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How to Grow Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea) is a hardy, native American perennial flower that can bring vibrant colors and beneficial insects to your garden year after year. It is perfect for gardens with poor, dry soil. Yarrow’s feathery green foliage and flat-topped clusters of flowers add beauty and attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Why Grow Yarrow?

It is a fantastic addition to any garden for several reasons:

  • Drought Tolerant and Easy to Grow: Yarrow is well-suited for xeriscapes and gardens with poor, dry soil. It performs well as a low-water use ground cover.
  • Attracts Beneficial Insects: Yarrow attracts pollinators and beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, syrphid flies, and parasitic wasps (among others) to your garden. Learn more about using beneficial insects as pest control in this article.
  • Perennial Beauty: As a perennial, yarrow provides lasting color and interest, often dying back in winter and regrowing in spring.
  • Cut Flower Uses: Yarrow makes an excellent filler flower in arrangements and can also be dried for long-lasting decor.
  • Compost Enhancer: Enzymes in yarrow help break compost down quickly. Cut down stalks at the end of the season and add them to your compost pile.
How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Yarrow Plant Characteristics

Yarrow has a spreading growth habit, so it needs to be controlled by frequent division to prevent invasiveness. Rather than planting it in my raised beds, where it becomes invasive, I plant yarrow in the ground on the outside of garden beds, in containers, and on the perimeter of my garden.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

It usually blooms all summer, starting when daylight exceeds 12 hours. Yarrow varieties range from tiny, creeping plants to four-foot-tall (1.2m). Achillea millefolium varieties are especially aggressive spreaders.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Hybrids like Summer Berries, Summer Pastels, and Colorado Sunset are excellent choices for cut flowers. They are taller, offer more color, and are less prone to spreading. These varieties are best replanted each year as the subsequent years have fewer blooms.


When to Plant Yarrow

Yarrow tolerates temperatures down to -20°F (-29°C). If they survive your lowest winter temperature, plant the seedlings outside 6-8 weeks before your first fall frost. Look up your first fall frost date here

In the low desert of Arizona, yarrow is planted from October through March. It is a cool-season hardy annual, so it is established and grows best when planted earlier in the planting window.

If it gets too cold where you live and you need to plant in the spring, plant 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost. In any climate, If you miss the fall planting date or want to add more plants, you can also plant during this spring window.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Yarrow Planting Instructions

Begin seeds indoors about 8 weeks before your outdoor planting date. Yarrow seed starting dates for the low desert of Arizona are from August through January.

Surface sow seeds as they need light to germinate. When starting seeds indoors, you’ll need supplies like a grow light (a bright window isn’t enough). For specifics about how to start seeds indoors, check this blog post. Here’s a list of my favorite seed-starting supplies.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Seedlings are ready to plant when 3-5 inches (7-13 cm) tall. Yarrow does best when planted from transplants or division. Propagate root cuttings or divide clumps in spring or fall.

Yarrow prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Full sun ensures strong plants and blooms are less likely to topple over. Each plant should be spaced about 1-2 feet (30-60 cm) apart to allow for its spreading habit. To prevent yarrow from becoming invasive, avoid planting it in raised beds.


Growing Yarrow in Containers

To control its spread, yarrow can be grown in containers. Use a container at least 12 inches (30cm) deep.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Yarrow Care and Maintenance

Flowers emerge from the base, so there’s no need to pinch. Remove faded flowers to encourage continuous blooming throughout the summer. Water yarrow as needed, but avoid over-watering. No extra fertilizer is required, as too much nitrogen will produce excess foliage rather than flowers. Yarrow is relatively pest-free.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

When to Harvest Yarrow

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Harvest yarrow for cut flowers when all the tiny blooms are open. Cut stems at ground level, strip off lower leaves, and unopened blooms. Yarrow stems pollute a vase quickly. Use a slow-release bleach tab to keep the water clean. Yarrow also makes an excellent dried flower.

How to Grow Yarrow: Attract Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Growing yarrow is rewarding for its beauty, hardiness, and ability to enhance your garden ecosystem. By following these guidelines, you can successfully cultivate yarrow in your garden or containers and enjoy its benefits year after year.


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