How to Grow and Care for Achillea — Yarrow

Yarrow Achillea flower
Achillea millefolium, yarrow or common yarrow

Achillea–commonly called yarrow–is a colorful addition to the garden. Yarrow has fernlike, fragrant leaves. Species and cultivars range in size from very small, creeping plants to very large—up to 4 feet (1.2m) tall. Achillea is easy to grow and grows well even in poor, dry soil.

Achillea is a perennial. It is also known as milfoil and yarrow. Achillea is easily recognizable by its bitterish, aromatic odor, and taste. Their leaves and flowers have been used for centuries in medicine.

Achillea is easily grown in any good garden soil in a sunny location. The plants bear, from early to late summer, clusters of small white and yellow flowers which are excellent for cutting.

Seed can be started indoors in early spring and set outdoors in late spring. Plants will probably flower in the first season. Achillea can also be propagated by root division.

Achillea is a genus of about 85 species of most deciduous perennials native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Common yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Common yarrow, Achillea millefolium ‘Schwellenburg’

Get to know Achillea

  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Growing Zones: 3 to 9
  • Hardiness: Hardy to -30°F (-34°C); resistant to heat and cold; like cold winter temperatures; thrives in low to moderate humidity
  • Height and width: 18 to 48 inches (45-120cm) tall, 18 to 24 inches (18-61cm) wide
  • Foliage: Gray or green, often aromatic leaves, are fernlike
  • Flower form and colors: Flat-topped heads 4-5 inches (10-12.5cm) across with dozens of small daisy-like flowers in tight clusters
  • Flower colors: Yellows, creams, reds, pinks, and apricots.
  • Bloom time: All summer; flowers last for several weeks; plant reblooms if deadheaded
  • Use: Beds, borders, naturalizing in meadows; excellent for cutting and drying.
  • Garden companions: Shasta daisy, monkshoods
  • Common name: Yarrow
  • Botanical name: Achillea spp.
  • Family: Asteraceae
  • Origin: Temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere
Fernleaf yarrow, Achillea filipendula
Fernleaf yarrow, Achillea filipendula

Where to plant Achillea

  • Plant Achillea in full sun to light shade.
  • Achillea thrives in well-drained average or sandy soil.
  • Achillea tolerates hot-dry conditions and drought.
  • Achillea prefers a soil pH of 4.5 to 7.

Garden Success Products at Amazon:

Achillea uses and companions

  • Use Achillea in the middle or back of a flower garden.
  • Use Achillea in an informal cottage garden and herb gardens; they are drought resistant.
  • Naturalize Achillea in meadows or wild gardens.
  • Achillea is good fresh or dried in arrangements; cut blossoms after pollen is visible.
  • Companions include Chrysanthemum superbum, ornamental grasses, Kniphofia, Rudbeckia, Salvia.

When to plant Achillea

  • Set established plants in the garden in spring or fall.
  • Start seeds indoors from early spring to midsummer, at least 3 months before the first fall frost.
  • Sow seeds outdoors from mid-spring to mid-summer, up to 3 months before the first fall frost.
  • Set container-grown plants outdoors in mid-spring to late summer, up to two months before the first fall frost.
Tall Common yarrow or Achillea millefolium  plant and bloom
Tall Common yarrow or Achillea millefolium

Planting and spacing Achellia

  • Sow Achillea seeds indoors in pots or flats; do not cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Plants started from seed take two years to become established.
  • Place seeds started indoors in full sun or under fluorescent lights.
  • Sow seed outdoors in a smoothly prepared planting bed; do not add aged compost or other organic matter unless the soil is almost pure sand. If the soil is very sandy add compost and leaf mold.
  • Space Achellia 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) apart.

How to water and feed Achellia

  • Keep the soil just moist. If the soil is too wet plants are prone to fungus disease.
  • Established plants can tolerate dry soil.
  • Fertilize Achillea lightly if at all.
Common yarrow, Achillea millefolium
Common yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Achellia care

  • Plants can get leggy if given too much fertilizer.
  • Mulch around plants to prevent weeds.
  • Achellia can be invasive; divide or trim back plants that become aggressive.
  • Divide yarrow every 2 to 3 years.
  • Achellia can be prone to fungal diseases in wet or humid climates.
  • Harvest leaves and flowers for drying just before plants are in full bloom; cut the flowering stems off at the base. Hang the stems upside down in a dark, dry, warm place to dry.
  • Store dried leaves and flowers in an airtight container.

Achellia pests and diseases

  • Powdery mildew can attack yarrow where nights are warm and humid. Dust with sulfur.
  • Rot can cause stems to blacken and topple over. Remove and destroy affected plants.

Achillea propagation

  • Achillea spreads rapidly and needs frequent division.
  • Achillea can be propagated by root cuttings. Root clumps can be divided in spring.
  • Divide plants in early spring or fall.
  • Plant divisions into soil amended with aged compost.
  • Species Achillea can be started from seed; plants started from seed take two years to become established.
Woolly yarrow, Achillea tomentosa
Woolly yarrow, Achillea tomentosa

Achillea varieties to grow

  • Achillea ageratifolia, Greek yarrow. Low mats of silvery leaves with white flower clusters; grow 4 to 10 inches (10-25cm) tall.
  • A. clavennae, silvery yarrow. Mats of silvery-gray leaves topped with white flowers.
  • A. filipendulina, fern-leaf yarrow. Grows to 5 feet (1.5m) tall; has bold mustard-yellow flowers to 5-inches (12.7cm) wide on long stems; several cultivars are available including ‘Gold Plate’ and ‘Coronation Gold’.
  • A. millefolium, common yarrow. Grows erect to 3 feet (.9m) tall; narrow, fernlike, green or gray-green leaves on 36-inch (91cm) stems; many named hybrids including ‘Moonshine’; hardy in Zones 3 to 8.
  • A. taygeta. Grows to 18 inches (45cm) tall; dense clusters of bright yellow flowers.
  • A. tomentosa, woolly yarrow. Makes a flat, spreading mat of fern-like, deep green, hairy leaves; golden flowers head atop 6 to 10 inch (15-25cm) stems.

