You’ve undoubtedly seen huge patches of common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) in ditches, abandoned lots, and wild spaces. Most people consider it to be an unwanted “weed”, as it’s not as showy or nicely scented as more coveted blooms, but they don’t realise just how spectacular this plant really is. Here are 3 reasons why you should grow it in your own garden.
1. It Attracts Beneficial Insects
This humble plant is a member of the Asteraceae family, which also includes sunflowers, echinacea, daisies, and chamomile. Just about every member of this daisy family attracts beneficial pollinators, which is great for getting your vegetables and fruits fertilised.
Yarrow, however, draws other beneficial insects that can do wonders for your garden: braconid wasps. These parasitic jerks lay their eggs in cabbage white butterfly caterpillars (as well as other unwanted species), thus reducing their numbers drastically.
If you’re growing any kind of brassica, make sure to plant yarrow around your cabbage and kale beds. Oh, and plant some Indian mustard as a trap crop while you’re at it.
2. Adds Nutrients to the Soil
Soil gets depleted over time, so rotating growing beds with green manure crops is an excellent way to keep it nourished. Yarrow’s strong roots don’t just break up compacted soil: they also hoover up phosphorous, calcium, potassium, copper, and magnesium.
All that goodness gets drawn up into the plant’s stem, leaves, and flowers. Once matured, just mow over it, work the chopped greenery into the soil with a pitchfork, and allow it to decompose.
As an alternative, you can gather up all that greenery and brew it into a nutrient-rich compost tea.
3. Has Spectacular Medicinal Properties
Yarrow’s healing properties were well known in the ancient world. In fact, Roman soldiers carried it because it’s excellent at staunching wounds. Furthermore, they knew that a poultice made of the leaves and flowers can reduce inflammation and speed healing.
Make a tea from fresh or dried yarrow leaves to alleviate a fever, or crush the fresh leaves and apply them to cuts, insect bites, and bee stings. Or make a tincture to keep on hand for emergencies.
I’ve seen injured deer roll around in yarrow patches, so it’s more than likely that we learned about its healing attributes from our wild cousins. Just make sure to only use white yarrow medicinally (or pink in a pinch, but never yellow). Additionally, do your research beforehand in case of contraindications, and don’t take it if you’re pregnant or nursing.
This herbaceous perennial will keep coming back year after year, whether you grow it in the ground or in planter pots. Whether you’re growing it to nourish your soil, or your own body, make sure to add yarrow to your garden this year.