How to Grow and Care for Yarrow

Achillea spp.

Yarrow, Achillea spp., is a semi-evergreen flowering perennial in the aster, or Asteraceae family.

Suitable for growers in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9, it has corymb, or flattened, flower heads with densely clustered blossoms in shades of pink, red, white, and yellow.

In this article, you’ll learn all you need to know to cultivate and maintain yarrow in your garden.

A vertical picture of yellow flowering yarrow growing in the garden with a fence and other flowers in the background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

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Here are the topics we’ll explore:

I enjoy growing yarrow in my garden because it offers rich color in return for minimal water and maintenance. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Cultivation and History

In ancient Europe and Asia, Achillea was a mainstay of artistic, cosmetic, culinary, medicinal, and even magical applications around the world.

A close up of Achillea filipendulina growing in the garden with bright yellow flower clusters, pictured in bright sunshine with foliage in the background.

Legend has it that Achilles of Troy used it to treat his wounded soldiers.

There is even evidence to support its use in burial rituals as far back as the time of the Neanderthals, with fossilized pollen found at the Shanidar burial site in Iraq.

Fast forward to the US today, where common yarrow, A. millefolium, as well as modern cultivars and hybrids, are still used in cooking, fresh and dry floral design, and herbal remedies.

There are nearly 100 species in the genus Achillea. They are best suited to USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9, although you may have success growing them as far north as Zone 2, and as far south as Zone 10.

According to Wanda MacLachlan et al, at the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland, A. clypeolata, A. filipendulina, A. millefolium, A. ptarmica, and A. taygetea have been hybridized to create the majority of today’s cultivars.

They are especially prized by the cut flower industry for their large blooms, sturdy stems, and wide array of colors.

A close up top down picture of white Achillea millefolium flowers growing in the garden, with a rock in the background in soft focus.

For the home garden, you are most likely to find cultivars of A. millefolium and A. filipendulina.

A. millefolium, common yarrow, aka milfoil, is a species with two- to three-inch white flower heads, and mature heights of up to three feet.

It spreads so vigorously that it may become invasive in some regions. Contact your local agricultural extension before planting it, to determine its likely behavior in your area.

You can learn more about the benefits and uses of yarrow in this article.

A. filipendulina, aka fern leaf yarrow, is also commonly called milfoil. The botanical species, as found in the wild, has four-inch mustard yellow flower heads.

A close up of yellow yarrow flowers in full bloom in the summer garden, pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

Cultivars are yellow of varying hues, with flowers of up to six inches across, and heights of up to four feet.

The erect stems of the various Achillea species are noteworthy for being stiff and strong. The foliage is soft, and ranges from medium green to silver-green, with light fuzz. It is deeply serrated and feathery.

A Note of Caution:

Please note that Achillea may cause allergic reactions in people with sensitivity to members of the Asteraceae family of plants. In addition, it is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses.

Yarrow Plant Propagation

To grow this colorful perennial, you can sow seeds, divide existing plants, or take tip cuttings.

A close up of a tiny Achillea millefolium seedling in dry soil in the garden.

The experts at the University of Maryland’s Cooperative Extension Service offer excellent growing guidance.

Let’s consider the three methods per their recommendations.

From Seed

For flowers in the first year, you can start seed indoors or in a greenhouse in February or March. Sow in seed trays with a well-draining potting soil.

Germination takes one to two weeks. Ideal conditions include a temperature of 65 to 70°F and 90 percent humidity.

Once sprouted, the temperature may be reduced to 55 to 60°F.

You can thin the seedlings and transplant the sturdiest plants to individual pots at this time, and fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer according to the package instructions.

Alternatively, you may direct sow seeds in the garden at a depth of half an inch, after the last average frost date for your region has passed.

Apply high nitrogen fertilizer once, just after the seeds sprout. Expect flowers in the second year.

By Division

You can make new plants by dividing mature ones in early spring. The advantage of this method is that divisions will replicate the exact traits of the parent plant.

Choose a section of plant with two or three stems and cut straight down through the thick rhizomes to separate it from the main clump, for immediate planting elsewhere.

For more information about how to do this, check out our guide to dividing perennials.

From Tip Cuttings

To propagate cuttings, take a sharp knife and cleanly cut a stem of soft spring growth off at the third or fourth leaf node down from the top, about six inches long.

Remove the lower two leaves to reveal a bare stem.

Place the stem into potting medium, such as a mixture of vermiculite or perlite and peat moss.

