Why I Plant and Grow Yarrow


My favorite flowers to grow are flowers that serve many purposes in a garden. As a drought-tolerant, pollinator-friendly cut flower, yarrow definitely meets that criteria. Today I want to share the many reasons I plant and grow yarrow in my garden, along with some  tips for growing it successfully in your garden.

Yarrow gets its scientific name, achillea millefolium, from the root words “milli” (thousand) and “folium” (foliage/leaves). If you look closely at the leaves of yarrow, they almost look feathery and are composed of thousands of tiny leaves. Before setting out to grow yarrow, take a look at some of the admirable characterstics of this plant to see if it might be a good fit for your garden:

Reasons to Grow Yarrow:

Yarrow is a perennial

Yarrow is drought tolerant and thrives in clay and lower quality soil.

Achillea Millefolium Californica is a white yarrow that is native to California and grows naturally in our chaparral and coastal prairie habitats.

Yarrow makes an excellent cut flower

Yarrow comes in a wide array of colors

Pollinators—such as bees and butterflies—are highly attracted to yarrow. It’s a great addition to a butterfly garden.

Yarrow is easy to start from seed and will spread in your garden through self-seeding and rhizomes.

Native yarrow has been used medicinally for wound healing and inflammation, although I will not be speaking of those uses here and I have not found information to confirm that all types of yarrow are suitable for those uses.

pink yarrow growing in a garden

This is a pink yarrow from a ‘summer berries mix’ seed packet. I love growing the different colors of yarrow in my garden for cut flowers.

Yarrow (achillea millefolium) in the Garden

Yarrow is a perennial wildflower that is native to many parts of North America, including here in Southern California. One of the reasons to grow yarrow is for it’s hardiness, as yarrow can tolerate poor soil quality, drought conditions, and intense heat and cold. Truthfully, there aren’t many flowers that can compete with the benefits that yarrow offers, as yarrow is ideal for pollinator gardens, cut flower gardens, xeriscaping, drought tolerant landscapes, and even California native plant gardens!

The best location for yarrow in the garden is in a full-sun spot with soil that doesn’t stay too wet. On the other hand, the ideal location for yarrow will also depend on the variety that you are growing. For example, if you are growing California native yarrow specifically, you’ll want to keep soil conditions native plant-friendly. Whereas newer ornamental cultivars of yarrow thrive with a little more moisture, drainage, and compost added to the soil.

Yarrow will bloom most prolifically in full sun but has been known to tolerate partial sun and some shade. In fact, I planted yarrow with CA fescue at the border of my California native shade garden. Currently, that yarrow is very green and bushy, but it definitely has lacked the same bloom as my yarrow plants in full sun.

Can Yarrow Be Invasive?

I must admit, this question has gardeners divided. Whereas our common white yarrow is considered a native plant here in California (by definition, native plants aren’t invasive) there are many personal accounts of gardeners having yarrow exhibit invasive tendencies in their gardens. Personally, I have also seen yarrow spread aggressively in my own garden, as the roots spread like rhizomes and can be difficult to completely remove at times. In the end, I think this is something to note, but also not something that would ever prevent me from growing and planting yarrow in my garden. It seems that the very qualities that make yarrow drought-tolerant and hardy are also some of the reasons yarrow is able to thrive almost anywhere!

In summary, don’t plant yarrow where you’ll be upset if it spreads or grows quickly. Additionally, don’t be afraid to remove roots of plants that are spreading too far and also remove spent flower heads so they don’t self seed everywhere.

many colors of yarrow on display

Look at all these beautiful yarrow flowers. One reason to grow yarrow is for cut flowers, and there is no shortage of color palettes to choose from, as many seed companies have been breeding new cultivars and colors for years.

How to Grow Yarrow From Seed?

I highly recommend growing yarrow from seed. In fact, another reason I grow yarrow is because of all the colors available! While you can certainly buy yarrow at your local nursery, growing yarrow from seed can give you a wider range of color options for cut flowers. If you’re wondering where to buy yarrow seeds, you can view a list of places I buy seeds HERE.

