What Is Milfoil (Yarrow)? And How Do You Grow It?

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Real Men Sow

Milfoil or the Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a perennial that can withstand heat, drought, heat, and wind. It blooms unabated throughout the summer even in dry, poor soils. Achillea millefolium Summer Pastels Mixed is a drought-tolerant variety that produces lavender, pink, cream, rose, and cream flowers. This beautiful border plant is also suitable for cutting flowers and drying due to its tall stems.

You can find Milfoil or yarrow plants in most garden centers. Although spring is the best time to plant them, they are tough customers and can be moved or planted at any time. If you live in mild to moderately cold climates, yarrow is frost-resistant and can add greenery to your winter garden. If the area experiences heavy frost or snowfall, it will eventually die. However, if the roots are kept warm under a thick mulch of compost and bark chips during winter, yarrow can easily pop up in spring.

Milfoil (Yarrow) Best Growing Conditions

The yarrow plant loves heat and sunlight so make sure they have a spot that gets full sun. They will become leggy and fall over if they don’t get enough sunlight. The underground stem of Yarrow, also known as the rhizome or hardy rhizome (or underground stem), develops from underground runners. To ensure that they spread, make sure to allow at least 60cm between each one.

Yarrow thrives in dry and hot conditions. It can also thrive in poorly-drained, impoverished soils. It can tolerate most garden soils that are well-drained, including clay soils that have been amended with lots of compost. However, yarrow cannot tolerate heavy or wet soil so it is best to plant yarrow in raised beds. Except for very poor soil, supplemental feeding is not required. Even though yarrow can withstand drought once it is established, you should water it moderately during hot and dry summers to keep it looking its best.

Regular deadheading is important for yarrow plants, which bloom all summer. This will encourage more blooms. To refresh your plants’ appearance and keep them full and bushy, trim the foliage once they have reached mid-season.

Milfoil (Yarrow) Health Benefits

The essential oil is bright blue in color and has a strong, sweet, herbaceous scent. Yarrow oil has multiple healing properties, including for digestive disorders, skin conditions, and circulatory disorders. Its anti-inflammatory qualities may help to relieve the pain of arthritis and rheumatism. Vapor therapy is the most common use of yarrow oil. It can also be added to carrier oils or massage oil before being applied topically.

The detoxifying properties of yarrow tea are also great. Its bitter components and fatty acid encourage gallbladder bile production, which can improve digestion and prevent the formation of gallstones. It can be used to treat a variety of problems including cramps, menstrual pain, and heavy bleeding. You can use yarrow tea to treat ulcers and the tea or tincture to relieve hemorrhoids. This health problem can also be soothed by a yarrow compress or poultice.

The larger use of yarrow is as a circulatory system remedy. It stops bleeding and moves stagnant blood. This prevents and clears blood clots. It tightens the blood vessels, particularly the smaller ones, and lowers blood pressure through dilation of the capillaries. It benefits the entire body through the blood system. This makes it especially useful for hypertension (high blood pressure), and coronary thrombosis, which is blood clots.

Making Yarrow (Milfoil) Tea 

Add 1 teaspoon of dried yarrow leaves or 2 large yarrow leaves to 1 cup of boiling water. Raw honey and a slice of lemon can be added to the Yarrow Tea, but these are not required. Let the yarrow leaves steep in boiling water for 10 minutes. Strain the leaves, and then add honey and lemon to taste.

Milfoil (Yarrow) Kitchen Uses

A leaf of yarrow is sweet and powerful. It smells like liquorice, anise and flowers. If you take a little bit of it, you will feel your nose flooded with a scent very similar to cardamom. It’s unlike anything else you have ever tried. These are some tips to keep in mind before you start using it in your recipes.

Mixing yarrow with soft herbs such as parsley and chervil will slightly “diluted” its strong taste because of its sharp flavor. High temperatures and yarrow do not mix well. This is because the high heat will not only destroy the delicate flavor of the herb, but also cause bitterness in your food. So, add the herb right at the end of the cooking process.

Yarrow is great for cold preparations such as making gravlax, which is a Nordic appetizer consisting of raw salmon that has been cured in salt, sugar and dill. It can also be used in vinaigrettes. If it isn’t overheated, this herb is naturally sweet. It blends well with desserts such as sorbets and compliments the flavors and textures of fruits like plums and nectarines. So get creative and cook with some yarrow!

Milfoil (Yarrow) Purpose in the Garden

Because of their hardiness and easy growth, yarrow has become a staple in garden landscapes around the globe. They also have beautiful leaves and flowers that are great to cut and dry for winter arrangements. They are great for stabilizing sandy soils and preventing soil erosion on slopes, as they can withstand heat, drought, and even very poor soil.

Yarrow isn’t just popular among people. It is also a popular bee food. Having it near a fruit or vegetable garden will help attract these tiny pollinators. It is well-known for its ability to improve the condition of clay or impoverished soils. If you have soil that is in need of improvement, let yarrow do so for a few seasons and then add it to the soil as green manure. It is also a great compost activator, increasing the nutrient content of compost heaps.

Companion Planting

Yarrow is a great companion for many plants, especially fruits and vegetables. It helps to keep aphids at bay and improves the health of all plants around it, including those that are ill. It’s especially good for cucumbers and corn, and complements roses well. If you cut or pierce yourself while pruning roses, use a crushed yarrow leaf to rub the wound. It will stop bleeding, reduce stinging, and disinfect the area.

Milfoil (Yarrow) Cultivation/Propagation:

If you are able to find yarrow seeds, you can start them indoors as early as 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost date. Simply sprinkle the seeds onto the soil surface and press down gently. Because yarrow requires light to germinate, don’t cover it with soil. Warm temperatures will encourage the seed to germinate quicker, so a heating mat or tray under the pot can be used. 

The tray or pot should be placed in a sunny, warm place. Keep the soil moist until germination. The conditions will determine how quickly the seeds germinate. It could take anywhere from 14 to 21 days. To speed up germination, cover the top of your tray with plastic wrap. This will keep moisture in the tray and heat in the tray. However, once the seeds sprout, you should remove the plastic wrap. Although you can sow yarrow in garden beds any time of year, spring is the best.

Milfoil (Yarrow) Problems, Pests & Diseases:

There are very few problems with yarrow plants and insect damage is uncommon. Fungal diseases are the most common problem, but they can be prevented by full sun and good air circulation.


Although yarrow is often used for its medicinal benefits, there are risks of poisoning in pets if they eat large amounts. This is unlikely as hydrosoluble tannins in yarrow plants are bitter and prevent pets from eating more than one piece. The symptoms of yarrow poisoning usually affect the digestive system, and can include vomiting or diarrhea. 

Horses may experience symptoms of yarrow poisoning, including irritation of the mucous membranes and stomach upset. This could lead to diarrhea, or colic. Photosensitization symptoms can appear anywhere on the body, but they are more common in areas with low or sparse hair. These symptoms include skin bumps, mouth ulcers and oozing sores. Horses can be healed with yarrow, both in the past and today, provided that it is administered by a veterinarian. 

Caution for Humans:

Yarrow can have side effects, even though it has many benefits. You should not apply yarrow topically if you are allergic to any member of the aster family (chrysanthemums, other daisies) or to any aster family member. It is best to avoid using it for prolonged periods of time and to do a skin patch test before applying the oil to any area of your body. You should also be aware that yarrow can make your skin sensitive to the sun, so use it in essential oil or plant form.

Breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women should avoid yarrow as it can cause miscarriage or have unknown effects on unborn children. To ensure that yarrow is safe to be applied topically or ingested, you should consult your doctor.

Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.