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Why grow yarrow?

Master Gardener Bob Eister worked red yarrow into his landscape at his home in Canfield. (Submitted photo)

My family moved into a newly built home near Canfield in 1997. We had always established landscape and lawns at our homes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. My wife and I had to choose what plantings would suit our needs at our new home.

After researching and some nursery tours, we made our selections. Topping our list was yarrow, a perennial plant. Yarrow can be found in many colors, ranging from white to red.

We planted yellow and also some red yarrow plants along the front walkway leading to our home. The area has a southern exposure in full sun.

The soil in this area was mostly clay and dry. Fortunately, yarrow is very drought-tolerant and not too picky about soil fertility. The plants normally stay compact in these soil conditions and only grow up to 2 feet tall. In more fertile soil with partial shade, the same yarrow plant can reach 3 feet.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a common wildflower in the daisy family that attracts many pollinators. I often see bees, ladybugs and butterflies on the plants. The nectar that bees and butterflies want is easily accessible on the flat flower surface. The insects can stay relatively still and sip from many tiny yarrow florets.

Yarrow was called “woundwort” during the Civil War and was used as a medical treatment for wounds. Native Americans made teas from yarrow leaves shortly before the plants bloomed to treat earaches, toothaches and headaches. Medical researchers have found that yarrow contains alkaloidsand glycosides.

Some people may find that they are allergic to the sap or even contact with the yarrow plant foliage. It is recommended to use gloves when planting or pruning yarrow for this reason.

One of the prime reasons that we planted yarrow is its deer resistance. The foliage is very aromatic and the alkaloids it contains make it less edible.

It is generally a low-maintenance plant. Yarrow flowers can be cut and used in fresh or dried arrangements.

It should be divided every three years, and plants should be spaced 12 to 18 inches apart. Spent flowers should be cut off in mid-summer to extend the growth of colors produced by the plants. The yarrow we planted in 1997 has been growing in the same spots for years now and still adds color and texture to the landscape.

Yarrow is often a good choice for borders of rain gardens where water flooding will only be intermittent. Yarrow is also a very hardy plant that grows well in Zones 3 to 9.

One of my favorite cultivars is called “Paprika,” growing up to 2 feet stems with red and yellow flowers. Yarrow can be planted in the fall and the roots can establish before the next dry season. Another good cultivar for an Ohio landscape is “Red Beauty,” with rose red flowers and fern-type foliage that bloom in mid-summer on 2-foot stalks. Some of the red cultivar colors tend to fade early, which is why we planted the longer-lasting yellow color yarrow as well.

For more information on growing yarrow, go to http://go.osu.edu/yarrow.

Eister is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener volunteer.

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