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Yew Shrub Care: Tips For Growing Yews

Yew Shrub Care: Tips For Growing Yews


Yew is a great shrub for borders, entranceways, paths, specimen gardening, or mass plantings. In addition, Taxus yew shrubs tend to be drought resistant and tolerant of repeated shearing and pruning, making yew shrub care a relatively easy endeavor. Keep reading for more information on growing yews in the landscape.

Taxus Yew Shrubs

The Taxus yew shrub, belonging to the Taxaceae family, is a medium sized evergreen shrub native to the areas of Japan, Korea and Manchuria. The yew has green foliage with bright red berries. All portions of the Taxus yew are toxic to animals and humans, with the exception of the fleshy portion of the arils (the name for the Taxus fruit). The fruit lays hidden amongst the foliage of the female plant until September, wherein the short lived arils turn a striking red shade.

Taxine is the name of the toxin found in the Taxus yew shrubs and shouldn’t be confused with taxol, which is a chemical extraction of the bark of the western yew (Taxus brevifolia) used in cancer treatment.

Taxus x media is notable for its dark green, one inch long evergreen needles. Although an evergreen, the yew’s foliage may winter burn or turn brown in its northern range (USDA plant hardiness zone 4) and melt out in its southern range (USDA zone 8). However, it will again return to its green hue in the early spring, at which time the male yew will shed dense pollen from its small white flowers.

Types of Yew Shrubs

Many cultivars and types of yew shrubs are available to the gardener, so those interested in growing yews will find a variety to choose from.

If looking for a Taxus x media that is rounded when young and spreads with age, ‘Brownii’, ‘Densiformis’, ‘Fairview’, ‘Kobelli’, ‘L.C’, ‘Bobbink’, ‘Natorp’, ‘Nigra’ and ‘Runyanii’ are all suggested varieties of yew shrub.

If desirous of a yew shrub that spreads more rapidly from the get go, ‘Berryhillii’, ‘Chadwickii’, ‘Everlow’, ‘Sebian’, ‘Tauntonii’ and ‘Wardii’ are cultivars of this type. Another spreader, ‘Sunburst’, has golden yellow spring growth which fades to chartreuse green with a hint of gold in summer.

‘Repandens’ is a slow growing dwarf spreader of about 3 feet (1 m.) tall by 12 feet (3.5 m.) wide and has sickle shaped, dark green needles at the ends of its branches (hardy in zone 5).

‘Citation’, ‘Hicksii’, ‘Stoveken’ and ‘Viridis’ are excellent choices for upright column-like specimens of the Taxus yew plant. ‘Capitata’ is an upright pyramidal form, which can attain a 20 feet to 40 feet (6-12 m.) height by 5 feet to 10 feet (1.5-3 m.) width. It is often limbed up to reveal striking purple, reddish brown bark, making a stunning plant at entranceways, large foundations and in specimen gardens.

How to Grow Yew Bushes and Yew Shrub Care

Growing yews can be achieved in zones 4 through 8. While this evergreen shrubs flourishes in sun to partial sun and well drained soil, it is tolerant of most any exposure and soil make up with the exception of overly wet soil, which may cause root rot.

Yews mature to a height of 5 feet tall by 10 feet (1.5-3 m.) wide and are almost exclusively pruned into the size desired for a particular location. Slow growing, they can be heavily sheared into a variety of shapes and are oftentimes used as a hedge.

As mentioned above, the Taxus yew can be susceptible to root rot and other fungal disease brought on by overly wet soil conditions. In addition, pests like black vine weevil and mites are also issues which may afflict the shrub.

Generally speaking, however, the yew is an easy-care, drought tolerant and highly adaptable shrub available in many areas of the United States.


How to Prune an Overgrown Yew Shrub

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Few trees are easier to prune than the forgiving yew (​Taxus​ spp.) According to Better Homes & Gardens, yews are best grown in USDA zones 4 through 7, depending on the variety. With gleaming, dark-green needles spiraling down upright stems year-round plus holiday-red berries in summer, yews are comely shrubs and a great choice for ground covers, specimen shrubs and dense, vertical hedges that can reach 20 feet or more in height. You can count on your yews being around for a while too. Most grow slowly, but can live for hundreds or even thousands of years. They're also welcome guests in the garden, given their low maintenance requirements and ability to develop new growth on old wood. What does this mean for a gardener? It means that you can prune with impunity without having to be afraid of making an irreversible mistake.