Place in a greenhouse or other sunny location with low humidity and temperatures of approximately 50 to 60°F.

Once new growth is evident, plants have rooted and are ready for transplanting to the garden.

How to Grow Yarrow

Yarrow is a hardy, cold- and drought-tolerant perennial that blooms from June to September. Its stiff, flattened flower heads are made up of multiple tiny blossoms, some with contrasting centers.

A close up vertical picture of a yarrow plant with wispy foliage before flowering in the spring garden.

To cultivate it, choose a full sun location.

The ideal soil is sandy, and of average to poor quality. This is one plant that does not have a preference for organically-rich loam.

It can grow in fertile soil, but will likely grow too fast and become “leggy,” and this can result in the stems flopping under the weight of heavy blooms.

A close up horizontal image of pink and white yarrow growing by a wooden fence in bright sunshine.
Photo by Nan Schiller.

The soil pH should be between 4.0 and 8.0. A measurement of 6.4 is considered optimal. To determine your soil’s pH, conduct a soil test through your local agricultural extension office.

The soil quality may be somewhat poor, but the drainage must be excellent. Yarrow is not a plant that puts up with wet feet, nor does it appreciate humid conditions.

Achillea thrives best in dry heat. However, there are cultivated hybrid series such as Galaxy and Seduction that tolerate some humidity.

Plants average two to four feet tall at maturity, although some botanical species (as found in the wild) may be shorter, and there are hybrids that may top out at a towering five feet.

Widths range from one to three feet.

A close up of the tiny pink unopened flower buds of Achillea millefolium growing in the garden, pictured in light sunshine on a soft focus background.

Be sure to account for mature dimensions when choosing your planting location. Achillea species are vigorous growers, and reach mature dimensions in the second year of growth.

Whether you start with seeds, divisions, or tip cuttings, new plants require about an inch of water per week to help them to establish strong, deep roots. If it rains an inch, you can skip the additional irrigation.

Once established, yarrow is a water-wise, drought-resistant powerhouse. However, if a dry spell is prolonged, please water it rather than test its tolerance.

Growing Tips

Once established, a sturdy plant like yarrow works hard in the garden, especially when you remember these three tips for success:

  • Choose humidity-tolerant cultivars if needed.
  • Poor soil is better than rich to promote compact plants that grow at a moderate rate.
  • Drought tolerance doesn’t mean you should never water.

Give your plants a good start and they’ll reward you with years of color, in exchange for a little upkeep. Let’s find out just how little is required.

Pruning and Maintenance

If you establish your plants with care, and it rains every once in a while, you may be able to get through an entire summer without providing supplemental water.

A close up vertical picture of a butterfly landing on a white yarrow flower in the summer garden, on a green soft focus background.

However, in the prolonged absence of rain, you may want to drag the hose out, especially with first-year plants.

When you grow Achillea, you’ll become familiar with its habits. There are generally two main flushes of bloom; one is in spring, and the other is later in the summer.

You may prune plants deeply, by about one-half after the first flush of flowers, to keep the overall shape compact and encourage further blooming.

You may also deadhead or remove each spent flower stalk as it finishes, to prevent self-sowing, encourage more blooms, and keep plants tidy.

In addition, at season’s end, you can leave the dead flower stalks attached and let them drop their seed, cut them for dried arrangements, or prune them to the ground.

A close up of Achillea millefolium seeds developing after flowering in light sunshine on a soft focus background.

I like to deadhead during the summer, and leave the last blooms on for winter interest and wildlife habitat. Plants will die back and go dormant over the winter months.

If you choose to leave the stalks attached, you may rake everything up in late winter or early spring, before the new shoots appear.

Please note: seed dropped by yarrow may or may not replicate the traits of the parent plant from which it fell. Only true botanical species produce true seeds. Hybrids of two or more species may produce plants with characteristics of the various component species, but not of the hybrid they formed.

The yarrow you grow is likely to naturalize, forming an intricate system of rhizomes.

Every three years or so, it’s a good idea to divide your plants to rejuvenate them and increase airflow. You can plant the divisions elsewhere in the garden or give them to your friends.

The best time for dividing, or moving entire plants, is in late winter or early spring when new shoots first appear, but before the growing season is in full force.

Tall varieties and those planted in soil that’s too fertile may require staking to provide stability.

Yarrow Cultivars to Select

With a handle on the ins and outs of yarrow cultivation, it’s time to check out some of the vivid hues available.

A close up square image of white yarrow flowers growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.

