10 Best Yarrow Plants for Heating up the Summer GardenTough and adaptable, these carefree bloomers will fill your garden with color all season long
If a garden perennial could have a theme song, yarrow’s would be “I Will Survive.” It grows strong and has learned how to get along in even the toughest situations including drought, infertile soils, and sweltering heat. No one would guess that such a delicate-looking flower could be so resilient.
“Achillea (yarrow) is one of the perennials that can rescue a barren, dry area and cover it with bloom,” say Jeff and Marilyn Cox, authors of The Perennial Garden: Color Harmonies through the Seasons.
The same common white yarrow (A. millefolium) found flourishing in meadows and prairies has made its way into the perennial garden in recent years with the introduction of new cultivars and hybrids that offer a broader array of colors and forms while retaining yarrow’s gutsy nature. With selections ranging from low-growing ground covers to loftier plants for the middle or back of the border, there is a garden yarrow for almost any purpose.
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Achillea spp. and hybrids
Typically zones 3-9, but can vary depending on the cultivar.
Varies by species, ranging anywhere from 8 inches to 5 feet tall
When do yarrow plants bloom?
Early summer to early fall, depending on the climate. In warmer growing zones, flowering begins earlier; in cooler zones it often continues into fall.
Yarrow produces an abundance of broad, flat-topped flower clusters (or corymbs) made up of dozens of tiny daisy-like florets. Yarrow flower colors range from white and soft pastels to brilliant shades of yellow, red, orange, and gold. Some cultivars, such as ‘Red Velvet’, have flowers with contrasting center stamens.
The feathery foliage is also attractive, with finely divided gray or green leaves that remain evergreen in warmer climates. Leaves are aromatic, releasing a pleasant herbal scent when crushed.
Are yarrow plants deer resistant?
Yarrow aren't bothered by deer or rabbits.
Sow seeds or plant nursery-grown plants in fall (well before the first average frost date) or in early spring after the danger of frost has passed. Most yarrows grown from seed will be inconsistent in height and flower color. If you want a specific color, height or form, buy potted plants.
Although yarrow will grow well in just about any type of soil, taller types tend to flop in soils that are rich or overly moist. They are at their best growing in slightly acidic, well-drained soil. “If you have trouble growing yarrow, it’s most likely because your soil is too wet. Plant it on high, dry spots,” recommend Jeff and Marilyn Cox.
YARROW CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Water and fertilizer:
Yarrow is one perennial that actually thrives on neglect, and your plants will suffer if you overwater or overfertilize them. Keep the soil evenly moist until the roots become established, but after that only water your plants when the soil is completely dry. Fertilization is rarely needed.
Yarrow spreads quickly by rhizomes. Divide every 2 to 3 years in spring or fall to avoid overcrowding and to reinvigorate plants that begin to look matted and untidy.
Deadheading yarrow will encourage repeat blooming and often prolong flowering into fall. If your plants become too tall and lanky, shearing back the foliage will make them bushier and often eliminate the need for staking. To reduce disease problems, thin out plants that become overcrowded and cut out any dead growth.
Taller varieties may require staking.
Pests and diseases:
Yarrow generally has few disease and pest problems, but can be prone to powdery mildew and stem rot if planted in shady or wet sites. Yarrow may also be troubled by botrytis (gray mold). Also, keep an eye out for aphids, mealybugs, and spittlebugs.
'FIREFLY SUNSHINE' — Buy now from Proven Winners
24 to 28 inches tall and wide
One of the best for long-lasting color in the summer garden. The bright yellow flowers are set off against a backdrop of dark green foliage.
'FIREFLY PEACH SKY' — Buy now from Proven Winners
32 to 36 inches tall, 28 to 32 inches wide
Light peach flowers age to yellow, creating a blend of colors at one time on the plant. Cut back by half after flowering to induce a second flush of blooms in late summer.
'FIREFLY DIAMOND' — Buy now from Proven Winners
24 to 28 inches tall, 32 to 40 inches wide
Ivory white flowers remain attractive while they age and contrast beautifully against the dark green foliage.
'FIREFLY AMETHYST' — Buy now from Proven Winners
18 to 22 inches tall, 32 to 36 inches wide
Bright lavender-pink flowers age to light pink, and plants have a billowy habit and broader foliage.
SASSY SUMMER SANGRIA — Buy now from Proven Winners
30 to 36 inches tall, 36 to 42 inches wide
Beautify your garden year after year with this tall, yet sturdy, common yarrow. Dark red flowers have a white eye and sit atop silvery green leaves.
NEW VINTAGE™ VIOLET YARROW — Buy now from Proven Winners
12 to 14 inches tall, 10 to 12 inches wide
This compact common yarrow packs a punch with its bold, violet-red flowers, and reflowers very well later in the season.
Achillea 'Coronation Gold'
1 to 3 feet tall
This popular garden hybrid is a real knockout, with dazzling golden-yellow flower heads up to 5 inches across. The attractive gray-green foliage is also an asset and often persists through the winter in warmer growing zones.
18 to 24 inches tall
A long-blooming hybrid with silvery foliage and lemon-yellow flower clusters that cover the plant from early summer into fall. Unlike the majority of yarrows, it is an easily contained sterile variety that does not spread or self-sow.
Achillea millefolium 'Paprika'
18 to 24 inches tall
This spicy fusion of paprika-red flowers and bright yellow centers is a spirited grower that will spread quickly to form a dense weed-blocking mat. Blooms fade to paler shades of light pink and salmon later in the season.
Achillea millefolium 'Red Velvet'
2 to 3 feet tall
Dark rosy red blooms with yellow centers make this cultivar one of the most dramatic red-flowering yarrows. As a bonus, it is also the most fade resistant, with long-blooming flower clusters that retain their rich, velvety color from early through late summer.
- Use low-growing forms of yarrow as a soft-looking evergreen edging or even as an alternative to turf grass in dry climates. Because yarrow spreads by rhizomes, it will quickly form dense mats of water-thrifty foliage. Read more about alternative lawn plants.
- Varieties with silver foliage and pale flowers, such as ‘Moonshine’, are great additions to evening gardens, alongside other plants with shimmery light-reflective foliage.
- Use yarrows with rich yellow or gold tones, such as ‘Coronation Gold’, as a warm contrast to blue, purple or violet perennials, such as speedwell (Veronica spicata), Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’ and salvias (see Color in the Garden).
- Plant yarrow in pollinator gardens along with other perennials that attract bees and butterflies, such as butterfly weed and bee balm.
- Because of their drought tolerance, yarrows are an ideal choice for low-water or xeriscape gardens.
- Yarrows with compact growth habits and eye-catching colors, such as ‘Paprika’ and ‘Peachy Seduction’, make splendid “thriller” plants in outdoor container combinations. The large, flat-topped blooms look like colorful sun parasols while the feathery foliage adds great texture.
- To enjoy yarrow in dried flower arrangements, tie fresh-cut bunches into bundles and hang them upside down by the stems in a cool, dry place. The dried flower heads will retain their color for months.