Creeping Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) for Lawn
Question from Karen:
I live in a suburb of Denver, and have a huge portion of my lawn that has come up (as a volunteer), as creeping yarrow. (low, tiny white flowers) It’s awesome, drought friendly, and is the only thing green in the heat of summer. You’ve recommended seeding, where can you buy these seeds? My neighbor is interested in planting too!, maybe we can start a trend in an area whose afraid to get rid of their kentucky blue grass water guzzling lawn.
Answer from Pat:
Common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is the species most often used as a lawn substitute. One can purchase seed in bulk from several catalogues, including Peaceful Valley Farm Supply.(://www.groworganic.com/seeds.html) On their new website called “GrowOrganic.com”, you’ll find it listed under “Flowers” , “Yarrow, White”.
Thank you so much for the good things you have said about it, since I have long been promoting it as a drought-resistant lawn substitute. It makes an excellent lawn once established and it creeps and spreads by underground runners. One needs to edge it so it doesn’t invade flower beds. The common kind of yarrow has white flowers but colorful varieties of A. millefolium have been developed including ‘Gold Plate’ and ‘Coronation Gold’ that have flowers 3 feet tall. There are also seed pack varieties with many colors of flowers. One is called ‘Pastel Carpet’ and the flowers of this one are not too tall. The fact you speak of the flowers as being “low” and “tiny” makes me wonder if you have one of these varieties. The ferny foliage of A. millefolium is green.
At my house I am mixing in other types of yarrow just for the fun of it and to enjoy the colors of flowers other than white. Some of these have gray foliage and you can find many colors of flowers from pink to gold. Woolley yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) for example has gray foliage and makes a thick mat which then creeps. I have found several colors of this species in small 4-inch pots and they have done very well for me and are now creeping.
Achillea x taygetea is native to the Eastern end of the Mediterranean sea and has several shades of yellow flowers that look good together. I have not yet found any of this one. Flowers grow one and a half feet tall. These are nice for cut flowers. There’s also Greek yarrow (A. serbica) native to the Balkans. This has silvery gray foliage and makes a mat with short-stemmed white flowers.
My own yarrow-covered “lawn” is fairly small so I clip off the flowers at ground level after they fade, but usually I recommend folks use a weed-wacker to remove flowers after bloom. You can also use a weed-wacker to give the lawn a haircut once a year if you want. I also plant some wildflowers in my yarrow lawn and pull them out when they fade.