To help prevent the spread of diseases between plants, remember to sterilize the blades of your pruning tools before and after pruning by soaking them for 30 minutes in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Then rinse thoroughly to avoid the corrosive effects of the bleach.


Common Problems on Yews

We have recently received several samples in the Plant Disease Clinic from yews that are turning brown. Yews are typically very hardy plants, and are not susceptible to many diseases. However, several stress factors can cause yews to turn brown.

Yews don't like "wet feet" and can develop root problems if their roots are kept too wet. Although considered relatively drought-tolerant, too little water can also cause problems. Choosing an appropriate, well-drained site for the yew and watering during very dry periods is the best defense against these problems.

Winter damage also can affect yews. Winter injury occurs as a result of rapidly changing temperatures during the winter, bright sunshine, and inadequate water reserves in the root system of the plant. Plants usually show the first symptoms of winter injury in late winter through spring, and browning is most pronounced on the south and west sides of the plants. Although foliage turns brown, if buds remain green and viable, the plant may recover as the spring progresses.

Yews are quite sensitive to deicing salts used on roadways and sidewalks. Plants that have been affected by these salts typically turn brown starting from the side closest the area salted. Symptoms usually first appear in the spring. When salts have washed into the soil under a yew, leaching the soil with a large amount of water may help.

Wounds to the bark of branches can also cause portions of yews to turn brown. Such wounds can be caused by animals or inadvertent injury by people. Yews are not very tolerant of wounding. To diagnose this injury, the base of the plant must be examined carefully.

When yews turn brown, their site and recent history should be reviewed to determine a cause. Yews affected by salts or winter damage may recover over time, and it is wise to not prune out the brown tissue immediately in case the branch tips are still viable. When planted in a proper site and cared for, yews can be a valuable addition to the landscape.


Pruning yew

Yew is a tree that loves pruning and can even be shaped to whim as topiary.

If not pruned, your common yew can grow over 65 feet (20 meters) tall for the tallest species.

For yew hedges, select the pruning height you are comfortable with as well as the thickness.

  • Pruning the yew is best at the end of summer or at the beginning of spring.
  • A single heavy pruning end of August is enough to keep growth under control.

Spring pruning is usually associated to rising sap and tends to accelerate the yew’s growth. Since yew is a rather slow-growing tree, this solution is often best when starting the hedge off.

Yew is one of the few trees that supports hat-racking. This practice is more harmful than proper regular pruning, but for some species it can help shrink a hedge that has grown too large.


The Rooting Process

Warmth, moisture and light are the three key factors in the rooting process. Yew cuttings should be kept where temperatures stay around 75 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and where there is ample light, such as inside a cold frame or indoors near a west- or south-facing window. Supplement the available light with a fluorescent lamp, if needed, and use a propagation mat to warm the pot, if daytime temperatures dip below 60 F.

Keep the medium moist but not soggy and mist the foliage often to keep it hydrated. If properly prepared and cared for, yew cuttings will root in roughly two to three months.


Taxus Yew Shrub – A Complete Guide To Yew Bushes

Last Updated on June 14, 2019 by Lisa Page

A great shrub for entranceways, garden borders, paths, mass planting, and specimen gardening, Taxus yews are highly popular for their drought resistance. In addition, their tolerance to repeated trimming makes them easy to care for.

The Taxus yew shrub belongs to the Taxaceae family and is a medium-sized evergreen bush. It has green foliage with bright red berries. Taxus yew shrubs come in a variety of types and interested gardeners find them to be a great choice.

These bushes mature to a height of about 5 feet in height and a width of about 10 feet. They can be pruned into the desired size depending on the location. Yews are slow growing and can be easily sheared into different shapes and are often used as hedges. Ease of care and high adaptability makes this shrub popular in different areas in the United States.

There are various types of yew shrubs available to interested gardeners to choose from for growing in different locations. Whether grown as an evergreen shrub, flowering plant or landscape bush, Taxus yew shrubs add a touch of beauty and grace to any area.

A variety of yew shrubs are native to the areas of Japan, Manchuria, Korea and other parts of Europe. Each shrub has its own name, identity, and features.

Here are some of the more popular varieties of yew shrubs:

Taxus Everlow

Photo courtesy of Spring Meadow Nursery

A versatile evergreen shrub with a striking green dense foliage, Taxus Everlow is a low growing spreader with windburn resistance. It has dark green foliage that emerges in spring as light green.

