and grows to a mature height of 18 to to 24 inches tall. ‘Little Moonshine’ is a recent variation of the original ‘Moonshine’ variety, a hybrid of A. clypeolata x A. taygetea.


New Vintage Rose



A. millefolium ‘New Vintage Rose’ is a compact, mounding plant with medium-sized non-fading vibrant deep pink to red flower heads. Leaves are green, and stems reach 12 to 15 inches in height at maturity. The intense color of this type is best as a stand-alone specimen in gardens and containers.


Red



Red yarrow (A. millefolium rubra) is a vibrant, brightly colored variety with rusty red blooms that are excellent for attracting pollinators. Reaching a mature height of twelve to 30 inches, it’s perfect for bouquets or to save as a dried flower.


Strawberry Seduction



From the Seduction series comes A. millefolium ‘Strawberry Seduction,’ with medium-sized flowers that resemble red, ripe strawberries, and fade to straw yellow in late summer. Characteristic of this series, its green-leafed stems grow in compact mounds that reach 18 inches to two feet in height at maturity.


Summer Pastels



A. millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’ is a Galaxy hybrid that offers multi-colored medium-sized blossoms in an array of light hues, including pastel shades of mauve, orange-red, pink, purple, rose, and salmon. These top green-leafed stems with a mature height of 18 inches to two feet tall.


Sunny Seduction



A. millefolium ‘Sunny Seduction’ has green leaves and medium-sized muted yellow blossoms atop stems ranging from 18 to 30 inches tall at maturity. It’s an excellent filler in containers, particularly those with blue specimen plants such as sage or gilia. The Seduction series of plants offers sturdy, compact foliage and a long bloom season.


Planting Yarrow


When to Plant Yarrow

  • Plant in the spring or early summer after the danger of frost has passed.

  • If you plant yarrow from tip cuttings, plant them in spring or early summer.


Choosing a Preparing a Planting Site

  • Plant in an area that receives full sun to encourage compact growth and many flowers. In partial sun or shade, yarrow tends to grow leggy.

  • Yarrow performs best in well-drained soil. It thrives in hot, dry conditions; it will not tolerate soil that’s constantly wet. Loamy soil is recommended, but yarrow can also be grown in clay soil as long as it does not stay saturated with water all the time.

  • Use a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil in your garden to about 12 to 15 inches deep, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost.

  • If you grow yarrow in too-rich soil, the plants may require staking due to overenthusiastic growth. To keep it from growing too tall, choose a site with average to poor soil and supplement it with a bit of compost to give the plants a good start.


How to Plant Yarrow

  • Space the plants 1 to 2 feet apart.


How to Get Yarrow to Bloom


Yarrow is a late bloomer, often showing its color in August in most growing regions. Ample sunlight and near-perfect soil conditions will assure a successful bloom. Once the plant starts blooming, constant deadheading will keep it in a continual state of color. Fertilization is not recommended to enhance yarrow blooms, but will only cause the plant to spread rapidly and produce more greenery.


Growing Yarrow


How to Grow Yarrow From Seed


Yarrow also proliferates easily from seed sowed in the early spring. In approximately 120 days (three months), your plant will bear breathtaking blooms.


Here's how to plant yarrow from seed.

  1. Gather a seeding tray, seed-starting medium, and a heating pad (optional).

  2. Sow the seeds indoors about eight to 10 weeks before the last predicted frost by distributing them over a tray filled with starting mix. Yarrow needs light to germinate, so sow the seeds on top of the mix—do not cover with soil.

  3. Press seeds firmly into the mix. Water until moist.

  4. Place the tray in a warm, sunny window indoors and add a heating pad to the bottom of the tray to help speed germination (optional). In about 10 to 14 days, the seeds will begin to germinate.

  5. Harden off seedlings by placing the tray outdoors during the day for a week before transplanting them into your garden.

Yarrow Care


Drought-tolerant common yarrow grows well in poor soil, making it an ideal plant for xeriscaping, especially if you live in a desert environment. Yarrow is most often sold as plant starts, but can be easily grown from seed and doesn't need much attention once established. Simply make sure to plant it in soil that is well-drained, watering it regularly during drought conditions, but giving it ample time to fully dry out in between. While this plant is technically considered invasive only in noncultivated settings, common yarrow still needs to be planted in an area where you don't mind proliferation. You may find common yarrow seed included in wildflower mixes that, once planted and mature, make a great option for a cutting garden.


Light


Yarrow prefers a garden plot that receives full sunlight, as these conditions will help it stay compact, yielding many blooms. This plant can tolerate partial shade, yet inadequate sunlight may cause it to grow long and spindly, requiring staking.


Soil


Common yarrow can adapt to a variety of soil compositions, from sandy, to loamy, to clay. Still, whatever the medium, this plant grows best in dry, well-drained conditions. Avoiding fertilizer or compost is often suggested, as nutrient-rich soil will encourage aggressive, and possibly unwanted, growth.


Water


Once established, common yarrow is drought-tolerant. Frequent, light waterings will only be needed to encourage germination and to mature small seedlings. After that, only a 1/2 inch of water weekly is needed to maintain growth. During periods of natural rainfall, cease watering altogether, especially if you're getting up to, or more than, 1 inch of water per week.


Temperature and Humidity


Yarrow thrives in warm, summer conditions, with temperatures of 65 F to 75 F, but can start to suffer heat damage if temperatures rise over 86 F. And while generally considered easy-going, yarrow does not like cold drafts or temperatures near freezing. Yarrow can tolerate some humidity, but prefers conditions dry and may fall victim to root rot or fungus if its soil becomes saturated.


Fertilizer


Yarrow plants are low-maintenance when it comes to feeding. An annual side-dressing with compost in the spring should be enough to last throughout the season. However, some gardeners choose not to fertilize this plant at all, as nutrient-rich soil may encourage invasive spread.


Pruning and Propagating Yarrow


Pruning


Yarrow needs regular pruning and deadheading in order to keep the plant in a state of continual bloom. Plant stems can grow long in a hot, humid climate, and may require cutting after flowering to reduce plant height and to avoid flopping. Habitual pruning will also help keep the plant in check by preventing self-sowing.


Propagating Yarrow


In ideal growing conditions, yarrow spreads rapidly and sometimes aggressively. For this reason, it's best to divide the plant every two to three years, or as needed. Propagating yarrow by division allows you to relocate the same variety to a different area of your garden, or you can gift it to friends looking for additions to their perennial beds.


Here's how to propagate yarrow through division:

  1. Gather a spade shovel, gardening gloves, and compost.

  2. In the spring, just as new growth starts to appear, use your shovel to loosen the soil around the plant.

  3. Cut the root ball in half with your shovel, and divide one half into the desired number of segments, making sure each one has three, or more, stems attached.

  4. Add the segments to your garden by digging holes spaced 1 to 2 feet apart and deep enough to accommodate the segment's root ball.

  5. Add compost to the hole and mix it into the soil.

  6. Place the plant in the hole assuring the top of the root ball is flush with the soil line. Backfill the hole with a soil and compost mixture. Water thoroughly.


Potting and Repotting Yarrow


Common yarrow grows tall—some varieties can reach up to 40 inches. To accommodate its growth in containers, you'll need to use a large pot or choose a dwarf variety. Yarrow grows best in a porous clay or terracotta pot that drains and dries easily. Any standard potting soil will do, but make sure it contains perlite for good drainage.


It's best to use plant starts when growing yarrow in pots, as you'll get a jump on maturity and blooming. To do so, fill your pot with potting soil, dig several holes in the soil, and place a start in each one, allowing space in between. Water the pot thoroughly and allow it to drain, and then place it in a sunny patio location. Once established, make sure the soil drys out completely between waterings.


Overwintering


In late autumn, when the temperature starts to drop and your yarrow plant loses its vitality, cut the plant back to its basal leaves. The basal leaves will provide protection for the aboveground parts during the winter, and the act of pruning will allow the plant to focus on its root system during its period of dormancy.