Yarrow is a perennial plant. This means that it will bloom when it is hot, die back in Fall, and stay somewhat dormant through the cool season before starting the cycle over again. The ideal time to start yarrow from seed is in Spring or early Summer. If you live in an extremely hot climate (like mine) definitely start in Spring so your plants can establish before the heat begins.

Yarrow seeds need light to germinate. Essentially, this means that you don’t bury the seeds into the soil, but rather scatter them them gently on top and slightly rake them in. Aside from knowing they benefit from light during germination, I simply follow my seed starting basics when growing yarrow from seed. Simply sprinkle your yarrow seeds over pre-moistened seed starting mix (check out our DIY seed starting mix). You can press them gently into the soil or even slightly scratch them into the soil. Now we wait! It can take anywhere from 10-14 days to germinate. Water from the bottom, as the seeds will easily float away if you try to water from above.

Soil Conditions for Yarrow

As I mentioned before, soil preferences could depend on the variety of yarrow you are growing. In general, yarrow can tolerate a wide range of conditions and is extremely adaptable. Aside from my native garden areas, everytime I plant a garden bed I add homemade compost, so over the years my soil and drainage has improved drastically. Most varieties of yarrow I grow seem to like my general soil amending regimine which is covered in  How to Amend Your Soil Organically.

Always check to see the height of the variety of yarrow you are growing. Most varieties stay between 12-24″ tall. This makes yarrow great for borders or planting in the front of garden beds. 

Space your yarrow plants approximately 1 foot apart. They will quickly fill in and each year spread through rhizomes like most perennials do.

white yarrow growing in the garden

This yarrow is no more than a foot tall, and is in the front area of an in-ground garden bed. Yarrow fills in gardens relatively quickly, plus is wonderful for bees and other pollinators.

Yarrow is extremely low maintenance

Another reason to grow yarrow is how low-maintenance it is in the garden. Once established, yarrow needs very little supplemental water. When it comes to growing certain cultivars of yarrow for cut flowers, I do water occasionally because we do not get enough natural rain. On the other hand, I do not water my California native yarrow. Overall, just make sure that you aren’t keeping the soil moist/wet all the time and err on the side of drier soil than wet soil. 

Deadhead to keep yarrow blooming and prevent seeds everywhere. You can choose to cut yarrow for bouquets or arrangements but, if you leave the flowers in the garden, make sure to deadhead once they start to die in order to promote more blooms that season and keep your yarrow from seeding all over the place.

Deadheading refers to the practice of removing expired or spent flower heads. This is commonly done with roses, day lilies, marigolds, and other ornamental plants to encourage further growth of new flowers.

Yarrow can also be grown as an everlasting or dried flower. Simply cut bunches of the flowers, rubber band them together, and hang dry in a dark, dry place. The flowers will retain some color and look very beautiful in dry arrangements. I love growing everlasting flowers, and I talk about them more in my Introduction to Everlastings.

How to Care for Yarrow as a Perennial

My yarrow plants start to die back in Fall, although they never really seem to die back in our mild climate. I guess they just start to look more sad and bedraggled. Over the years I’ve stopped doing anything for my yarrow after the season. It just stays where it is and starts to green up the following Spring. Of course, if a plant starts to spread too aggressively, I use a shovel to remove any unwanted chunks. Deadheading can also help with keeping your yarrow looking more tidy if desired.

In Spring I’ll side dress my perennials with some compost, but this is really for my other garden plants and not for yarrow specifically. Since, yarrow is kind of mixed in throughout my garden, it definitely gets some of the compost as well.

Final Thoughts

Over the years I’ve really started to lean on drought tolerant (or even native) perennials to be the backbone of my garden. Honestly, they just require much less effort and yet keep my garden looking lush and verdant almost year round. This is especially true because our mild Southern California climate tends to allow perennials to keep some foliage at all times even though the plants go dormant. Yarrow, in particular, also creates a cottage garden vibe due to it’s wildflower appearance and cloud-like umbels. So, if you’re looking for a plant that check all those boxes, yarrow is it.

Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

For Growers & Gardeners from High Mowing Organic Seeds