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.
Originally, yarrow flowers only came in drab whites and creams. Today you can find them in an array of colors, such as soft pinks, 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. The blooms of yarrow also make long-lasting cut flowers that can be easily dried.
Yarrow Care Must-Knows
Yarrow is extremely easy to grow and requires little maintenance in order for it to thrive. The most important thing to know is that yarrow will not do well in wet soils, so make sure to plant it in well-drained soil. Once established, yarrow is extremely drought tolerant, making it a great plant for use in low-maintenance, dry gardens.
While it tolerates some shade, yarrow will do best in full sun. In any less light than that, it will be more prone to flopping stems. Too much shade can also lead to disease problems. Powdery mildew is fairly common in older varieties of yarrow; luckily it is mostly a cosmetic problem, and plants will rarely die from it.
Related: Summer Flowers in the Test Garden
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 varieties that are less aggressive, and place them where their spread can be more easily contained.
Current breeding work has been focused on improving the flaws of yarrow. The biggest change has been creating dwarf varieties of plants that won't flop or break in the wind. Color options are getting richer as well, as many varieties are branching 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.
More Varieties of Yarrow
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
Achillea millefolium 'Appleblossom' is a fast-spreading plant with pale pink blooms and grayish-green feathery leaves. Zones 3-9
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
Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' produces pretty, magenta-pink blooms in late spring to early summer that hover over fernlike green foliage. Zones 3-9
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
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
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
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
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
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
Achillea millefolium 'Strawberry Seduction' shows off velvety-red blooms with bright gold centers that fade to maize-yellow as they age. Zones 3-9
Yarrow Companion Plants
Daylilies are so easy to grow you'll often find them in ditches and fields, escapees from gardens. And yet they look so delicate, producing glorious trumpet-shape blooms in numerous colors. There are some 50,000 named hybrid cultivars in a range of 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 but a single day, superior cultivars carry several buds on each scape so bloom time is long, especially if you deadhead daily. The strappy foliage may be evergreen or deciduous.
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-shape or oval, sometimes purple-red as in 'Husker Red'. Some Western species need outstanding drainage to dry conditions, and they won't thrive during wet weather. Many, such as 'Husker Red', thrive in a wide variety of conditions. Just be sure to provide excellent drainage. Mulch in areas where plants are marginally hardy.
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. Countless sages (including the herb used in cooking) are available to decorate ornamental gardens, and new selections appear annually. They are valued for their very long season of bloom, right up until frost. Not all are hardy in cold climates, but they are easy to grow as annuals. On square stems, clothed 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
The addition of flowers brings life to an unimaginative row of shrubs and turns the front walk into a garden path.
Fill your garden with color from easy-care favorites such as purple coneflower and yarrow.
Stately delphiniums are the backbone of this colorful cottage garden plan.
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.
These heat- and drought-tolerant plants will make your yard a shining star all summer long.
This colorful flower garden looks great all season long, but really struts its stuff when autumn arrives.