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Yarrow Plants

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Picture of yarrow plants.

Picture of yarrow plants.

David Beaulieu

Taxonomy of Yarrow Plants:

Plant taxonomy classifies common yarrow plants as Achillea millefolium. Another common name for Achillea millefolium is "milfoil."

Plant Type:

Yarrow plants are herbaceous perennials.

Characteristics of Yarrow Plants:

Yarrow plants can reach 3' in height with a spread about 2'. These perennial fragrant plants are known for their feathery, fern-like foliage, and flattened flower clusters. Blooming occurs June-September. Flowers come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, pink or red.

Planting Zones for Yarrow Plants:

Yarrow plants can be grown in planting zones 3-8.

Sun and Soil Requirements for Yarrow Plants:

Grow yarrow plants in full sun and in well-drained soil. Drought-tolerant once established.

Uses in Landscape Design:

Yarrow plants are especially popular as edging plants and in rock gardens. As a deer-resistant perennial, they are useful in deer control. They also make for a good cut flower.

Care for Yarrow Plants:

Yarrow plants should be staked, or else you may find the stems flopped down on the ground after high winds. Trim plants back after flowering to encourage additional blooms. Dividing every other year or so promotes good air circulation, cutting down on problems with powdery mildew.

Caveats in Growing Yarrow Plants:

Yarrow plants spread by rhizomes and have been known to naturalize. They are considered somewhat invasive plants.

Medicinal Uses for Yarrow Plants -- Achillea as an Herb:

According to Botanical.com, "Yarrow Tea is a good remedy for severe colds, being most useful in the commencement of fevers, and in cases of obstructed perspiration."

Name Origin for Achillea Millefolium:

The genus name, Achillea derives from Greek mythology. Achilles, hero of Homer's "Iliad," had been a student of Chiron, the centaur renowned for his knowledge of medicinal herbs. Yarrow plants were highly regarded at the time for their medicinal properties. Yarrow plants were widely used prior to modern times to staunch blood.

Achilles, no doubt, didn't forget the lessons he learned from Chiron. In leading the Greeks against Troy in the bloody Trojan War, Achilles and his men would have had frequent occasion to use yarrow plants to treat their wounds. The association between Achilles and this miraculous herb stuck. But Greek mythology was rarely satisfied by such associations and preferred to tell a tale, instead. So according to legend, yarrow plants owe their very origin to Achilles: they were supposed to have sprung from some metal scrapings off the great warrior's spear!

Meanwhile, the specific epithet, millefolium (thus the common name, "milfoil") means thousand-leafed and derives from yarrow plants' deeply toothed, fern-like foliage.

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