Why Every Serious Gardener Needs to Plant Yarrow

Updated on July 1, 2020
Fiona Jean Mckay profile image

Fiona is a qualified herbalist and aromatherapist. She has twenty years' experience in the field and wants to share that knowledge.

Yarrow flowers in bloom are gorgeous in the garden, a spray of color even in the most unwieldy soil.
Yarrow flowers in bloom are gorgeous in the garden, a spray of color even in the most unwieldy soil.

Herbs in History: Some Background on Yarrow

Since ancient times, yarrow has been an indispensable herb. No monastery or abbey garden would be without it during the Middle Ages.

  • 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.
  • Some common names for the herb point to it's ability to staunch blood flow. It's also known as Bloodwort, Wound Wort, and Knight's Milfoil.
  • 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.
  • Also known as Devil's Nettle, this herb has a history of being used for casting spells in Western cultures.

Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

Bees and other pollinators love yarrow. Keep some in the garden to attract pollinators!
Bees and other pollinators love yarrow. Keep some in the garden to attract pollinators!

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 attract bees back to your garden. Plant it near your vegetable garden.

This is especially useful with wind-pollinated veggies. The bees flit from one flower to the next, taking some pollen with them as they go. It is equally useful when it comes to your ornamental flowers.

Tips to Grow Your Own Yarrow

Get yourself a good specimen from your local nursery to start yourself off. Once it gets properly 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. It likes to be in the full sun but will tolerate partial shade as well.
  • That said, yarrow is a plant that is very adaptable will grow in just about any soil.
  • You will need to water it deeply twice a week for the first month or so and can then leave the plants on their own.
  • 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.
  • It is frost-resistant and will add some greenery to the winter garden if you have mild to moderately cold winters. If you are in an area that experiences snowfall, it will die down completely in winter. It comes up again on its own in spring.

Most insects love yarrow.
Most insects love yarrow.

Yarrow as 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. I 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. It took a while to get going, but once it got established, there was no stopping it.

The soil was improved to such an extent that I 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. Just chop up the stalks and leaves and add them to your 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.

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.

Only Use the Pink or White Yarrow if You are Using it Medicinally

Pretty Pink Yarrow is my favorite
Pretty Pink Yarrow is my favorite

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 you should never make a tea from these.

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.

As cut flowers, they last well. If you like to press flowers, the heads are ideal. You would just need to remove the thicker stalk. They also make a good filler for a dried arrangement.

What Else Is It Good For?

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.

Over to You

Did you know Yarrow had so many different uses?

See results

To Wrap Things Up

This is a herb that performs multiple functions in your garden. It:

  • Improves poor soil.
  • Packs a punch when it comes to nutrients for your compost heap.
  • Is a useful companion plant.
  • Helps attract bees to your garden.
  • Has very pretty flowers.
  • Is excellent at stemming the flow of blood and helping to reduce the sting of scratches.
  • Looks great in a vase, or in a dried arrangement.

What are you waiting for? Get some and find out the benefits for yourself.

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

  • What is the height of the Yarrow plant?

    Around about two to four feet.

© 2016 Fiona

What Do You Think of Yarrow?

Submit a Comment
  • Fiona Jean Mckay profile imageAUTHOR


    3 years ago from South Africa

    Thanks Neil, Mint is one of my favorite herbs :)

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    3 years ago from England

    I love my herbs so this was great! I have never really used Yarrow, and had a bit of a blank where it was concerned, so this was really helpful. I do grow some herbs but mainly mint, my balcony smells like a polo mint! lol! but I also have parsley, thyme and comfrey. great hub, and really interesting, thanks!

  • Fiona Jean Mckay profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from South Africa

    Thanks Reynold

  • Reynold Jay profile image

    Reynold Jay 

    4 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

    I was not aware of any of this! Sounds like I could use these in my garden, Fiona!! I like Bees too. Well done.

  • Fiona Jean Mckay profile imageAUTHOR


    4 years ago from South Africa

    Yes Gregory, it is pretty cool.

  • Gregory Vic profile image

    Greg de la Cruz 

    4 years ago

    Wow not only does it look pretty, it heals wounds and is good for tea!


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