Yarrow (Achillea sp.) might be common, but it’s still a worthy plant for Colorado landscapes. Plants form spreading clumps of dark green, finely cut leaves about one foot tall. Flat-topped clusters of tiny flowers that rise well above the greenery provide landing places for butterflies, which are attracted in large numbers. Blooms may be white, pale to golden yellow, or various pastel shades; ‘Paprika’ is a cultivar that blooms in the red color of its namesake. Native to North America, yarrows were used medicinally to stop the flow of blood from a wound, hence some older common names such as Soldier’s Woundwort, Staunchweed and Nosebleed Plant.
Common Yarrow is the perfect perennial for the less-than-perfect gardener. Grown in full sun, it will provide years of bright blooms for minimal effort. Any well-drained soil will do: sand or clay, fertile or not. Keep newly planted seedlings damp the first year; established plants are drought-tolerant. Deadhead to prolong bloom, or allow flowers to mature into russet-hued seedheads for winter interest or dried arrangements. Although Common Yarrow presents few problems, the roots have a tendency to spread underground. Provide a barrier or divide the plants every few years to keep them contained.
Companion plants should have similar growing requirements. Pink and purple penstemons look particularly lovely with pink yarrow, while deep purple salvia (such as ‘May Night’) contrasts vividly with cultivars such as ‘Coronation Gold.’ Or try mixing yarrow with native shrubs and grasses (particularly ‘Little Bluestem’).
Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener