Why and How To Grow Yarrow In A Permaculture Food Forest

Yarrow is among the best herbs to grow in your garden. It has several advantageous properties, such as its medicinal and dye properties, among others. In a food forest, planting yarrow would definitely maximize the production of not just fruits but herbs.


In this article, I will discuss how to plant yarrow and why you need to. It’s a pretty helpful plant to have growing in your permaculture food forest.

A Little About Yarrow

The yarrow plant is a perennial plant that has various species, but we won’t really dive into all of them. Our primary focus will be the common yarrow, also known as Achillea millefolium. This plant is mainly found in the prairies or areas with less humidity or rainfall. The plant thrives in soils with a pH of 5.1 to 7.5.

Why Should You Grow Yarrow?

Yarrow has many benefits. While most of them are medicinal, they also have numerous other advantages, especially to your garden. Here are some of them

Medicinal Properties

The yarrow plant can be ingested internally by putting it in teas and soups, and it can also be used externally in poultices and ointments. According to Healthline.com and many reputable institutions, Yarrow has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and styptic properties. Also, it has antispasmodic properties. Below is a sneak peek of some of the uses.

Styptic refers to the ability to stop bleeding. You can choose to crush the leaves and make a thick paste out of them. Then gently apply on the open cut/ wound. Its antimicrobial properties will ensure your injury does not get any infections. The yarrow will also ensure there is adequate blood circulation when taken internally.

Its antispasmodic properties will help treat symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. This plant helps relieve the issue of bloating as well. Additionally, this herb eases menstrual discomfort.

It also helps relieve cold and flu, bites and stings from insects, cuts, and burns, and many other health benefits.

Medicinal Yarrow


While yarrow is very beneficial to health, it’s essential to note a few precautions and it would be wise to check with your medical professional if you have any questions before using yarrow for medical purposes.

  • The yarrow is excellent for treating open wounds. However, it can slow down blood clotting. For individuals with bleeding disorders, that can be pretty catastrophic. It can also be quite dangerous if you just came out of surgery or if you’re planning to go into surgery as it may tamper with the healing process, especially if your blood is not clotting fast enough.
  • Another point to note is that the yarrow could possibly be unsafe for pregnant women and lactating mothers.
  • If you’re allergic to ragweed and related plants, taking yarrow might cause a similar reaction. Be sure to check in with your doctor before taking it.
  • It’s important to note that only the white and pink flower species should be ingested internally. If you have a yarrow plant that is yellow-flowered, that particular species should only be used externally.

Garden use

Like I mentioned earlier, the yarrow plant is not just a medicinal plant. It is also a restorative powerhouse in the garden. Several key features make it particularly useful when planted in a permaculture food forest.

They Provide Excellent Cover

Planting yarrow next to other plants would provide an adequate cover for the soil beneath especially for plants that grow tall. It grows approximately to a height of 3 feet and is two to three inches wide. The leaves spread wide enough to provide foliage to the ground beneath. That fundamental property is beneficial for insects found on the ground surface and the soil itself.

It Attracts Helpful Insects and Pollinators

Yarrow controls the population of other insects that, if any, can be pretty harmful. The flowers attract pollinators such as bees which aid in pollination. These plants also attract ladybugs and predatory insects such as the wasps, which assist in controlling the population of other insects.

Bee on yarrow

Holds The Soil Together

The yarrow has deep roots, which spread widely and help in holding the soil together. This factor additionally assists the maintenance of soil moisture and prevents erosion in areas where the ground is exposed to wind and splash forms of deterioration.

Accumulated Nutrients

Yarrow is recognized as a dynamic accumulator. Deeply rooted plants can absorb minerals and integrate them as part of their own. Yarrow is among such plants. It absorbs minerals such as potassium, copper, and phosphorus. There may not be sufficient proof as to exactly how it could accumulate such vast amounts of specific nutrients; however, it has proven to be quite valuable for providing those specific minerals when used as fertilizers.

It Can Be Used As Mulch and Fertilizer.

I personally find the use of organic fertilizers much better than inorganic ones. The use of yarrow as an organic fertilizer is beneficial in providing specific nutrients. Because the plant already integrated these minerals, the chances of them causing damage to the soil are very minimal. Also, when grown under fruit trees as a companion plant, they enhance fruit production.

Provides Landscape Architecture In A Food Forest

Because of their beautiful flowers and variations in colors, yarrow plants provide excellent landscape architecture. In a food forest, they are very beneficial in cohabiting excellently with other plants. Combined with plants such as the clover, they provide excellent soil cover as well.

Types Of Yarrow

Firstly, you need to select the type of yarrow you want to grow. I would recommend the most available species because the color variations are so aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. However, if you are very specific about what you want, I’ll break it down for you just so you can quickly make up your mind on what species to plant.

Below are common species and their flower colors that can be used to make a natural dye.

