Yarrow is a perennial native to Asia, Europe, and North American and is also more commonly known as Achillea. The name Achillea is derived from the Greek warrior Achilles who was said to have carried Yarrow with him into battle as its coagulant properties would stop the flow of blood from battle wounds. While today you are much more likely to find Yarrow sold as a flowering plant its history is very much rooted in its role as an herb. Native Americans would steep yarrow into a tea or incorporate it into a soup which was used to combat a variety of ailments ranging fevers to toothaches. I think it is fair to say that Yarrow is really an herb masquerading as a flower.
This lesser-known perennial has been making a comeback in the past few years as breeders have found a way to take taller versions of Yarrow and convert them into low-growing varieties that are suitable for containers. The smaller varieties grow to about 1 to 2 feet tall but old-fashioned Yarrow plants can grow up to 4 feet tall and generally require some support to not flop over. It is also gaining more attention due to its tolerance of dry soil conditions which makes it valuable in areas experiencing reduced rainfall or even drought conditions.
The Yarrow bloom is actual a flower cluster with a flat top that stands on top of the fernlike foliage. These blooms make excellent cut flowers and can also be useful in dry flower arrangements. The plant is quite durable and tolerates low fertility soil conditions in addition to drought conditions. The blooms start in midsummer and will continue into the fall. Removing the spent flowers, a practice also known as deadheading will encourage new blooms. The flower colors include red, pink, salmon and white but the color most associated with Yarrow is an eye-catching yellow associated with taller varieties of the plant. It is generally not bothered by insects and is really only susceptible to powdery mildew diseases in really humid growing conditions.
Yarrow is considered a native plant in many areas and can be found in wildflower meadows and mixes. It prefers locations where it can get full sun and the soil drains well. It spreads through runners that originate in its root system and this also makes it a very good plant for erosion control purposes. It is attractive to butterflies and it is a good companion plant as it attracts predatory wasps to the garden. While plants are sometimes available in some garden shops it is easy to grow from seed.
There really is a lot to like about this “flower” and if you have the right growing conditions you might want to give it a try in your garden.