A. millefolium

If you would like to get started with a species plant, you can find A. millefolium which sports white flowers, available from Earthbeat Seeds in packets of 100.

A close up of the yellow flowers of Achillea growing in the garden surrounded by foliage and small purple flowers on a soft focus background.

Below are three of my favorite cultivars, and you can learn more about the different varieties of yarrow here.

Cerise Queen

A. millefolium ‘Cerise Queen’ is a common yarrow cultivar. Flowers are deep pink with white centers. It is appreciated for retaining its rich color when others pale in summer heat.

A close up of Achillea millefolium 'Cerise Queen' with bright pink flowers, pictured in bright sunshine on a soft focus background.

‘Cerise Queen’

Stems grow to a modest two feet tall, and form a compact plant with basal mounds of feathery medium-green foliage.

Find ‘Cerise Queen’ seeds now from Eden Brothers in one ounce or quarter-pound packages.

Gold Plate

A. filipendulina ‘Gold Plate’ is a fern leaf cultivar with the distinctive mustard-yellow flowers of the species.

A close up of the bright yellow flowers of Achillea 'Gold Plate' growing in the garden. To the bottom right of the frame is a white circular logo and text.

‘Gold Plate’

However, this cultivar is an enhanced version of the wildflower and it boasts exceptionally large, six-inch flower heads.

Equally impressive are its four- to five-foot stems that rise from mounds of fern-like silvery green basal leaves.

Find seeds in a variety of packet sizes from True Leaf Market.


A. millefolium ‘Paprika’ is a brick red cultivar of common yarrow with contrasting gold centers. It fades gracefully to shades of pink and cream in the summer garden.

This is a Galaxy Series selection that is suitable for more humid climates.

A close up of the bright red flowers of Achillea millefolium 'Paprika' on a soft focus background.


The flowers of this variety are medium-sized and measure two to three inches across.

Mounds of medium-green, feathery basal foliage surround stems that top out at two feet tall.

Find ‘Paprika’ plants now from Nature Hills Nursery in #1 containers.

Whatever colors and heights you choose, the smooth, velvety flower heads of yarrow are sure to stand out in the summer garden.

Managing Pests and Disease

Yarrow isn’t particularly susceptible to pest or disease issues.

Plants that are healthy are the least likely to have problems. Those that are stressed by less than optimal conditions may become vulnerable to infestation and infection.

A close up of aphids feeding on the foliage of a plant showing their two tone green bodies with black markings, on a green, soft focus background.
Photo by S. Rae, Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

If you’ve planted in soil that is fertile, with an excess of moisture or a lack of airflow, you are extending an open invitation to pests and disease.


Pests to watch out for include:

If a spray from the hose nozzle doesn’t wash them away, these pests may be addressed with an insecticidal soap or neem oil.


Damage to leaves, stems, and roots may require removal of affected plants and a fallow period to inhibit the spread of infection, particularly when it is soil-borne.

Fungal conditions may respond to treatment with fungicides.

If your plants show signs of deformity, discoloration, stunting, or wilting, contact your local agricultural extension to discuss specifics and make an assessment.

Diseases to be aware of include:

Botrytis Blight

Also known as gray mold, botrytis blight is a fungal infection caused by various species in the Botrytis genus.

Symptoms include brown, dead areas on the stems, flowers, and foliage. It’s most likely to occur in damp conditions.

Leaf Spot

Another fungal infection, leaf spot results in brown spots appearing on the foliage and is caused by a number of different species in the Septoria or Alternaria genera.

Damp conditions and lack of airflow between plants contribute to this condition.

Powdery Mildew

A common fungal infection, powdery mildew appears as a white powdery substance on the foliage of your plants. Treat with neem oil, or in the case of bad infections, try a fungicide.

Read more about treating powdery mildew here.

Root Rot

Caused by soil-borne fungi Rhizoctonia solani or Pythium spp., root rot does not respond well to fungicide treatments.

Plants will fail to thrive, and roots and stems appear black or brown. Remove and dispose of infected plants.


Rust colored spores on stems and leaves appear, caused by the fungus Puccinia cnini-oleracei.

Surrounding tissue can turn brown, and in the case of a bad infection, growth can be stunted.

Best Uses for Yarrow Plants

You can’t ask for a more cooperative garden flower than yarrow. Once established, it requires little water and asks only that you deadhead regularly to promote prolific blooming.

A close up of Achillea millefolium with bright yellow flowers, growing in the garden with purple flowers in soft focus in the background.