Yarrow Flowers

Sweet Yarrow

Also known as the English yarrow. It has purplish-pinkish flowers. It can grow up to three inches wide.

New Vintage Red Yarrow

From the name, you can derive the color of its flowers. A beautiful vibrant red. With a maximum of fifteen inches in height in growth, the leaves are also a lovely bright green.

Paprika Yarrow

Sometimes listed as one of the Galaxy Hybrids. Its flowers bloom as a deep brick-red but eventually fade into a pale pink shade. The flowers can widen up to three inches wide.

Common Yarrow

This particular species is what we have highlighted above. It has a variety of colors for its flowers. It ranges from lilac, pink, lavender, ivory, bright pink, among others. And from its name, you can tell; it is the most common type of yarrow found. These plants grow anywhere in suitable conditions.

Little Moonshine

This particular species can grow up to a height of 15 inches in height. It has yellow flowers.

Wild Yarrows

They possess white-colored flowers. Sometimes the flowers could be yellow as well. They are not considered to be invasive as such.

You can pick the most suitable species from the above varieties and include them as part of your food forest.

Planting and Maintaining Yarrow

Before we dive into the steps on how to garden this plant, here are a few points to note.

  • You need to understand that if planted and not maintained responsibly, yarrow can spread quickly.
  • Naturally, yarrow is a weed, its seeds being spread by the wind hence the fast spread. In their natural habitat, the disturbed soils of open grasslands and open forests, they are minimally invasive to plants around them. However, they grow to outperform the other plants in new habitats, thus making them invasive.
  • To control this, it’s crucial to select a location with qualities that resemble the natural habitat. Usually, most renowned gardeners recommend growing them on the grass lawn. They can tolerate foot traffic and are drought resistant. These plants will definitely maintain their green color even when there is barely any rainfall. Another way to control their growth is by keeping their height to a minimum by cutting them low.
Yarrow Harvest


When Do You Plant Them?

To avoid dead plants, plant them during spring or early summer. The danger of producing them during the cold season is that frost could possibly kill them. Giving them time to grow and mature into a tolerant stage would definitely ensure they thrive and bloom.

Whether you’re using seeds or seedlings or the tip cutting, in the spring or early summer would be pretty suitable.

Factors To Consider When Selecting A Suitable Location

In the food forest, they would be excellent in areas under direct sunlight. Sunlight encourages the plants to grow compactly and bloom many flowers. In areas with minimal sunlight, the plant will fail to properly bloom and will appear leggy. Meaning more miniature flowers and leaves and more stems.

Ensure the soil has been loosened up to allow growth of the roots. If your garden has poor soil, which is unsuitable for most plants, yarrow would probably thrive in such soils. Avoid fertilizing your garden if you’re planning to plant yarrow. This will encourage invasive growth to plants growing around the yarrow. It’s also essential to make sure the soil is well-drained. Soils such as clay, sand, and in some cases, loam would definitely be suitable.

When it comes to watering the plant, do not water too much. An average of twice a week, depending on the type of soil your garden has, is enough. Yarrows cannot thrive on wet ground. Be keen to ensure the soil is well-drained.

The plant is drought resistant to other external factors such as temperature, sunlight, and humidity levels. Therefore, it wouldn’t be necessary to give it too much care.

How To Plant Yarrow

If you’re growing from seed, start the seeding process six to eight weeks before the predicted dates of the last frost. By this time, the seed will have germinated and grown into a young plant that will be ready to transfer to the ground. Get a huge pot, big enough to accommodate the young plants once germinated.

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Using a garden fork or tiller, loosen up the soil twelve to fifteen inches deep. Then mix a layer of compost in the soil two to four inches in the ground.

Transfer the young plants into the ground. Plant them one to two feet apart. This will allow the plants to grow correctly. If you’re using tip cutting, the procedure applies as well.

How To Care For The Yarrow Plant

  • It is vital to ensure that the plant has enough water especially during the summer. Despite its nature to be drought resistant, water as frequently as you can. Just enough to prevent it from drying out. Be careful not to overwater it. Lots of water may kill the plant.
  • Observe the plant for diseases and insects attacks. A healthy yarrow plant has green fern-like leaves. Depending on the species, the flower colors would definitely look healthy.
  • Yarrow plant also needs regular pruning. In areas where the temperature is hot and humid, the stems may begin to overgrow, resulting in a floppy look. To avoid this, cut the plant stems before it begins to bloom. This will prevent the plant from being floppy and will also control the invasive nature of the plant.
  • Before winter, it is crucial to cut the plant stems and leave the foliage cover for the cold season. This will protect its vitality during the frosty days and, of course, help the plant survive during the cold days as well.
  • Every spring, add a layer of compost around the plant to keep them healthy.
  • Lastly, every two to three years, it is vital to divide the plants to maintain the vitality of the planting.

In Summary

There you have it! The why and how to grow yarrow in a food forest. As we have discussed in this article, always grow the types of species you are comfortable with and what is most suitable for your needs.