Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a flowering plant that belongs to the aster family (Asteraceae). It has many common names, such as old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, and thousand seal. It is native to temperate regions of Asia, Europe, and North America, but it has also been introduced to other parts of the world as a garden plant or a weed. It is a versatile and resilient plant that can grow in various soil and light conditions, and has a long history of medicinal and culinary uses. In this article, we will learn more about the yarrow plant, its characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks.
What is Yarrow?
Yarrow is a herbaceous perennial plant that produces one or more stems that can reach up to 1 meter (3 feet) in height. The stems are hairy and grooved, and bear alternate, feathery leaves that are divided into many small segments. The leaves have a strong, aromatic smell when crushed, and can be used as a spice or a tea. The flowers are small, white, yellow, pink, red, or purple, and have a flat, umbrella-like shape. They are arranged in clusters at the top of the stems, and bloom from late spring to early fall. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and can be used as a dye or a cosmetic. The seeds are small, brown, and winged, and can be dispersed by wind or animals.
There are many varieties and cultivars of yarrow, some of which have different colors, sizes, or shapes. For example, the common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has white flowers and green leaves, the fernleaf yarrow (Achillea filipendulina) has yellow flowers and gray-green leaves, and the sneezewort yarrow (Achillea ptarmica) has white flowers and narrow leaves. Some cultivars have more ornamental value, such as the ‘Moonshine’ yarrow, which has bright yellow flowers and silver-gray leaves, and the ‘Summer Pastels’ yarrow, which has flowers in various shades of pink, lavender, and peach.
|Scientific name||Achillea millefolium|
|Common names||Yarrow, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand seal|
|Family||Asteraceae (aster family)|
|Origin||Asia, Europe, North America|
|Height||30 to 100 cm (12 to 40 in)|
|Spread||45 to 60 cm (18 to 24 in)|
|Flower color||White, yellow, pink, red, purple, or bi-colored|
|Flower shape||Flat, umbrella-like clusters|
|Flowering time||Late spring to early fall|
|Leaf color||Green, gray-green, or silver-gray|
|Leaf shape||Feathery, divided into many segments|
|Leaf fragrance||Strong, aromatic|
|Hardiness zones||3 to 9|
|Light||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil||Well-drained, sandy, loamy, or clay|
|Water||Low to moderate|
|Pests||Aphids, spider mites, thrips|
|Diseases||Powdery mildew, rust, stem rot|
|Uses||Ornamental, medicinal, culinary, wildlife, dye, cosmetic|
How to Grow Yarrow?
Yarrow is an easy and low-maintenance plant that can grow in almost any garden. It can tolerate a wide range of soil and light conditions, and can survive drought, frost, and pests. It can also self-seed and spread by rhizomes, making it a good choice for naturalizing or filling large areas. However, it can also become invasive or aggressive in some situations, so it is important to control its growth and prevent its escape. Angelonia is another attractive and low-maintenance option for gardeners, offering colorful blooms and resilience in various conditions.
To grow yarrow, you can either start from seeds, cuttings, or divisions. Seeds can be sown indoors in late winter or early spring, or outdoors in late spring or early summer. Cuttings can be taken from young stems in spring or summer, and rooted in moist soil or water. Divisions can be done in spring or fall, by digging up the clumps and separating them into smaller pieces. You can also buy yarrow plants from nurseries or garden centers, and transplant them to your desired location.
Yarrow prefers a sunny spot with well-drained soil, but it can also tolerate some shade and poor soil. It does not need much water or fertilizer, as it can thrive in dry and infertile conditions. However, it may benefit from some mulch to retain moisture and suppress weeds, and some compost or organic fertilizer to boost its growth and flowering. It can also be deadheaded to prolong its blooming period and prevent self-seeding, and cut back to the ground in late fall or early winter to tidy up its appearance and encourage new growth in spring.
How to Use Yarrow?
Yarrow is a multipurpose plant that can be used for various purposes. It is mainly grown as an ornamental plant, especially for sunny borders, rock gardens, cottage gardens, or wildflower meadows. It can also be grown in containers, hanging baskets, or window boxes, or as a cut or dried flower. It can create a colorful and attractive display with its flowers and foliage, and provide a contrast to other plants with different shapes or textures.
Yarrow is also a useful plant for wildlife, as it provides food and shelter for many insects, birds, and small mammals. It is especially attractive to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, which visit the flowers for nectar and pollen. It can also host some caterpillars, such as those of the painted lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui) and the yarrow plume moth (Platyptilia ochrodactyla). The seeds and leaves can be eaten by some birds, such as goldfinches and sparrows, and the plant can also offer cover and nesting material for them. Moreover, the plant can help to prevent soil erosion and improve soil quality, as it has a dense root system and can fix nitrogen.
Yarrow is also a medicinal plant, as it has been used for various ailments since ancient times. It has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, and hemostatic properties, and can be used to treat wounds, infections, bleeding, inflammation, fever, colds, flu, headaches, menstrual problems, digestive disorders, and more. It can also be used to stimulate the immune system, reduce blood pressure, and enhance circulation. The leaves and flowers can be made into a tea, a tincture, a salve, a compress, or a poultice, and applied externally or internally as needed. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor before using yarrow for medicinal purposes, as it may have some side effects or interactions with other drugs.
