How to Plant and Grow Yarrow

This tough plant produces pretty, long-lasting flowers that attract scores of pollinators.

Yarrow is a classic garden perennial known for its ruggedness. It shrugs off cold winters, hot and humid summers, drought, and poor soils to cheerfully bloom in sunny places. With its tall stems of colorful flowers and fern-like foliage, it works especially well in a cottage garden setting and in wildflower gardens.

While yarrow is not currently classified as invasive by the USDA in any region, its growth habits are being closely watched as yarrow has a tendency to become weedy if not properly managed. Yarrow is considered toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, but reactions are rare because it produces a very bitter taste. Yarrow may also cause an allergic skin reaction when touched by those who are susceptible.

Yarrow Overview

Genus Name Achillea
Common Name Yarrow
Plant Type Herb, Perennial
Light Sun
Height 6 to 24 inches
Width 2 to 3 feet
Flower Color Orange, Pink, Red, White, Yellow
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Fall Bloom, Spring Bloom, Summer Bloom, Winter Interest
Special Features Attracts Birds, Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 10, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Division, Seed
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Yarrow

Yarrow is a low-maintenance and versatile perennial that is best suited for hardiness zones 3 to 9, but it can be grown with some success as far north as zone 2 and as far south as zone 10. It is perfect for borders, butterfly gardens, cottage gardens, and containers and will thrive in areas with full sun and well-drained soil.

When and How to Plant Yarrow

You can plant yarrow starts or clippings directly in the ground in the spring or early summer after the last frost has passed. If you want to grow yarrow from seed, start in early spring (about 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost) and sow the seeds in a tray on top of a starting mix. Press the seeds into the soil and water. Keep the tray in a warm, sunny spot and they will begin to germinate in about two weeks. Acclimate your seedlings by placing them outside for a little bit each day in the week before you plant them outside.

Yarrow Care Tips

Yarrow is extremely easy to grow and requires little maintenance to thrive. The cheerful, unfussy blooms are great for attracting pollinators and they don’t require fertilizer or an excess of water to bring bright flashes of color to your garden. Plus, with the right conditions, they can bloom all the way from early spring to late fall.

Light

Ideally, yarrow wants a garden spot with full sun where it can grow strong, supportive stems for its colorful flower heads. While it tolerates some shade, too much shade can cause leggy, floppy stems and could also lead to disease problems.

Soil and Water

Yarrow won't do well in wet soils, so make sure to plant yours in well-drained soil. Once established, yarrow is highly drought tolerant, making it an excellent plant for low-maintenance, dry gardens and for xeriscaping.

Pruning

You can help your yarrow thrive by deadheading spent blooms to encourage new growth and prevent self-sowing.

Potting and Repotting

Yarrow is great for containers—especially since a container will curtail the plant's tendency to spread. The best time to plant or transfer yarrow to pots is in early spring, which should give the plant enough time to establish itself before the summer heat.

Since some types of yarrow can grow quite tall, it’s best to use a large pot (at least 12 inches in diameter) with excellent drainage for container planting yarrow. Fill your pot with a well-draining potting mix that contains vermiculite or perlite and increase the pot size as the plant
grows to accommodate the growth (or divide the plant).  

You can take your potted yarrow inside over winter if you live in an area that suffers from especially chilly winters. If your pot stays outside during the winter months, just make sure it does not freeze, crack, or hold water.

Pests and Problems

Powdery mildew is common in older varieties of yarrow; luckily, it's mostly a cosmetic problem, and plants will rarely die from it.

Some yarrows spread quite aggressively by underground rhizomes. These rhizomes can grow densely and create heavy mats of foliage and roots, which is helpful for weed suppression, but it can also choke out other plants you're trying to grow in your garden. If you are hesitant about planting them because of this, look for less aggressive varieties, and place them where their spread can be more easily contained.

How to Propagate Yarrow

Yarrow grows aggressively and can self-seed if left unchecked. The downside of this (besides potentially crowding out other plants) is that new plants may not look the same as the parent plant since many nursery-grown yarrow plants are hybrids.

