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How To Grow and Care for Yew?


With its beautiful foliage and ability to withstand various weather conditions, yew is a popular choice for gardens and landscapes.

However, growing and caring for yew can be challenging without the right information.

This guide will explore the ins and outs of growing and caring for yew, from its origins and ideal growing conditions to pruning techniques and common problems.

What Is Yew?

Yew, also known as Taxus, is a popular evergreen shrub or tree that belongs to the family Taxaceae.

With its dark green needles, attractive red berries, and stunning appearance, yew is a popular garden ornamental plant.

Yew plants are slow-growing evergreens that can reach heights of up to 65 feet (20 meters) and can live for several hundred years.

Yew has a unique growth habit that sets it apart from other trees: it grows outward from the center, creating a rounded or flattened shape with a hollow trunk in the center.

Types of Yew Plants

There are several different species of yew plants, including the following:

  • English yew (Taxus baccata)
  • Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata)
  • Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia)

Each species has distinct characteristics, but all share similar qualities, such as their slow growth and evergreen foliage.

Additionally, several cultivars are available, each with unique features, such as varying growth habits, needle color, and berry production.

Growing and Caring for Yew

Yew branch

Yew is a hardy plant that can grow in different climates and soil types.

However, proper care and maintenance are essential for optimal growth and health.

Ideal Growing Conditions for Yew

Yew is an adaptable plant that can grow in full sun to partial shade. However, it prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil pH levels ranging from 6.0 to 7.5.

Yew grows well in well-draining soil and is susceptible to root rot in poorly-drained soil.

It can also tolerate different soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay.

Soil Requirements for Yew

Yew requires well-draining soil with adequate moisture retention. It prefers slightly acidic to neutral soil with a pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.

Add lime to increase the pH level if your soil pH is too low. Conversely, if the soil pH is too high, you can add sulfur to lower the pH level.

Best Time To Plant Yew

The best time to plant yew is in the fall or early spring when the plant is dormant.

This period provides the ideal conditions for root development and establishment.

Planting in the summer or during hot, dry weather is not recommended, as it can stress the plant and affect its growth.

How To Plant Yew?

Dig a hole twice the width of the plant’s root ball. Ensure that the hole’s depth matches the plant’s root ball to prevent it from sinking.

Add compost or organic matter to the soil to improve drainage and nutrient content.

After planting, water the yew thoroughly and mulch around the base to retain moisture.

Watering Yew

Yew requires regular watering to maintain adequate moisture levels, especially during its establishment phase.

Water deeply once a week during dry periods, ensuring the soil is moist to a depth of at least 6 inches (15 cm).

Avoid overwatering, as it can cause root rot and other fungal diseases.

Fertilizing Yew

Proper fertilization is essential to ensure your yew plant remains healthy and robust.

Two types of fertilizers are commonly used for yew plants: organic and synthetic.

  • Organic fertilizers are made from natural materials, such as manure or compost, and slowly release nutrients into the soil over time.
  • Synthetic fertilizers are made from chemical compounds and provide a quick boost of nutrients to the plant.

Choosing a Fertilizer

Follow these guidelines when selecting a fertilizer:

  • Read the label carefully and choose one specifically formulated for yew plants.
  • Look for a fertilizer with balanced nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (NPK) levels, and trace minerals.
  • Choose a slow-release fertilizer to avoid over-fertilizing, which can damage the plant.
Yew Fertilization: Tips To Avoid Root Burn

Yew plants should be fertilized in the early spring, just as new growth begins. Apply the fertilizer to the soil around the plant, avoiding the leaves and stem. Do not over-fertilize the plant. This will cause root burn and damage to the plant.

Mulching Yew

Mulching is an excellent way to help retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, and add nutrients to the soil around the yew plant.

A layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, should be applied around the plant, avoiding the base of the stem.

This will help keep the soil moist and cool during hot weather, which can help prevent stress on the plant.

Mulching Techniques

Create a shallow ring around the plant, leaving a few inches gap between the mulch and the stem.

The mulch layer should be around 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) deep.

Avoid piling the mulch up against the base of the stem. It leads to the stem rotting and damage to the plant.

Pruning Yew

Japanese yew

Pruning helps maintain yew shape, size, and health.

Pruning also encourages new growth and helps remove any dead or damaged branches.

When To Prune Yew?

Yew plants should be pruned in late winter or early spring, just before new growth begins.

This is the best time to prune, as the plant is still dormant, and the cuts will heal quickly.

Avoid pruning during the summer. It stresses the plant and makes it more susceptible to disease and pests.

How To Prune Yew?

Start by removing any dead or damaged branches. Then, using sharp pruning shears, cut back the new growth to shape the plant.

Yew plants can be pruned to form a hedge or topiary or left to grow naturally.

Make clean, angled cuts to avoid damaging the plant. After pruning, it is hygienic to clean the pruning tools.

Possible Problems With Yew

Yew plants are typically hardy and resistant to many common pests and diseases.

However, like all plants, they are susceptible to certain problems arising from improper care, environmental factors, and pests.

Identifying any issues early will prevent them from causing long-term damage to the plant.

Here are some common problems that can occur with yew plants.

Yew Insects

Yew plants can be affected by a range of insects that can cause damage to the foliage and affect the plant’s overall health.

Some common yew insects and their effects include:

  • Spider mites: These tiny pests can cause yellowing and browning of the foliage and stunting growth. They are usually found on the undersides of leaves.
  • Scale insects: These insects can cause yellowing, leaf drop, and even death if left untreated. They are usually found on the stems and leaves of the plant.

Prevention and Treatment

Maintain healthy plants by providing proper care and regular maintenance.

Regularly inspecting the plant for any signs of infestation can help catch and treat problems early on.

Treatment options include insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, which can be sprayed onto the plant to kill the insects.

Yew Diseases

Yew plants are generally resistant to diseases but can be susceptible to certain fungal diseases that can cause problems.

Some common Yew diseases and their effects include:

  • Phytophthora root rot: This fungal disease can cause root rot, leading to wilting and eventual death of the plant.
  • Cytospora canker: This fungal disease can cause branch dieback, eventually killing the entire plant.

Prevention and Treatment

Ensure proper drainage and avoid overwatering the plant.

Keep the plant pruned and provide proper air circulation.

If a plant becomes infected, removing the affected areas and treating them with a fungicide may be necessary.

Other Yew Problems

In addition to insects and diseases, yew plants can also be affected by other problems that can cause damage to the plant.

Some common yew problems include the following.

Winter Burn

Winter burn can occur when yew plants are exposed to harsh winter weather, causing the foliage to turn brown and die.

Protect the plant from harsh weather conditions and provide proper winter care.

Browning or Yellowing Foliage

Various problems, including pests, diseases, and environmental factors, can cause browning or yellowing foliage.

It is important to identify the underlying cause of the problem to treat it properly.

Transplant Shock

When yew plants are transplanted, they can experience transplant shock, which can cause wilting and damage to the plant.

Proper care and maintenance can help the plant recover from transplant shock.


As one of the most enduring plants in garden design, yew’s versatility is a testament to its popularity.

With a little care and attention, this hardy plant can thrive in any landscape.

Whether as a hedging plant or an ornamental specimen, yew’s beauty and longevity make it an evergreen addition to any garden.

So go ahead, plant some yews, and enjoy its grace for years to come!

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