Yarrow Control: Tips To Remove Yarrow

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Yarrow, a perennial plant with feathery leaves that may be both a blessing and a curse in the home landscape, is often called yarrow weed. Ornamental or common yarrow is not native, but Western yarrow is indigenous to North America. Both have a spreading habit and extremely tolerant, hardy natures. It’s the spreading habit that is of most concern to homeowners. Once the plant is in your yard, it’s there to stay and it can be very difficult to remove yarrow.

What is Yarrow?

Yarrow is a low-growing plant that produces flower stalks four times its foliage height. The plant is recognized by the feathery almost fern-like green foliage. Each leaf is between 1 and 6 inches (2.5-15 cm.) long. Each plant can produce several flower stalks covered by fine hairs.

Flower heads are borne in corymbs or umbrella shaped clusters. Each flower has five colored flowers surrounding 10 to 20 pale yellow florets. The flowers are commonly white or soft pink but now come in yellows, coral, and red.

Is Yarrow an Invasive Weed?

The answer to that question is complex but really boils down to opinion. Many people appreciate the easy care nature of yarrow and there are several new cultivars that are introducing new colors and sizes to the home landscape. Yarrow produces season-long umbrella shaped flower clusters that enliven the garden. There are also those who find the plant colonizing entire beds and even the grass. That would classify it as an invasive weed. In these gardener’s minds, yarrow control is paramount.

Yarrow is an extremely adaptable plant. It can grow on any soil and in many conditions. It spreads from its rhizomes. When the plant is disturbed and small piece of rhizome can become a whole new plant. The clustered flowers on their 3-foot (1 m.) tall stocks produce thousands of seeds. The tiny seeds spread by wind and can remain viable in soil for up to nine years. The longevity of the seeds makes complete yarrow control impossible.

How to Remove Yarrow

Killing Yarrow without Chemicals

It’s much nicer to use the term yarrow control but the goal is the same — to eliminate yarrow plants. Digging and hoeing areas where yarrow has spread can remove some of the rhizomes but mechanical control is only effective if it goes down 12 inches (30 cm.) and removes every speck of yarrow weed. Providing superior care to the lawn will make it thick and prevent some of the spread of the pest.

Chemical Yarrow Control

There are several chemicals available for killing yarrow. They must be used during the period of growth from spring to autumn. Dicamba, chlorsulfuron, clopyralid, MCPA, triclopyr, and 2,4D are all listed as useful for yarrow control by the University of Illinois. Yarrow will require several treatments over the growing season, so it’s best to define the problem early and apply controls as soon as possible. Remember to follow all precautions listed by the chemical manufacturer.

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How to Keep Weeds Out of the Garden Naturally

Gardening, Raising Your Own Food

How to keep weeds out of the garden naturally involves putting in some time and effort ahead of time. It can make a tremendous difference in the time and effort you need to put into the garden once the growing season starts. Today I'll walk you through what we are doing to prep not only our vegetable garden but our flowering medicinal herbs as well.

I'm super excited to be adding a ton of flowering medicinal herbs and will share how I'm adding them in. In addition, I'll be giving you an update on things that we put into place last year to cut down on weeds and how they are working after almost a year of being in place.

Growing cabbage in home garden on a sunny Spring day.

Listen in below to the full podcast, Episode #245 Natural and Easy Ways to Keep Weeds at Bay of the Pioneering Today Podcast, where we don’t just inspire you, but give you the clear steps to create the homegrown garden, pantry, kitchen, and life you want for your family and homestead.

If you've been a longtime listener of the podcast (it's been around since 2014!) or a follower of my blog, you've seen me evolve over the years from the main focus being on food production. So talking about raising as much of our own food as possible with vegetable and fruit gardening and increasing each year so that we would have one more crop that we were raising a complete year's worth allowing me to feed my family of four without buying from the store.

I'm still doing that and is very much a part of our practice and what we are doing with our gardening, but I realized that there's this other aspect of gardening that I wasn't enjoying and that I really needed to bring in…and that was flowers.

Flowers are obviously planted for beauty as well as pollination but can be planted as companion plants or for natural medicine. And some flowers just cover all of those benefits rolled into one. In the past three, I've put a lot more focus into growing flowering herbs and deepening those layers not only with those plants that serve a purpose, but also areas of beauty. Some areas I've sown wild seed mixes just because I want to see gorgeous flowers.

Some previous episodes, that you may want to listen to if you've not done so already, where I talk about this. They are:

Those interviews were conducted almost a year ago and I've implemented a lot of the tips from them and want to share with you how they're influencing what we're doing this year in the garden and the results.

Medicinal Uses of Yarrow:

**Yarrow has many powerful medicinal purposes:

  • It can be used to stop bleeding quickly. This includes treating heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • It can be used to dilate peripheral blood vessels, which makes it good for the heart. (Check this post of mine for an Herbal Tea for the Heart)
  • Yarrow is good for reducing inflamation.
  • This herb helps with fevers and colds/flus by reducing body temperatures and encouraging perspiration (often combined with elder flowers for this). Click here formy herbal tea that you should take at the first sign of a cold.
  • Yarrow is also a valuable digestive remedy: it helps with colic, indigestion, and improving appetite by stimulating bile flow and liver function.

For more information, check out this other post of mine on the Medicinal Benefits of Yarrow.

If you are not interested in growing yarrow, but you want to use it, you can often find some at local health stores. Otherwise, you might need to buy it online, this is an online option.

Cover Crops

Cover crops provide a thick, dense mulch that prevent weeds from growing. Gardeners may plant peas, beans or soybeans to help keep out weeds and provide the necessary nitrogen to the ground soil. However, they won't live through extremely cold seasons. Winter wheat and rye also provide good options, though they are best suited for hilly areas since they have a tendency to grow high. One of the best options for cover crops are Trifolium "Clovers." They withstand temperature change well and effectively prevent weeds from growing.

Problem with yarrow

posted 5 years ago

  • Hi guys, quick question if I may please.

    We have a real yarrow problem in some of our paddocks and it is getting to the point where about 75% of the field is infested with it. The cows refuse to eat it and thus a large area is wasted. Worse, it seems to be spreading! How do I get rid of it in a permaculture manner? The neighbors are telling us they would use pesticides to blast the field and then plough/reseed but I really want to avoid that option if possible? How do you guys deal with this?

    posted 5 years ago

  • posted 5 years ago

  • posted 5 years ago

  • posted 5 years ago

  • yarrow is perennial, and resprouts from the roots, plus it spreads through its seed, so i can see how it could get to be too much.

    i am not sure you will like the answer to "how i would deal with it" but i will tell you -- by hand weeding. a larger area i would use a tool, a small fork, a hoe, etc. but then hand weeding out the roots too, gathering as much as i could and then piling it elsewhere to compost.

    you might try vinegar? it does kill weeds, but it will kill back the grass and everything else too. possible it may still resprout from the roots though. idk.

    posted 5 years ago

  • Hi guys - cows only here but we can bring in some of the neighbors sheep if necessary to assist. I think it may be a bit too gone however as we have left the paddock for the last 18 months with no cattle (to help rest it) and inadvertently gave this weed a chance to take over in the process.

    Pulling the weeds is actually very difficult. They are small now (since we recently cut them to stop them seeding again) and pulling them out just breaks it off. Roots must be pretty deep here. I can wait until they grow into stalks again and try pulling but perhaps I am risking the problem getting worse?

    posted 5 years ago

  • Joseph Cim wrote:
    Pulling the weeds is actually very difficult. They are small now (since we recently cut them to stop them seeding again) and pulling them out just breaks it off. Roots must be pretty deep here. I can wait until they grow into stalks again and try pulling but perhaps I am risking the problem getting worse?

    thats why one would need the fork, hoe, shovel, etc. to loosen up the dirt along patches so that you could pull up the roots too. or once you loosen the dirt some, you just sift through it and pull out the whole plant, with the roots.
    it is slow, but if you stick to it, it can be done.

    likely some will resprout, but less so that its not as bad.

    posted 5 years ago

  • Hi, I have taken a photo of one patch where you can see it a bit better. If I dig into the ground here I will be forced to rip up the whole area (good grasses included)

    How to hit the yarrow without killing surrounding pasture?

    posted 5 years ago

  • well the grasses would come back from the roots very quickly.

    it seems simple to me, and i do this all the time, but its actually harder to describe something like this rather than just do it! but basically you would just push your fork (or whatever) down, and and just lightly loosen it, pull it up a bit. only a few small clumps would come up, not intensively actually DIG up the area. just rough it up a lot. and then do this a hundred more times! or however many times it took. strategically, right beside where the yarrow is.