The best way to propagate your yarrow and get similar-looking new plants is through division. This will also curtail excess growth and keep your yarrow plants vibrant and healthy. Wait until the plant is done blooming and then loosen the soil around the plant’s root ball and dig it up. Use a sharp tool (like a trowel or spade) to cut the plant into two or three segments (make sure each segment has multiple shoots). Replant your divided yarrow (spaced 1 to 2 feet apart) at the same depth as the original plant and water until the soil is sufficiently moist.

Types of Yarrow

Originally, yarrow garden flowers only came in drab whites and creams. Today you can find them in various colors, such as soft pinks, lavenders, bright yellows, rich reds, and warm apricot. All these shades are shown off well against the plant's silver-green foliage. The leaves themselves are finely dissected and form tight mats that slowly spread. Yarrow blooms also make long-lasting cut flowers that can be easily dried.

Current breeding work has been focused on improving the flaws of yarrow. The most significant change has been the creation of dwarf varieties of plants that won't flop or break in the wind. Color options are also getting richer as many varieties branch out from the pastel palette. New yarrow types also boast longer bloom times and blooms that repeat all season; be sure to cut
back spent flowers
to help them in the long run.

Anthea yarrow

anthea yarrow
Blaine Moats

Achillea 'Anblo' is a hybrid yarrow that bears 3-inch-wide clusters of soft primrose-yellow blooms that fade to cream. The plant has silvery-gray foliage and is resistant to powdery mildew, making it a good choice for regions with high humidity. It grows 18-24 inches tall and wide. Zones 4-9

'Appleblossom' yarrow

'Appleblossom' yarrow
Tom McWilliam

Achillea millefolium 'Appleblossom' is a fast-spreading plant with pale pink blooms and grayish-green feathery leaves. Zones 3-9

'Apricot Delight' yarrow

'Apricot Delight' yarrow
Dean Schoeppner

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. Zones 3-9

'Cerise Queen' yarrow

'Cerise Queen' yarrow
Andy Lyons

Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' produces pretty, magenta-pink blooms in late spring to early summer that hover over fernlike green foliage. Zones 3-9

Common yarrow

Common yarrow
Marty Baldwin

Achillea millefolium is a drought-tolerant native plant with ferny green foliage and white flower clusters in summer. It is also deer-resistant and attracts butterflies. The spreading clumps of common yarrow grow 1-3 feet tall. Another common name for the plant is bloodwort, a reference to its historical use as a topical wound dressing. Zones 3-9

Fernleaf yarrow

Fernleaf yarrow

Achillea filipendulina offers finely cut gray-green foliage and reaches 3-5 feet tall. It bears mustard-yellow flowers in mid to late summer. Zones 3-9

'Paprika' yarrow

'Paprika' yarrow
Marty Baldwin

Achillea millefolium 'Paprika' blooms in brilliant scarlet red with a distinctive yellow eye. With age, the flowers take on a pink hue. The plant blooms all summer if deadheaded. Zones 3-9

'Wonderful Wampee' yarrow

'Wonderful Wampee' yarrow
Denny Schrock

Achillea millefolium Tutti Frutti 'Wonderful Wampee' blooms from early to late summer with light pink flower clusters that mature to apple-blossom pink. The drought- and heat-tolerant plants don't melt down in summer's heat. 'Wonderful Wampee' grows 18-24 inches tall and wide, gradually spreading to form large clumps. Zones 3-9

'Pomegranate' yarrow

'Pomegranate' yarrow
Denny Schrock

Achillea millefolium Tutti Frutti 'Pomegranate' has deep red blooms that hold their color well in the garden. If deadheaded after the first flush of bloom, plants push out additional flowers until a hard freeze in fall. 'Pomegranate' yarrow grows 24-30 inches tall and wide. Zones 3-9

'Pink Grapefruit' yarrow

'Pink Grapefruit' yarrow
Blooms of Bressingham

Achillea millefolium 'Pink Grapefruit' is a compact, vigorous plant with large domed flowers that open deep pink and slowly change to creamy rose. Zones 3-9

'Strawberry Seduction' yarrow

'Strawberry Seduction' yarrow
Scott Little 

Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' shows off velvety-red blooms with bright gold centers that fade to maize-yellow as they age. Zones 3-9

Woolly yarrow

Woolly yarrow
Dean Schoeppner

Achillea tomentosa 'Lemon' bears clear yellow flowers in early summer that appear over the 6-inch-tall foliage that's covered in soft, silvery hairs. Zones 4-8

Yarrow Companion Plants

Daylily

daylilies
Peter Krumhardt

Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find these escapees from gardens in ditches and fields. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shaped blooms in numerous colors. There are 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in various flower sizes (the minis are very popular), forms, and plant heights. Some are fragrant.

