Yarrow: An Easy to Grow Cut Flower and Pollinator Plant
My favorite flowers to grow are ones that serve many purposes in a garden. Yarrow gets its scientific name, achillea millefolium, from the roots “milli” (thousand) and “folium” (foliage/leaves). If you look closely at the leaves of yarrow, they almost look like feathers—many tiny little leaves. Today I want to talk a bit about why I love growing yarrow, and my tips for growing it successfully in your garden.
The many reasons why I love growing yarrow (achillea millefolium):
Yarrow comes in many colors.
It is a long-lasting cut flower.
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.
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.
When should I start Yarrow from seed?
While you can certainly buy yarrow at your local nursery that will spread into your garden for years, you can also choose to grow it from seed. Personally, I find that it germinates easily and I can grow so many awesome colors by purchasing seed mixes. 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, so I start mine indoors at a sunny windowsill in Spring because I don’t want the seeds to blow away. This also lets the seeds stay warm at night for germination. Once the seeds sprout/germinate, you can move them outdoors for the remainder of the time Again, we are warm and mild all through Spring here in Southern California. If you anticipate a frost, hold off on starting your seeds or keep them in adequate lighting indoors.
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.
Where to Plant Yarrow in the Garden?
Yarrow likes hot conditions, so full sun please! Well-draining soil is preferred, but it also does great in my more clay soil (which doesn’t drain fantastically so I am careful to not water too often). Everytime I plant a bed, I add homemade compost, so over the years my soil and drainage has improved drastically. For a full breakdown on how I prep a bed for planting you can check out 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.
Space your yarrow plants approximately 1 foot apart. They will quickly fill in and each year spread through rhizomes like most perennials do.
Yarrow is extremely low maintenance
I do need to water my yarrow plants because we do not get enough rain. Just make sure that you aren’t keeping the soil moist/wet all the time. Yarrow can withstand drier conditions, although I’ve noticed they grow very fast when given consistent water and some compost—I suspect those are conditions more similar to flower farms and professional growers.
Deadhead to keep yarrow blooming. 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.
Deadheading refers to the practivce 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. I simply cut down the plants to a few inches off the ground. I leave a little clump of leaves. That’s all I do!
In Spring I’ll side dress with some compost, but honestly yarrow is extremely low maintenance.
You’ll start to notice that the plants will spread. This is common for perennials and usually referred to as “spreading by rhizomes.” Every few years I dig up my perennial plants and divide them to give them more space to grow— I really hope to do a video on dividing perennials one of these days.
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