Planting and Growing Yarrow

Learn what you need to know about growing yarrow.
Bright Yellow Achillea Flowers

Bright Yellow Achillea Flowers

Give your garden a shot of easy-care color by adding yarrow to the planting mix. Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and fernleaf or yellow yarrow (Achillea filipendulina) bring summer-long color to garden beds and borders. Planting yarrow is an easy chore—even finding the just-right spot isn’t difficult. Growing yarrow is equally simple. Plants are fuss-free and undemanding.

When planting yarrow, start with a spot in full sun. While plants can survive in the lower light of a partial sun or part shade setting, flower stems will stretch and become floppy. At this point, you’ll definitely need to stake plants, which would otherwise not be necessary for common yarrow and the shorter fernleaf yarrow varieties. Staking is wise for common fernleaf yarrow, since its stems can grow four feet tall and higher.

Planting yarrow in a somewhat sheltered location—where winds don’t whip through too often—makes sense when you realize that flower stems can appear on plants for the entire summer. The stems stand above a clump of fern-like leaves, making them vulnerable to strong winds.
The other consideration for planting yarrow is soil type. Select a spot where soil is average to lean. Too-rich soil or soil with high fertility leads to lush plants with weak, floppy flower stems. Soils need to drain well so plants don’t rot. Avoid heavy clay soils, which don’t drain well.

Growing yarrow is one of the more undemanding chores you’ll tackle in gardening. Plants don’t need much attention during the growing season. Some gardeners clip spent flowers, snipping flower stems down near the main foliage clump. This can lead to an autumn rebloom in common yarrow and some of its hybrids. Fernleaf yarrow doesn’t rebloom.

It’s a good idea to clip spent flower heads before they set seed for several reasons. First, some of the common yarrow types self-sow freely, and leaving flowerheads in place can result in a yarrow takeover in the garden. Second, yarrow crossbreeds vary readily, which means that if plants do self-sow, you could wind up with seedlings that have reverted to the parent types—likely the wild yarrow with white to gray blooms.

One aspect of growing yarrow you’ll need to master is curtailing the spread. Common yarrow and some of its varieties tend to spread from the central foliage tuft via underground stems. This can also lead to yarrow overrunning garden beds. In early spring, as new growth appears, it’s easy to pull up spreading stems by hand, especially if you tackle the task after rain when soil is soft. Fernleaf yarrow and some of the common yarrow hybrids don’t spread as aggressively as the wild, common type.

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