Yarrow is hardy, drought resistant and dries well. You've probably seen it in mixed fresh flower arrangements as well as in dried wreaths and arrangements. Although the most common flower color for yarrow is probably yellow, cultivars are available these days in lots of colors from white to pink to peach to deep red. Yarrow is attractive in potpourri and has a number of interesting medicinal uses, too. If you're looking for a new herb to add to your garden collection, consider adopting yarrow. This is a low maintenance plant that has herbal applications and makes a nice addition to the suburban landscape, too.
How to Grow Yarrow
Yarrow is a perennial (zones 3 to 9) that can reach a height of around 60 inches. It flowers in mid-summer and will keep flowering until well into fall. It's a good candidate for any sunny but neglected spot in your garden that's plagued with poor soil and dryer conditions than your pampered flowerbeds. Yarrow spreads quickly too, making it a good fill-in plant where you would usually see weeds sprouting by the end of June.
To give yarrow a good start, loosen the soil to a depth of around 10 inches, and plant seedlings 24 inches apart or so. Although it tolerates neglect, yarrow does prefer soil that drains well, so include sand and other soil amendments if necessary. Fertilize plants in spring, and add a layer of mulch to new plantings if you experience long dry periods during the summer months. After the first killing frost in fall, prune plants by removing most of the top growth, leaving an inch or two if stubble. (Plants will become crowded by the third year and should be thinned.)
Newer yarrow cultivars may be somewhat shorter and more compact. Be sure to check the informational material on the variety you have in mind. Yarrow is typically pest resistant but can be susceptible to powdery mildew. Deer don't like it much, either.
Yarrow makes a nice addition to a fresh flower bouquet during the summer months. From a distance, white yarrow looks a bit like baby's breath when added to roses. White and pink yarrow are both lovely in mixed bouquets with sage, lavender and calendula, and yellow yarrow is nice in a sunflower bouquet.
Yarrow is easy to dry in batches from late spring to early fall. Here's how: Remove the bottom from a brown paper bag and place flower stems (loosely) inside. Put the bag outdoors during two or three warm afternoons. The bag will keep the flowers shaded, while the open ends will encourage airflow and drying. You can also:
- Hang bunches upside down in a dark, warm shed (try using a rubber band to snug up the stems)
- Dry yarrow in a warm (not hot) oven
- Dry stems in a dehydrator
Using Yarrow in Crafts and Bouquets
I like to use yarrow in wreaths and swags. This is typically a mid to late fall project and uses fresh yarrow stems that dry (with other herbs) right on the wire backing or form I'm using. You can take a look at my wreath making tutorial for more information.
Dried yarrow also looks pretty added to a simple vase. The flowers retain their color indefinitely.
Individual flower clusters look very nice in potpourri, too -- they're also sturdy and dense enough to retain any added essential oil for quite a long time.
Tincture of yarrow also makes an effective mosquito spray.
Medicinal Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)
Yarrow is a natural anti-inflammatory and may have some ability to help control blood pressure. It also contains salicylic acid, a drug closely related to modern day aspirin. Historically, yarrow leaves have been used successfully in first-aid (topically) to help staunch bleeding (hemostatic).
Over the years, yarrow has been known by many common names, including: carpenter's weed, wound wort, bloodwort, plumajillo (little feather), thousand leaf, soldier's woundwort, nosebleed plant and sanguinary.
*Herbal yarrow is used to treat a number of minor medical conditions today. Its effectiveness in these treatments is still being evaluated by the medical community:
- Cramps (sitz bath)
- Flatulence (with other herbs)
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Hay fever
- Hemorrhoids (topically)
- High fever
- To induce sweating
- Toothache (by chewing the leaves)
In cosmetics and personal care, yarrow is sometimes used in cleansers and shampoos, too.
In herbal remedies (to treat stomach upset, cold or inflammation), yarrow is sometimes combined with herbs like:
- Lemon balm
- Elder flower
*Although yarrow is generally considered safe, it should not be ingested by women who are pregnant or nursing, or by people with kidney or liver problems. It is also contraindicated for individuals who are allergic to plants in the Asteraceae/Compositae family or who are taking lithium. Yarrow may interact adversely with medications that affect blood clotting, or increase or decrease stomach acid. After surgery, yarrow may cause the blood to clot more slowly than normal. Ingesting yarrow can cause increased sensitivity to light. Yarrow also contains small amounts of the compound thujone, which can be toxic in large doses. Check with your doctor or other medical caregiver before making changes to your current course of medical treatment. For more information about side effects and interactions associated with yarrow, visit WebMd.com (see link below).
Yarrow Tea Recipe
The flowers, leaves and stems of yarrow can be used to make a medicinal tea to treat mild respiratory infection and fever. It was once a popular home remedy for colds and flu. The plant can be used fresh or dried. Although yarrow tea is considered bracing, it can taste bitter. Most recipes, like the one below, include sweeteners like honey or sugar.
- 1 tsp. of dried yarrow (or 3 fresh leaves)
- 8 oz. boiling water
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or one lemon slice)
- 1 tsp. sugar (or slightly more honey)
Steep yarrow in boiling water for 10 minutes. Add lemon juice and sweetener. Stir.
Drink while hot.
Flora of North America. " Achillea millefolium." http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=1&taxon_id=200023010
Medicinal Plant Image Database - School of Chinese Medicine. "Achillea millefolium L." http://libproject.hkbu.edu.hk/was40/detail?lang=en&channelid=1288&searchword=herb_id=D00672
Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. "Yarrow." http://sun.ars-grin.gov:8080/npgspub/xsql/duke/plantdisp.xsql?taxon=18
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension. "Growing Yarrow." (7/29/09). http://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/growingyarrow.html
University of Maryland Medical Center. "Yarrow." http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/yarrow-000282.htm
WebMd. "Yarrow." http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-151-YARROW.aspx?activeIngredientId=151&activeIngredientName=YARROW>
Photo 1 -
By AnemoneProjectors (Flickr: Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) flowers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo 2 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AYarrow_(Matt_Rogers).jpg
By Matt Rogers (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo 3 - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AMillefolii_herba_138186.jpg
Rillke [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo 4 - Courtesy of Morguefile.com