Why Every Serious Gardener Needs to Plant Yarrow
Herbs in History: Some Background on Yarrow
Since ancient times, yarrow has been an indispensable herb—no garden would be without it.
- Best known for its ability to stop blood loss from wounds, it purportedly got its Latin name, Achilles millefolium, because it is said that Achilles used the herb after the Trojan War to help heal his soldiers.
- Yarrow was seen as one of the best ways to ward off insects. Sprigs of it would be embroidered onto clothes or pressed between the pages of books to keep insects at bay.
- During the crusades, knights would always carry two herbs: yarrow for its wound-healing abilities and borage for courage.
- It was not just in the West that yarrow was revered. In ancient China, it was used when consulting the I Ching and was considered a valuable part of the divination ritual.
Attract Bees to Your Garden
Yarrow is not just popular with people, it is also popular with bees. Having it in the garden will help to tempt bees in again.
Tips to Grow Your Own Yarrow
Get yourself a good specimen from your local nursery to start yourself off. Once it gets established, you will never be without it in your garden again.
- Ideally, you want to put it in light, sandy soil that drains well. Dig in compost before planting the herb.
- That said, yarrow is a plant that is very adaptable will grow in just about any soil.
- It is a very forgiving plant and very hardy. It is a good plant to put in a spot where there is little water. It thrives on neglect.
Yarrow as a Green Manure
When I first moved into my house, we had a spot in the garden that nothing would grow in. The soil was hard clay and not even weeds would grow there. We dug it over, dug in some compost, and planted the yarrow. I then left it alone for a year and let the herb take over. The soil was improved to such an extent that we now have a lush patch of garden where there was once just heavy clay.
Yarrow is well-known for its ability to improve the soil. If you have a patch that needs to be improved, letting yarrow take over for a few months will allow you to reap rich rewards.
It also makes a really valuable compost activator and increases the nutrient value of any compost heap.
Dividing and Propagation
Every three to five years, in spring or fall, divide the clump of yarrow and plant out the runners that have taken root. Remove any dead leaves and add them to the compost heap.
You then need to water deeply twice a week for the first month or so and can then leave the plants on their own.
In all honesty, I really do not worry too much about dividing the clumps every few years, I just take out a rooted runner every now and again and move it to where I want it. For the rest of the time, I just leave well enough alone. Once established, this is one herb that will withstand a lot of neglect.
Yarrow in Your Garden
Even if you do not plan to use it medicinally, it still deserves a place in your garden. It is great at improving poor soil—either plant in situ or chop up the leaves and add them to the compost. It will help to activate decomposition in the compost heap and up the nutrient value of compost as well.
If you do find that it starts to take over, cut it back hard and toss the leaves on the compost.
Which Yarrow to Choose
There are a lot of different varieties to choose from when it comes to color. When choosing which plant to get, make sure that you get the white or pink Achille millefolium—you can also get pretty yellow and cream colors, but those have no medicinal benefits. I do have some of the yellow kind in my garden because it makes such a pretty show. Just remember, it is only the old-fashioned pink and white varieties that are actually medicinally worth anything.
The flowers attract bees and butterflies and are extremely pretty. They make great cut flowers. The herb looks delicate but it is very hardy and so can brighten up a corner where other things battle to grow.
It acts as a good companion to any vegetable but is especially good for corn and cucumbers. It will help to keep aphids away and will improve the health of plants that are ailing as well.
Keep it in mind when pruning roses: if you cut yourself when doing so, a crushed yarrow leaf will help to stop the bleeding and ease the sting.