This week we are taking a look at the delightful Achillea millefolium (Yarrow). Flowering from midsummer to early autumn, this herbaceous perennial is a great addition to any garden. Whether you want to attract more pollinators, take advantage of it’s herbal properties or simply enjoy it’s beauty, yarrow is a plant that can offer something for everyone in the garden. Let’s take a closer look!
Cultivation & Care
Yarrow is a very easy-going plant when it comes to growing requirements. It will tolerate most soils and locations, preferring well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Once established yarrow will tolerate drought and will often remain green while grasses may have turned brown from drought. Bear in mind that the root system can be very adventurous and may take over an area in the garden if left to it’s own devices, so when planting pick a spot in the garden where you won’t mind it spreading. Interestingly, the plant will usually do better in poorer soils which is unsurprising when you consider that the plant is a pioneer species.
Pioneer Species & Dynamic Accumulators
You may wonder what I mean by ‘pioneer species’. Well, a pioneer species is a plant that is one of the first to return to land after a disturbance, such as the clearing of a wood for example. These species’ of plants are part of the first stage of succession, which is the process of nature transforming an area back into forest. Pioneer species are usually hardy and able to withstand a hostile growing environment. One of the great qualities that makes yarrow such a great pioneer species is it’s ability to mine nutrients from deep within the soil and then store them in the leaves which then fall to the ground later in the year. These nutrients are then added to the soil and improve the mineral content of the topsoil. A plant capable of doing this is known as a dynamic accumulator.
Edible, herbal & other uses
- Leaves ~ Raw, young leaves make a great addition to a salad whereas the mature leaves make a good spinach substitute when cooked.
- Leaves & flowers ~ Can be used fresh or dried to make a herbal tea
- Aromatic pest confuser ~ This species makes a great companion plant as it’s aroma can deter and confuse insects which may otherwise feast on your plants. Try planting yarrow amongst your edibles and see the benefits for yourself.
- Liquid plant feed ~ Soaking the leaves in water for several weeks will make a great tea for your plants to enjoy. Remember to dilute with water before feeding to your plants.
- Dye ~ A yellow and green dye can be obtained from the flowers
- Ground cover ~ Being quite tolerant of foot traffic allows this species to work great within lawns or just alongside them.
- Herbal properties ~ Anti-diarrhoeal, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, digestive, emmenagogue, odontalgic, stimulant, tonic, vasodilator, vulnerary.
Wildlife & Eco Gardens can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Yarrow is an absolutely wonderful plant for attracting wildlife to your garden! The flowers are a great source of nectar for bees but will also attract other pollinators such as hover flies, beetles and butterflies. The plants themselves provide shelter for many other beneficial insects such as spiders, beetles, lacewings and parasitic wasps. Lacewings are especially fond of yarrow for laying their eggs.