Common names: All heal, Bloodwort, Yarrow.
Very useful additions to the border, generally having flat heads of flowers in a range of shades. The flower heads are long lasting and attract hoverflies and other beneficial insects. Foliage is ferny and attractive - sometimes silver or woolly white.
Most varieties gradually fade in colour after opening giving a pleasing harmonious effect. Fade resistant types more or less keep their colour until the flower head dies.
They make good companions with larger daisy-flowered plants like Helenium and Rudbeckia and particular good contrasts of form with Hemerocallis.
Particularly effective when allowed to form a good sized clump or drift.
Surprisingly unattractive to bees but liked by hoverflies and butterflies. Finches like the seeds in winter.
Cut Flower Use:
Flowers last well particularly if cut just as they open. Beware the foliage filipendulina types has a strong smell. The heads can be dried for winter use.
Heights vary depending on variety from 45cm (18") to 200cm (6ft). Please note that growing conditions will greatly influence eventual height. We have found that plants get taller in their second year if not divided and replanted each spring - a practice we now follow in early May. Alternatively practice the Chelsea Chop - cut plants back by about 6in in late May.
Deadheading will result in more flowers. The flowering periods below cover the repeated flushes of flower - don't expect them to be constantly in flower all through the summer!
They are hardy and drought tolerant, preferring free-draining soil in sun or part sun. In heavy soils cut flowering stems off at ground level in late September / early October to allow the plants to bulk up at the base and thereby get through the winter more easily.
Read more about winter care in our garden diary for October 2010.
Many species grow on chalk meadows but we have found they perform well on our slightly acid soils. You might struggle on very acid soils.
I find that they lose vigour after a couple of years and need to be dug up in spring and replanted in refreshed soil - compost and fertiliser added.
Our plants are propagated by dividing clumps in spring.
Easily divided by digging up and pulling off rooted plantlets. The millefolium and ptarmica varieties spread by underground stems. Plants can be raised from seed but they won't be like their parents and we have found that plants from commercial seed are all different heights and usually very floppy.
Pests and Diseases:
Generally pest and disease free, the only pest likely to bother them is greenfly in hot dry weather - rub off the little blighters by running your finger and thumb along the affected stems.
Occasionally in pots they can get mildew but I've never noticed this in the ground.
Members of the Asteraceae family. If you look at a single flower closely you can see the family resemblance.
The scientific name Achillea is for the Greek mythological character Achilles. According to the Iliad, Achilles' soldiers used yarrow to treat wounds hence the common names "All Heal" and "Bloodwort". The specific name, millefolium, literally names "thousand leaf" referring to the fern-like divided leaves.
Shining lemon yellow, long lasting flowers over a long season. Just a slight hint of pink in the florets in very hot weather. Stems 2ft 6in - 3ft tall. RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Price £4.50 (9cm pot)
Perfect Partners : Achillea Credo softens the bold outlines of Hemerocallis Flycatcher in our garden in July.
Flowers are a rich orange to start, quickly maturing to a gold-bronze colour. About 2ft 9in tall.
Price £4.50 (9cm pot)
Perfect partners: The bronze foliage of Foeniculum (Bronze Fennel) is the perfect foil for Inca Gold in July and August.