    after you sift and go through the clumps pull out the yarrow, you would basically settle it all back to mostly flat, or it will settle itself after some rains. and all the grass around it would re sprout. it would also be a good opportunity to seed with interesting forage plants, clovers, etc.

    posted 5 years ago

  • posted 5 years ago

  • sometimes, i have done this in wet and dry soil. its easier to dig when its wet. but i do it whenever it seems needed, to weed.

    at least you dont have blackberries. thats often the case here, if i have to do this is often for blackberries. though i do this for grass, i pull grass out this way from the garden areas.

    but with the blackberries, ah its hard. you have to try to get every little bit and you never can. then your fingers and hands tingle from the irritating prickles for days afterwards. cause of course at some point you take off your gloves cause gloves arent that comfortable!

    posted 5 years ago

  • I just had another walk through of the pasture with an eye to seeing the work involved to dig up each of one of these weeds. It is just not going to happen. They are spreading as far as the eye can see and it would take me weeks to do this fulltime . I'm not lazy, but there is just not enough time in the day to tackle such a job. Is there a less laborious method or "plan B"?

    posted 5 years ago

  • I haven't had an issue like this with with yarrow, and don't know how practical any of these options are for your specific situation. That said, there's only so many ways to eliminate/reduce a problem plant, so, if direct physical removal is out, you're left with a fairly short list. Herbicides were deliberately omitted.

    A. Getting an animal to remove it for you you say sheep aren't likely able to handle it on this scale, but how do pigs feel about it? Geese? Or perhaps the sheep would be effective if combined with another approach?

    B. Getting another plant to remove it for you perhaps yarrow would be reduced over time as taller, desirable grasses shade it out?

    C. Smothering it directly, with a heavy mulch, cardboard, rubber matting, etc then reseeding with a desirable pasture mix.

    D. Alter the pasture conditions so that the yarrow is less happy, and thus more easily out-competed. This article says that nitrogenous manures and lime are useful for reducing yarrow growth, though it isn't very specific. It does offer some more info on grazing it with sheep, as well. https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/weeds/yarrow

    E. Give up and become a yarrow farm instead of grazing cattle?

    Since you have a number of cells, you could certainly try different approaches in different areas and see which is most effective and efficient. good luck!

    'Theoretically this level of creeping Orwellian dynamics should ramp up our awareness, but what happens instead is that each alert becomes less and less effective because we're incredibly stupid.' - Jerry Holkins

    Yarrows: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties

    About yarrows
    Most yarrows grow 2 to 4 feet tall, although low-growing varieties are also available. The plants are remarkably durable, tolerating dry spells and low soil fertility where other perennials would fade. Yarrows bloom from late spring to early summer some varieties continue blooming intermittently into fall. Flower colors include red, pink, salmon, yellow, and white. Yarrows are versatile and look equally at home in a perennial border, sunny rock garden, or wildflower meadow. Powdery mildew disease may be a problem in humid areas.

    Special features of yarrows
    Easy care/low maintenance

    Choosing a site to grow yarrows
    Select a site with full sun and very well-drained soil. Yarrow thrives in hot, dry conditions and low soil fertility, but won't tolerate wet soils.

    Ongoing Care
    Apply a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. After the first killing frost, cut stems back to an inch or two above soil line. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years as new growth begins in the spring, lifting plants and dividing them into clumps.

    Planting Instructions
    Plant in spring, spacing plants 1 to 2 feet apart, depending on the variety. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches. . Dig a hole twice the diameter of the pot the plant is in. Carefully remove the plant from its container and place it in the hole so the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Carefully fill in around the root ball and firm the soil gently. Water thoroughly.

    Wrapping Up

    Sorrel can be a tough weed to get rid of so be prepared for a fight.

    If you’ve only got one or two weeds then try removing them by hand. If you take your time to remove every last bit of it you’re golden.

    Should it grow back, blast it with a weedkiller but chances are it’ll take more than one application.

    And the best way to prevent it coming back, or even growing in the first place is with good lawn care practices.

    About Tim Stephens

    I'm a professional gardener with degrees in Horticulture & Landscape Gardening. I want to help you create the garden of your dreams. I want your garden to look like it’s maintained by a professional. As if I was there doing it all for you!

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