How to Grow Achillea

Achillea is a summer flowering herbaceous perennial which flowers from June to September. Each flower head comprises hundreds of tiny flowers which are long lasting. Although often referred to by its common name Yarrow, this really refers to Achillea millefolium which is a white variety seen growing wild and illustrated below. The foliage of Achillea is attractive, light, feathered and a little like dill foliage in appearance. The foliage varies in colour from green to grey green, depending on the variety. Because Achillea is herbaceous, it does back over the winter to bare earth.

Achillea looks good mixed in a border and is a good plant for beginner gardeners, being is easy to grow. Achillea has a wide range of flower colours, from the subtle shades in the image top left, ranging to bold coloured Achillea such as A. 'Golden plate' which is a strong bright yellow, image far right and A. 'Cerise Queen' center image.

All Achilleas are easy to grow, requiring no special attention except planting in the right place and sometimes staking, particularly the taller varieties. Achillea grows best in sun, the more sun the happier the plant, and those with the grey foliage prefer the most sun.  If the soil is heavy clay/on the wet side it will help to introduce some grit to improve drainage. Achillea is a short-lived perennial which will need replacement. Despite their lack of longevity, Achillea mix so well with many other great garden plants they are well worth growing, and they self seed.

Achillea require no pruning or attention and are generally pest free. In the long term Achillea often runs out of steam after about three to five years, especially on heavier soils.  Stocks can be replenished by taking cuttings, pot and grow on in gritty compost until large enough to plant out in the borders. Achillea are not keen on heavy wet soils and it is best to defer planting out any small plants until the spring to avoid the winter wet. You can also divide to extend the life of the plant. Achillea are fully frost hardy all over the UK. 

Fading flower head

Achillea belong to a very useful group of plants whose flowers look good as they fade. This Achillea started blooming quite a strong pink (center image above,) and fades to a delicate shade. This means that Achillea flowers continue to look good in the border for many weeks and blend well with grasses and late blooming summer flowers. 

Ideally, to prolong flowering, Achillea should be dead headed, but it is tempting to leave the flowers on the plant,  because they look so good as they fade.

The only slight downside to growing Achillea is , perhaps, their smell is not particularly floral. It is not very strong and you have to get up close to smell the flowers but they are a bit "catty".

Ideas for other summer flowering plants

Green Wheelbarrow means easy to grow

Achillea are easy to grow and maintenance free. They will return and flower well each year although a shorter lived perennial.

Planting combinations for Achillea

Achillea  'Walter Funke' mixed with tall purple of verbena bonariensis and fluffy grasses, likely to be a  Pennisetum. This combination was growing in an Oxford college garden, and looking good in late summer.

Mixed shades of Achillea with dark red chocolate cosmos (not fully hardy) , the grass  Molinia and red swords of Crocosmia just coming into flower. 

Achillea with Alliums

This is a lovely summer combination. Achillea  'Terracotta',and the grass Stipa tenuissima. This is teamed up with the late summer flowering Allium sphaerocephalon (distinguished from the spring flowering Alliums). 

Slideshow showing different types of Achillea

  • Achillea in subtle shades 310
  • achillea-with-grasses-310-x-240
  • Achillea_millefolium (2) 310.jpg

Last updated 10.08.2021