The flowers are borne on leafless stems. Although each bloom lasts only a single day, better cultivars carry several buds on each scape which extends bloom time, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.

Penstemon

husker red penstemon
Jay Wilde

This North American native plant has a home in nearly every garden with flowers that hummingbirds love. Long blooming with brilliantly colored tubular flowers, penstemons have been a staple in European gardens for decades. There are many different penstemon types.

The leaves can be lance-shaped or oval and sometimes purple-red, as in 'Husker Red'. Some Western species need superior drainage to dry conditions and won't thrive during wet weather. However, many, such as 'Husker Red', thrive in various conditions. Just be sure to provide excellent drainage. Mulch in areas where plants are marginally hardy.

Salvia

salvia
Stephen Cridland

There are hundreds of different types of salvias, commonly called sage, but they all tend to share beautiful, tall flower spikes and attractive, often gray-green leaves. As a result, countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens, and new selections appear annually.

Sages are valued for their very long bloom season up until frost. Not all are hardy in cold climates, but they're easy to grow as annuals. On square stems with often-aromatic leaves, sages carry dense or loose spires of tubular flowers in bright blues, violets, yellow, pinks, or red that mix well with other perennials in beds and borders. Provide full sun or very light shade in well-drained average soil.

Garden Plans for Yarrow

Walk to Front Door Garden Plan

Walk to front door garden 
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

The addition of flowers brings life to an unimaginative row of shrubs and turns the front walk into a garden path.

Extra-Easy Sun-Loving Garden Plan

garden illustration
Illustration by Gary Palmer

Fill your garden with color from easy-care favorites such as purple coneflower and yarrow.

Cottage Garden Plan

Illustration of Cottage Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Capturing the old-fashioned charm of an English cottage garden, this border planting is lush, colorful, and full of familiar favorites, such as hollyhocks, roses, daisies, and peonies.

Summer Cottage Garden Plan

Summer Cottage Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Stately delphiniums are the backbone of this colorful cottage garden plan.

Property Line Garden

Property Line Bed
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

This stylish border features a sophisticated color palette. The perennials in the design, chosen for their long season of bloom, offer flowers in violet-blue and yellow shades.

Colorful Slope Garden Plan

Drought Tolerant Slope Garden Plan
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Transform a tough hillside into drifts of color with show stopping results.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do deer like yarrow?

    No. Yarrow is a great deer-resistant addition for your garden because the bitter taste and pungent aroma will turn them away. Fortunately, those qualities also make it very attractive to pollinators like butterflies and bees—not to mention other beneficial bugs who may seek refuge in its fern-like leaves.

  • What do I do if my yarrow grows leggy and floppy?

    Yarrow tends to grow too tall (and, thus, floppy) in moist, rich soil because the drought-tolerant perennial prefers a well-draining soil. This can also happen if the plant is in partial shade or if too much (or any) fertilizer is applied. Prune the plants back to near the base of the plant or add some structural support by staking the stems. If the problem continues, you may want to consider moving the plant to an area with more constant sun.

  • How can I tell the difference between yarrow and poison hemlock?

    Yarrow and hemlock can look deceptively similar. In fact, invasive poison hemlock has a few lookalikes (such as Queen Anne’s lace, fennel, and parsley), but there are a few distinctions to look for.  First, consider the size. Poison hemlock can grow anywhere from 2 to 10 feet tall, but yarrow stays much shorter, between 6 inches and 1 to 2 feet. Yarrow also has thin, frilly, featherlike leaves, whereas poison hemlock has broader, toothy, fern-like leaves that more closely resemble parsley. If you have any doubt about a plant you run into, it’s best to steer clear.

Was this page helpful?
Sources
Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy.
  1. Plant Fact Sheet - USDA. University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/factsheet/pdf/fs_acmi2.pdf.

  2. Yarrow. ASPCA.

  3. Safe and poisonous garden plants - ucanr.edu. (n.d.). University of California Agricultural and Natural Resources, from https://ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/files/154528.pdf

Related Articles