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Yarrow flowers are some of the best flowers for attracting and feeding pollinators and pest-fighting insects to your garden! On top of that they are very nice long-lasting cut flowers, and some are excellent dried flowers.
They bloom prolifically in summer and again in early fall. They’re very easy to grow, needing little water and are deer and rabbit resistant.
There are a few types of yarrow, and some can be quite aggressive in the garden. So know which ones are which and you can plant them in the right places for you.
Most of the yarrows have fragrant foliage, too.
Yarrow varieties come in a wide variety of colors: golden yellow, brilliant sulfur yellow, red, cerise, soft salmon, pinks, terracotta, white, and more.
The flat-topped flower clusters comprised of tiny flowers are borne on sturdy stems. This arrangement makes an easy feeding platform for a myriad of pollinators and beneficial insects that help you keep the pests at bay in your garden.
The flowers are on top of stems that may be up to 4-5 ft. tall for the fernleaf yarrow and 18 in. – 3 ft. for the common yarrow.
After flowers bloom in early summer cut the stems to the ground for another round of bloom.
The two most common yarrow types are the fernleaf yarrow (Achillea filipendulina) and the common yarrow (A. millefolium).
The fernleaf and common yarrows have are semi-deciduous herbaceous plants with leaves that are finely cut on the edges, giving them a fern-like appearance. Both types have aromatics in them giving them a wonderful fragrance. This is what makes them useful to herbalists.
Fernleaf Yarrow (Achillea filipendulina): This is a tall species that bears a strong stem and golden yellow flower. Stem heights range from 3 ft. to 5 ft. tall and about 3 ft. wide. Foliage is gray-green.
Fernleaf yarrow is really the best yarrow for drying. But you need to pick it at the right time. It holds its brilliant golden yellow color and shape very well.
‘Parker’s Gold’, 3-5 ft. tall, flowers up to 4 in. wide
‘Cloth of Gold’ and ‘Gold Plate’, 3-4 ft.’. tall, flowers 3-6 in. wide
‘Coronation Gold’, 3 ft. tall and wide, developed as a landscape plant
Moonshine Yarrow (A. ‘Moonshine’): This is a stunning yarrow hybrid species with bright sulfur yellow flowers that are similar, but smaller, to the fernleaf yarrow. The foliage is silver. This one blooms in late spring bringing a cheery yellow to spring bouquets. Cut it back when the first bloom is over and you’ll have more flowers in mid-summer.
Common Yarrow (A. millefolium): This is the yarrow that can spread and become invasive. The original species, the one with the white flower, can be found throughout the northern hemisphere. It likes disturbed areas and sends out underground runners to spread. Keeping it under control so it doesn’t crowd out your other flowers requires diligence.
But… there are plenty of modern varieties that are not so invasive and that have verycolorful flowers!
Varieties that are more tame include ‘Cerise Queen’, ‘Lilac Beauty’, ‘Appleblossom’, ‘Paprika’, and ‘Terracotta’. They still can spread out of bounds, though, so be careful.
There is one variety that one nursery swears by as being ‘well-behaved’, that one is ‘Rosa Maria’. They promise it’s good for smaller gardens, which I have, growing to 18in. X 24in. I’ve been reluctant to grow common yarrow for years because of their spreading habit— I’d had a bad experience—but this one came before me as a much safer one. And the color! A nice bright, hot pink. So I bought one and I’m going to try it. I’ll update with more info when I have it.
One thing about common yarrow to know is that the flowers, which can be many, fade in color while on the plant. This can make a color range on the plant which many people like. I don’t like the looks of most of these. If your yarrow is a landscape plant, it can mean a lot of upkeep to remove older blooms.
Sneezewort (A. ptarmica): This is a lesser known yarrow that’s of interest to flower growers. It’s much smaller but nice white flowers that don’t resemble the other yarrow flowers. I grew it once, long ago and decided it wasn’t worth it. But I’m trying it again. It’s a shorter variety, to 18” tall, and is good for fresh and dried use.
Growing the Plants
Plant all of these yarrows in full sun, a little shade can be tolerated. Hot, dry conditions are perfect for these plants. Water well to establish them in their first year, then occasional deep waterings through the summers after that.
Well-drained soil is best. Overwatering these plants and/or fertilizing them can cause floppy stems and weak, spindly growth.
You may be able to plant any of these yarrows out without deer protection. I tried it with my new garden this year. I planted out my Parker’s Gold from my previous garden and my new A. ptarmica. But both got eaten. Just once so far. I’m leaving them there because often the deer just try something when it’s new. But they learn if they don’t like it and since the roots are in the ground, they are both coming back….fingers crossed.
Cut the yarrow flowers when almost all of the tiny flowers have opened for the longest lasting flowers. Cut them down at the bottom of the stem. If you don’t harvest them all, cut them anyway to encourage the next set of flowers to pop up.
Drying the Flowers
The fernleaf yarrow flowers are absolutely perfect for drying. But determining the perfect time to pick is a bit of a challenge. It’s best when all the tiny flowers are open so that the flower head is fullest. Too early and the florets shrink on drying and leave gaps. Too late and they don’t look too good. These flowers can be dried, when picked at the right time, standing upright in a vase. Nice and easy!
I read over and over that common yarrow flowers are also excellent for drying. But I’ve never thought they were worth it! The colors fade too quickly and when the weather gets damp the flowers droop. I must be missing something so I will try again with my new ‘Rosa Maria’ A. common yarrow.
How Many Plants
‘Moonshine’ warrants at least two. Three is always best. For all common yarrows, one would be enough since they spread. And for fernleaf yarrows, one plant may be enough. They get big. But two or three would be loads of fun and flowers…give them to friends. And leave some for the pollinators and the beneficial insects for your garden!
‘Parker’s Gold’ and ‘Cloth of Gold’, ‘Moonshine’, which are all the fernleaf type.
You’ll find a good selection of yarrows in local nurseries, often in 4 in. or 1 gallon pots. The larger ones, like Parker’s and Cloth of Gold are rarely grown for the nursery trade. You may be able to find them in specialty nurseries, though, and in online nurseries, like Annie’s Annuals and Bluestone Perennials.
For Parker’s Gold, I’ve grown mine from seed and divide them to propagate to get more plants. They are fairly easy to find online. So are ‘Cloth of Gold’. Check out the online sources of these. Lake Valley Seeds has Parker’s Gold.
Johnny’s Seeds has a stunning offering of mixed seeds for common yarrow.
As stated earlier, many common yarrow flower varieties are available in nurseries.
A. ptarmica was available this spring in my local nursery!