An attractive and reliable choice for beds, butterfly gardens, containers, and mixed borders, Achillea species and cultivars earn their keep in important ways.

They not only deter insect pests like mosquitoes and ticks, they attract beneficial pollinators including bees and butterflies, as well as birds that feed on pests like aphids.

They also repel herbivores like deer and rabbits with their pungent odor and taste.

In addition, their root systems run deep and pull up essential nutrients like calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium that are advantageous to neighboring plants, like herbs and vegetables.

A close up of Achillea millefolium after flowering and going to seed in a meadow on a soft focus background.

Use low growing varieties of yarrow in place of grass as a ground cover, or grow it in sunny meadows.

Add it to low-water, low-maintenance xeriscapes, where it plays well with other sandy-soil lovers like bee balm, calamint, catmint, coneflower, eryngium, globe amaranth, lavender, sage, salvia, and small globe thistle.

For seashore gardening, it can’t be beat for salt and wind tolerance.

And if you love to bring flowers inside like I do, you’ll appreciate the sturdiness of both fresh and dry yarrow stems and flower heads in vase arrangements.

Quick Reference Growing Guide

Plant Type:Herbaceous perennial herbFlower / Foliage Color:Pink, red, white, yellow; mid-green, silver-green
Native to:Asia, Europe, North AmericaWater Needs:Low
Hardiness (USDA Zone):3-9Maintenance:Low
Season:Late spring, summerSoil Type:Sandy, average to poor
Exposure:Full sunSoil pH:4.0-8.0; 6.4 best
Growth Rate:Moderate to fastSoil Drainage:Well-draining
Spacing:1-3 feetCompanion Planting:Bee balm, calamint, catmint, coneflower, eryngium, globe amaranth, herbs, lavender, sage, salvia, small globe thistle, vegetables
Planting Depth:1/2 inch (seeds)Attracts:Beneficial pollinators, birds
Height:2-4 feetUses:Beds, butterfly gardens, containers, cut and dried, ground covers, meadows, mixed borders, shoreline gardens, xeriscapes
Spread:1-3 feetFamily:Asteraceae
Tolerance:Cold, drought, heat, poor soil, salt, windGenus:Achillea
Pests & Diseases:Aphids, mealybugs, spittlebugs; Botrytis blight, leaf spot, parasitic nematodes, powdery mildew, root rot, rust, stem rotSpecies:Various

It Doesn’t Get Any Easier

I know you have a spot in the yard with poor soil and lots of sun, where you haven’t been able to get much of anything to grow. We all do.

Give yarrow a try. When it likes a location, it digs in and gets better each year. You’re going to love the colors and the way the flat tops look like velvet tapestry.

A close up top down picture of yarrow with various different colored flowers, growing in the garden pictured in bright sunshine.

I have often shopped for yarrow at the end of summer, and picked up post-bloom cheap plants. I’ve bought rootbound pots in potluck colors and heights, and I’ve never been disappointed.

I just pop them into the ground as soon as I get home, and forget about them until they burst into bloom the following summer.

Anything that can thrive on neglect and produce stunning flowers deserves a place in the garden planner, don’t you think?

If you’re interested in growing more attractive flowers used as both culinary and medicinal herbs, you may enjoy the following:

Photo of author


Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

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MelanieT (@guest_7229)
4 years ago

Hi Nan, I’m wondering if you know the variety of sea holly in the first photo paired with the yellow yarrow (wondering its variety as well). The blue and yellow are striking there, and I was looking for a companion plant for sea holly before I make the leap to put it there since they don’t relocate well. It’s the best idea I’ve seen YET! Thanks, Melanie

Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller(@rellihcsnan)
Gardening Writer
Reply to  MelanieT
4 years ago

Hi Melanie – It’s Eryngium alpinum ‘Blue Star.’

Henrietta Abeyta
Henrietta Abeyta (@guest_11351)
3 years ago

Quick question – if I plant different colors of yarrow in the same spot will the dominant color overtake it?

Jesse (@guest_17957)
1 year ago

Hi Nan, I planted some “Moonshine” yarrow last year. At the time, I didn’t know yarrow prefers poor soil, so I mixed in some composted cow manure into the soil when planting. This year the plants look healthy (green leaves, getting bigger), but are producing few or no flowers. (I cut the old stems back in late winter). Why am I getting few or no flowers now? Is it the cow manure? Or do I just need to wait another year? PS-they are growing next to salvia that I planted at the same time, and the salvia are doing wonderfully.