Pests and Plant Diseases


Common yarrow may become susceptible to botrytis mold and powdery mildew—both of which will appear as a white powder on the leaves—if its roots are saturated with water. Improving soil conditions and airflow between the plants, as well as plenty of sunshine, can reduce the infection.


Spittlebugs can also move into a patch of yarrow. This infestation will present as specks of "spit" on the plants. If the number of bugs becomes overwhelming, use a strong spray of water from the garden hose to reduce the population and to remove the coating from the bugs. This will expose the bugs to the sun, eventually killing them.


Common Problems With Yarrow


Overwatering is the most common issue with this extremely drought tolerant plant, as roots soaked in water may rot, or fungus may move into the plant. To avoid this, always plant yarrow in well-drained soil and stick to the suggested watering schedule. Avoid watering this plant altogether during periods of rain.


When grown in gardens without direct sun, yarrow stalks may become long and need staking. That said, it is next to impossible to stake a proliferate patch of yarrow. In that instance, all you can do is let it flop to the ground.


Benefits of Yarrow


Gut Health


Yarrow has been used largely to treat a host of digestive problems like ulcers, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating and constipation. Laden with a storehouse of flavonoids and alkaloids, these bioactive plant compounds are best known to ease digestive issues and improve gut functions and health.


Heals Wound


This flowering plant has been used as a natural wound healer for ages. It is used to cure bleeding wounds, scars, and other skin woes. Fresh yarrow leaves are wrapped or tied around the wound or cut, the healing properties support in speeding up the recovery process. The oil extracted from the yarrow plant is endowed with antimicrobial and antioxidant activities that may be valuable in treating several skin conditions. Besides these, washing with a concoction of yarrow flowers is beneficial in treating eczema.


Eases Stress


The goodness of potent flavonoids and alkaloids in the yarrow plant may relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The phytonutrients present in the yarrow plant holds a significant role in lowering the secretion of corticosterone, a hormone that peaks up during stress. Apart from this, the essential oil is used extensively in aromatherapy to calm and relax the mind.


Augments Brain Health


Yarrow plant is a classic herbal medicine that has been proven to treat brain disorders like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and encephalomyelitis – inflammation of the brain and spinal cord caused by a viral infection. A powerhouse of antioxidants yarrow plant is credited to have anti-seizure effects that are potential in treating epilepsy. Adding this herbal tea to the diet regimen is beneficial in improving memory, movement and muscle tone in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s patients.


Combat Inflammation


Inflammation is the body’s natural response to shield the cells, tissues, and organs from foreign invaders. This herbal medicine is known to ease skin and liver inflammation. Yarrow tea is valuable in treating skin infections, delay signs of ageing, cure non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and offer respite from fever.


Uses


Food


The entire plant is reportedly edible and nutritious, but it is advised not to consume much. The foliage is pungent; both its leaves and flowers are bitter and astringent. The leaves can be eaten young; raw, they can be added to salad. The leaves, with an aniseed-grass flavour, can be brewed as tea.


In the Middle Ages, yarrow was part of a herbal mixture known as gruit used in the flavoring of beer prior to the use of hops. The flowers and leaves are used in making some liquors and bitters.


Other uses


Yarrow is considered an especially useful companion plant, attracting beneficial insects and repelling some pests. It attracts predatory wasps, which drink the nectar and then use insect pests as food for their larvae. Similarly, it attracts ladybirds and hoverflies.[29]

A. millefolium can be planted to combat soil erosion due to the plant's resistance to drought. Before the arrival of monocultures of ryegrass, both grass and pasture contained A. millefolium at a density of about 0.3 kg/ha. One factor for its use in grass mixtures was its deep roots, with leaves rich in minerals, minimizing mineral deficiencies in ruminant feed. It was introduced into New Zealand as a drought-tolerant pasture.


Some pick-up sticks are made of yarrow.


Yarrow can be used for dying wool as it contains apigenin and luteolin. Depending on the mordant the color may be green to yellow.


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