Yarrow is also a culinary plant, as it has a bitter and spicy flavor that can be used as a herb or a spice. It can be added to salads, soups, stews, sauces, marinades, dressings, or dips, or used as a garnish or a seasoning. It can also be used to make vinegar, wine, beer, or liqueur. The leaves and flowers are edible, but they should be used sparingly and fresh, as they can lose their flavor and become bitter when dried or cooked. They should also be harvested before the plant blooms, as they can become more bitter and less aromatic after flowering.
How to Control Yarrow?
Yarrow is a plant that can be both a friend and a foe, depending on where and how it grows. It can be a beautiful and beneficial plant in some situations, but it can also be a nuisance and a threat in others. It can be invasive or aggressive in places where it is not native or wanted, such as lawns, pastures, crops, or natural areas. It can spread rapidly and vigorously, and displace or compete with other plants and animals. It can also be difficult to eradicate, as it can regenerate from any part of the plant that is left behind.
Therefore, it is important to control yarrow if it becomes a problem in your area. There are several methods that can be used to do so, such as:
- Manual removal: This involves pulling, digging, or mowing the plant by hand or with tools, and disposing of it properly. This can be effective for small infestations, but it can also be labor-intensive and time-consuming. It is also essential to remove all parts of the plant, including the roots and rhizomes, and to repeat the process regularly until no more growth is observed.
- Chemical control: This involves applying herbicides to the plant, either by spraying, wiping, or injecting. This can be effective for large infestations, but it can also be costly and harmful to the environment and other plants and animals. It is also important to choose the right herbicide for the situation, and to follow the instructions and precautions carefully.
- Biological control: This involves introducing natural enemies of the plant, such as insects, fungi, or animals, that can feed on or damage the plant. This can be effective for long-term control, but it can also be risky and unpredictable. It is also important to ensure that the introduced agents are specific to the target plant, and that they do not cause any unwanted impacts on the ecosystem.
What are some yarrow companion plants?
Yarrow is a plant that can get along well with many other plants, as it can improve the soil quality, attract beneficial insects, and repel pests. Some of the plants that can benefit from yarrow’s presence are:
- Roses: Yarrow can help roses by attracting ladybugs, lacewings, and other predators that can eat aphids, which are a common pest of roses. Yarrow can also add color and contrast to the rose garden, and complement the rose fragrance with its own aroma.
- Lavender: Yarrow and lavender are both drought-tolerant plants that can thrive in sunny and dry conditions. They can also create a beautiful and fragrant combination with their purple and yellow flowers, and attract bees and butterflies to the garden.
- Herbs: Yarrow can enhance the growth and flavor of many herbs, such as basil, oregano, thyme, sage, and mint. Yarrow can also be used as a herb itself, as it has a bitter and spicy taste that can be added to salads, soups, or teas.
- Vegetables: Yarrow can benefit vegetables by fixing nitrogen in the soil, which can increase the fertility and productivity of the crops. Yarrow can also repel some pests, such as cabbage worms, carrot flies, and flea beetles, that can damage the vegetables. Some of the vegetables that can grow well with yarrow are tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, and carrots.
What not to plant with yarrow?
Yarrow is a plant that can be invasive or aggressive in some situations, so it is important to avoid planting it with plants that are weak, slow-growing, or sensitive. Some of the plants that can be harmed by yarrow’s presence are:
- Grass: Yarrow can compete with grass for space, water, and nutrients, and can take over the lawn if left unchecked. Yarrow can also be difficult to remove from the grass, as it can regenerate from any part of the plant that is left behind.
- Delicate flowers: Yarrow can overpower some delicate flowers, such as pansies, violas, or primroses, and reduce their growth and flowering. Yarrow can also clash with some flowers that have a different color scheme or style, such as orchids, lilies, or tulips.
- Fruits: Yarrow can interfere with some fruits, such as strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries, and reduce their yield and quality. Yarrow can also attract some pests, such as birds, rodents, or insects, that can feed on the fruits and damage them.
What does a yarrow plant look like?
Yarrow is a plant that has a distinctive appearance, with its feathery leaves and flat, umbrella-like flowers. Here are some of the features that can help you identify a yarrow plant:
- Stems: Yarrow has one or more stems that can reach up to 1 meter (3 feet) in height. The stems are hairy and grooved, and bear alternate, feathery leaves that are divided into many small segments.
- Leaves: Yarrow has leaves that are green, gray-green, or silver-gray, depending on the variety. The leaves are ovate and toothed, and have a strong, aromatic smell when crushed. The leaves can be used as a spice or a tea, or as a medicinal or cosmetic ingredient.
- Flowers: Yarrow has flowers that are white, yellow, pink, red, purple, or bi-colored, depending on the variety. The flowers are small, less than an inch long, and have a flat, umbrella-like shape. They are arranged in clusters at the top of the stems, and bloom from late spring to early fall. The flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and can be used as a dye or a cosmetic, or as a medicinal or culinary ingredient. Look link