There are over 100 species of Yarrow but only a half dozen
are common in commerce. The most popular are the colorful varieties of A. millefolium.
These yarrows spread out from a center crown by popping up new growth along
roots that travel just below the surface of the soil. Under most garden
circumstances, they make lazy, sprawling garden companions for tall shrubs. It
is the tender loving care of extra water and fertilizer that causes this lax
habit. In forests and on roadsides, these plants, deprived of summer moisture,
remain small and sturdy and, quite frankly, ugly. Like many plants bred for
color, as the hybrids naturalize and disperse seed they eventually return to the
color of origin. For the humble yarrow, this is a dirty white. It is this yarrow
that has many names, many legends and traditional medicinal uses.
Thus, we offer the White Yarrow for those who wish to use it to
staunch bleeding or reduce external inflammation. Tuck a few in and around the
garden for those times nippers mistake fingers for plant stems.
We also offer a mix of colors that offer a surprise in every
pot. This Colorado Yarrow seed ranges in color from yellow to red. It has good
strong color that does not wash out in summer sun.
Place these Yarrows about a foot apart, and if the balance
between wet and dry can be found, they will provide sturdy upright flower stems
from about June until September. In areas with scorching summer days, Yarrow can
be planted in afternoon or filtered shade, but attention to water is even more
important to keep them from splaying out. If desired, support can be provided to
guide the flower stems up.
Fertilizer should not be needed in normal healthy soil and can
increase the sloppy habit. And, while the ph preference for Yarrow is on the
acid side of the scale (around 6.5), it does perfectly fine in moderate alkaline
soils. Although small ferny leaves do progress up the flower stem, it is
essentially only the flower stems that rise off the ground. Most of the leaves
cover the ground, providing shade for the creeping stems. All stems should be removed at ground level when harvesting
or after bloom. This is especially important if the yarrow is planted as a lawn
cover. It is not necessary to divide yarrows
as long as they have room to roam. If they become cramped in their space, they
can be lifted in spring and divided. Gophers usually accomplish this for us. As
a matter of fact, between the gophers, bunnies and squirrels, we have started to
grow most of our Yarrows in containers. They make great pot plants, but, like mint, they quickly use up
soil. When they start to fill up the pot, they will need fresh potting soil with
organic fertilizer and a larger pot. Clumps can also be reduced in size by
division and replanted in fresh soil in the same size pot.
Flower heads of A. millefolium can be cut for fresh use and last
3 to 5 days in the vase. Composed of many tiny flowers, each half-dome-shaped
head bursts forth with color radiating outward from the center. It can take
several days for a flower head to fully open. The best time for cutting is when
it is completely and before it starts to pale.
To avoid excess rot and odor the leaves should be stripped off
before the flower stem is placed in water. Changing the water daily helps to
extend the vase life. Unfortunately, these blooms lose all color when
For dried flowers, it is the flatter flower head of the species
fillipendulina (Gold Yarrow) that is prized. These broad, golden flowers last
many years if kept out of the sunlight. These flower heads also should be cut
when all the little flowers are fully open, but before the color starts to fade.
Strip the leaves off and place in a dry vase or hang in a dark dry spot. (A
great way to make dried bouquets or arrangements is to pick several different
kinds of fresh flowers, arrange, and then dry.)
The growth habit of Achillea fillipendulina is tidier than A.
millefolium. The gray, feathery leaves rise up to about two feet and stay in a
clump rather than crawling about. The bloom time is considerably shorter for
this species, so it is particularly nice that the foliage is well behaved and
attractive. After bloom, the plant can be cut to the ground. It will regrow
foliage but will not not bloom again (except for the rebellious odd bloom) until
the next spring.