White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Quick Facts
White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a nectar plant to American Lady, Karner Blue, and many others
Native to North America, Europe, and Asia. Both native and introduced varieties widely distributed in the lower 48, Alaska, and Canada
Herbaceous perennial hardy in USDA zones 3-9
Full sun, may tolerate partial shade
Needs well drained soil, prefers poor but will tolerate a wide range
Medium to dry moisture
Flat-topped, fragrant clusters of small white to pink flowers bloom in the summer
Grows 1-3 feet tall
Space 1-1.5 feet apart
Wonderful Worldwide Wildflower (Try saying that three times fast!)
White Yarrow (also known as Common Yarrow, Gordaldo, Nosebleed Plant, Old Man’s Pepper, Devil’s nettle, Sanguinary, Milfoil, Soldier’s Woundwort, Thousand-Leaf, and Thousand-Seal) is native across the Northern Hemisphere, in North America, Europe, and Asia. Both native and introduced varieties are widespread, present in every US state, except Hawaii, and in every Canadian province. Pollinators all across the globe love this cosmopolitan species!
This widely attractive nectar plant is a favorite of American Ladies, Eastern Tailed-Blues, Gray Hairstreaks, Karner Blues, and more! Its flat-topped clusters of small white (and sometimes a very light pink) flowers bloom from April to September in different parts of its range, releasing a sweet scent that attracts bees, butterflies, and humans alike. Though not a host to any butterfly species, Achillea millefolium may grant moth enthusiasts the chance to feed the beautiful Wavy-Lined Emerald and stunning Garden Tiger Moth, among others.
White Yarrow Growing Conditions
As you may have guessed from its expansive native habitat, White Yarrow is an easygoing plant that will tolerate a wide range of garden conditions. This herbaceous perennial is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9 and is drought tolerant. Though it prefers full sun, poor soil, and drier conditions, it will tolerate almost anything besides full shade and poor drainage. While not the best option for shady bog gardens, the tops of snowy mountains, or the tropics, it will thrive in typical gardens and even those that might be unhospitable to many other plants.
One downside of its adaptability is that Achillea millefolium can spread quite aggressively through both rhizomes and re-seeding. For some this is no downside at all! However, if you’d like to keep it under stricter control you can deadhead the spent flowers to encourage continued blooming and keep the spread to a minimum. We recommend dividing every other spring to keep it from growing too dense.
If you find your skin to be sensitive, it may be best to wear gloves while handling White Yarrow. Prolonged contact may cause skin irritation and photosensitivity in some. If you have pets who are known to eat your garden or house plants, you may want to keep Yarrow in a fenced-off area. It is toxic to cats, dogs, and horses. Cows, however, may use it as a snack – though their milk has been reported to gain an unpleasant flavor from this fragrant herb!
A Thousand Leaves, A Thousand Uses
Though Achillea millefolium got the last half of its name from its delicate, fernlike leaves, which appear as if divided into a thousand, it could have been named for its myriad of uses as well! Not just a wonderful pollinator plant, many cultures across history have incorporated White Yarrow into numerous aspects of their lives.
Some have used it as a culinary herb, tea ingredient, green and yellow dye, and medicinal plant. While the common names Nosebleed Plant and Soldier’s Woundwort point very obviously to its history in traditional medicine, you may not have realized that even its scientific name comes from its ancient use in healing. The genus name Achillea refers to the Greek mythological hero Achilles. In the myth, the centaur Chiron taught Achilles to treat battle wounds with this herb.
Even birds may know of its medicinal properties! Many species favor White Yarrow when lining their nests. Researchers think this likely inhibits parasites that would otherwise harm the birds.
Achillea millefolium is effective as groundcover and erosion control in some areas. As the native pollinator yard movement grows, people even use it as a lawn alternative!
Starting White Yarrow Seeds
White Yarrow is very easy to start and grow. Sow the seeds in either the fall after your first frost or in spring after your first frost without any treatment. Lightly press seeds into the soil, no more than ¼ inch deep. Keep moist. Space plants 12-18 inches apart.
Grab This Globetrotter for Your Garden
As a favorite of butterflies and bees worldwide, the easy and fragrant White Yarrow will be a perfect fit for your butterfly, pollinator, or native garden!