Achillea filipendulina — Fern-lead yarrow 

Achillea filipendulina has flat saucer-size heads of bright yellow flowers and fine-texture fern-leaf dark green leaves. It will bloom all summer if flowers are cut regularly. The flowers and foliage have a spicy herbal scent.

  • Size: 3 to 5 feet tall; 2 feet wide. 
  • Light: full sun. 
  • Soil and moisture: average to sandy soil. Very drought tolerant; does poorly in wet, heavy soil. 
  • Planting and propagation: plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 feet apart. Divide mature clumps every three or four years in spring or fall. Take stem cuttings in midsummer. 
  • Special care: needs staking, especially if grown in rich soil. Remove faded flowers to encourage long blooming. 
  • Pest and diseases: root rot in wet soil. 
  • Climate: zones 3-9. 
  • Cultivars: The popular cultivars bloom longer and need less staking than the species. Cultivars and similar species: ‘Gold Plate’, 6-inch golden yellow flowers, sturdy 4- to 5-foot-tall stems; ‘Parker’s Variety,’ 4-inch bright yellow flowers, sturdy 3 ½-foot stems; ‘Coronation Gold,’ hybrid with numerous 3-inch golden yellow flowers, gray-green leaves, sturdy 3-foot stems, no staking. 
  • Garden use: use in the middle or back of the flower border or herb garden. Excellent cut or dried flower; cut flowers after pollen is visible or flowers will wilt. 

Achillea millefolium — common yarrow 

Achillea millefolium is a native European wildflower that has been naturalized in Noth America. It grows wild in dry areas and along roadsides. Pretty flat heads of tiny white flowers bloom from mid- to late summer. Lacy, dark green, silky-haired leaves form a mat. The species is invasive and is best used in a meadow or herb garden. The cultivars with brightly colored flowers are not invasive and can be used in borders or cut-flower gardens. 

  • Size: 1 to 3 feet tall; spreads vigorously. 
  • Light: full sun. 
  • Soil and moisture: average to poor soil. Very drought tolerant. Does poorly in wet, heavy soil; may rot in winter-wet soil. 
  • Planting and propagation:  plant container-grown plants in spring, spacing 2 feet apart. Divide mature clumps every two or three years in spring. Take stem cutting in midsummer. 
  • Special care: seed-grown plants may vary in flower color. Cultivars may need staking. 
  • Pest and diseases: powdery mildew can occur. May rot in damp or wet locations. 
  • Climate: zones 3-9; may get lanky in the South. 
  • Cultivars: ‘Rosea,’ pale Pink; ‘Cerise Queen,’ bright rose-pink, 1 ½ feet tall; ‘Fire King,’ dark red, 2 feet tall; ‘Lilac Queen,’ lilac; ‘Snow-taler,’ white. Galaxy hybrid (A. millefolium x A. taygetea), larger flowers fading from bright to soft shades: ‘Salmon Beauty,) light salmon-pink; ‘Appleblossom,’ medium pink; ‘Beacon,’ crimson with yellow eyes; ‘Paprika,’ red with yellow eyes; ‘Summer Pastels,’ seed-grown, color-coordinated mix of cream, apricot, and scarlet. 
  • Garden use: naturalize in meadow garden; use in informal, drought-resistant cottage or herb gardens. Prized for fresh or dried flower arrangements; cut blossoms after pollen is visible. 

Achillea x ‘moonshine’  — Moonshine yarrow 

Achillea x ‘moonshine’ is a hybrid that produces 2- to 3-inch flower heads in soft primrose yellow fading to creamy yellow. The leaves are deeply dissected and gray-green, creating an overall shimmery effect. This plant is a good addition to informal borders. It is compact and floriferous.

  • Size: 2 feet tall when in bloom; 1 ½ feet wide. 
  • Light: full sun. 
  • Soil and moisture: average to sandy soil. Drought tolerant; needs excellent drainage. 
  • Planting and propagation: plant container-grown plants anytime, spacing 1 foot apart. Divide in early spring every two or three years. 
  • Special care: spray for fungus disease in the Southeast. Remove faded flowers. 
  • Pest and diseases: susceptible to fungus diseases in areas with high humidity and afternoon rainstorms. 
  • Climate: Zones 3-8; performs poorly in hot, humid areas. 
  • Similar species:  A. tomentosa (woolly milfoil), similar but smaller flowers above a mat of woolly light green foliage, Zones 3-7; susceptible to fungus in humid areas. Use in the rock garden. 
  • Garden use: use in informal borders. 

Achillea frequently asked questions

Q: What growing conditions to yarrow like?

A: Yarrow like almost any soil. It can tolerate dry soil. It grows best in full sun. It is hardy to -30°F.

Q: What is the best way to propagate yarrow?\

A: Clumps of yarrow are easily divided, in either spring or fall. Plants can also be started from seed. If you start in spring — weeks before the last frost, yarrow will bloom the same year. Sow Achillea seeds indoors in pots or flats; do not cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Place them under a grow light or fluorescent tubes.

Q: My yarrow falls over. What can I do?

A; Taller yarrows need support. This is easily done by placing a few twiggy branches into the soil around the plants in spring.

Related Articles:


How to Grow Franklinia

Sweet Willian, Dianthus barbatus

How to Grow and Care for Dianthus — Pinks