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Zones A1-A3, 1-24, 26, 28-45
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Achillea

Yarrow
Asteraceae (Compositae)
Perennials

Among the most carefree and generously blooming perennials for summer and early fall, several being equally useful in the garden and as cut flowers (taller kinds may be cut and dried for winter bouquets). Leaves are gray or green, bitter-aromatic, usually finely divided (some with toothed edges). Flower heads are usually in flattish clusters.

Yarrows do best in well-drained soil. Water established plants occasionally (they tolerate considerable drought once established). Cut back after bloom to encourage rebloom. Divide when clumps get crowded. 

Achillea filipendulina (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)
Achillea filipendulina (photo courtesy of Laura Dunkin-Hubby)

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Achillea filipendulina

From the Caucasus. Erect plants that grow to 4–5 ft. tall and up to 3 ft. wide, with deep green, fernlike leaves. Bright yellow flower heads in flat-topped clusters. Dried or fresh, they’re good for flower arrangements. Attract beneficial insects. Several horticultural varieties are available. ‘Cloth of Gold’ and ‘Gold Plate’ have bright golden flower clusters up to 6 in. wide. ‘Parker’s Variety’ is a strong, erect grower to 4 ft. tall, with golden yellow blooms. Hybrid ‘Coronation Gold’, to about 3 ft. tall and half as wide, has silvery gray leaves and large clusters of golden yellow flowers.

Achillea millefolium
Achillea millefolium

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Achillea millefolium

Variable species, native to much of the Northern Hemisphere. An erect grower with narrow green or grayish green leaves and flat-topped white flower clusters on stems up to 3 ft. tall. Attracts beneficial insects. Spreads by underground runners. Can be invasive, but garden varieties and hybrids are better behaved, shorter, and available in a range of colors. Look for pale yellow ‘Hoffnung’ (‘Great Expectations’), bright rose-pink ‘Fanal’ (‘The Beacon’), deep pink ‘Cerise Queen’, lavender-pink ‘Lilac Beauty’ and ‘Apfelblute’ (‘Appleblossom’), salmon-pink ‘Lachsschönheit’ (‘Salmon Beauty’), and bright red ‘Fire King’, ‘Fireland’, and ‘Paprika’. Blooms of ‘Terracotta’ open salmon-pink and age to russet and coppery orange tones.

Varieties developed from California’s native yarrow include ‘Calistoga’, with silver foliage and white flowers on foot-high stems, and ‘Island Pink’ (‘Pink Island Form’), with bright green leaves and rose-pink blossoms to 2 ft. tall.

Achillea tomentosa ‘Aurea’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)
Achillea tomentosa ‘Aurea’ (photo courtesy of Denver Botanic Gardens)

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Achillea tomentosa

This native of Europe and western Asia makes a flat, spreading mat (to about 1 1/2 ft. wide) of fernlike, gray-freen, hairy leaves. Golden flower heads in flat clusters top 6–10-in. stems. Makes a tidy edging or a neat groundcover for small areas; useful in rock gardens. Shear off dead flowers to leave an attractive gray-green mat. ‘Aurea’ (‘Maynard’s Gold’) is vigorous, with large heads of lemon yellow flowers. ‘King George’ is lower growing than the species, with grayer foliage and creamy yellow blooms.

Achillea x taygetea

Native to eastern Mediterranean. Grows 1 1/2 ft. high and wide, with gray-green, divided leaves 3–4 in. long. Dense clusters of bright yellow flower heads fade to primrose yellow—excellent contrast in yellow until it’s time to shear off old stalks. Good cut flowers.

Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (photo courtesy of Emerisa Gardens)
Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (photo courtesy of Emerisa Gardens)

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Achillea ‘Moonshine’

This popular hybrid grows to 2 ft. tall and wide, with ferny gray-green leaves and long-lasting deep yellow flowers.

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