It is an easy care, low-maintenance yew variety that tolerates pruning throughout the year.

Typically suitable for specimen, foundation and small hedge applications, Everlow is also used in perennial borders or rock gardens for its dwarf size.

This spreading cultivar grows to a height of about 1 to 5 feet and spreads to about 4 to 5 feet. It performs well in any weather condition and grows best in well-drained, alkaline soil.

Taxus Media Hicksii

Offering an excellent combination of ornamental excellence and winter hardiness, Taxus Media Hicksii grows easily in medium moisture, well-drained soils in part to full shade. It is a dense and narrow columnar shrub with ascending branching.

It matures to a height of 18 to 20 feet and spreads to 6 to 10 feet width in 20 years.

Hicksii is an evergreen shrub to display dark green foliage and heightened hedges. It is an easy care and low maintenance shrub which can be pruned any time.

This yew variety is recommended for mass planting, foundation, hedges, landscape, and general garden applications.

Taxus Densiformis

Photo by David J. Stang [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Considered to be the perfect evergreen for shady locations, Densiformis grows easily in average moisture and well-drained soils in full to part shades.

This Taxus yew shrub variety is ideal for landscape, specimen, foundation, small hedge, and mixed border applications. It provides a year-round interest as it tolerates shearing.

It grows at a slow rate and tolerates almost all weather conditions. It has pointed, needle-like, dark green to olive leaves with red, berry-like fruits.

It is a semi-dwarf, dense, spreading female cultivar growing to about 3 to 4 feet height and spreading 5 to 7 feet wide.

Taxus Stonehenge

Photo courtesy of Spring Meadow Nursery

A highly versatile evergreen yew shrub that tolerates heavy pruning, Taxus Stonehenge is an ideal choice for screens, hedges, topiary landscapes, and foundation plantings. It is especially suitable for hedging as it grows tall and narrow and requires very little maintenance.

It is also extremely resistant to winter burn so if you’re in the more extreme northern areas of the country you will definitely want to give this variety some serious consideration.

Taxus Cuspidata Capitata Yew

Considered to be one of the best-needled evergreens for shady locations, Taxus Cuspidata Capitata is commonly known as Japanese Yew and is a broad columnar needled shrub native to Russia, Japan, China, and Korea.

It grows as much as 30 to 50 feet high in its native habitat and it thrives in medium moisture, well-drained soils in full to part shade.

This yew features spiny-tipped, linear, dark green needles with dense foliage. Female plants produce red, attractive, berry-like fruits.

The pyramidal conical cultivar tolerates heavy pruning and is suitable for screens, hedges, foundation plantings, and landscapes. It also works for group plantations

Taxus Media Wardii

The dense, dark green foliage evergreen yew is known for its ornamental appeal and winter hardiness. It is a low growing, wide-spreading shrub with a flattened top which features linear, pointed, needle-like leaves that remain attractive all the year round.

The plant grows slowly to a height of 4 feet and spreads to about 8 feet over ten years.

It can eventually reach a height of 6 feet and width 20 feet. Excellent for foundation and group plantations, Wardii yew suits hedges and embankments too. Female plants have red, attractive, berry-like fruits.

The low-maintenance shrub thrives in sandier, well-drained soil and tolerates drought and windy conditions. It accepts pruning and can be sheared at any time to suit the location.

Summary

Taxus yew shrubs are really easy to grow and maintain and can tolerate shady and sunny places. However, the growth rate decreases if the location is too dark.

The shrub can be planted as seeds or cuttings. However, the most popular method is purchasing the plant from a nursery or garden store.

Though yews do not have any specific soil requirements they grow best in well-drained, sandy soil. The best time to plant this shrub is a day without sun.

As young plants require a lot of water, it is essential to make sure that the soil never dries out.


How to Fertilize Evergreens Yews

Evergreen yews are species of shrubs in the conifer division of plants. They can grow quite large, in excess of 25 feet at maturity, and are often considered to be small trees. Yews are commonly used in garden hedging, as windbreaks, screens and shaped into topiary forms. Like most evergreens, yews are not very heavy feeders when planted in rich soil. But they will benefit from fertilizing, particularly during their establishment years.

Feed your younger evergreen yews less than 15 years of age in the spring of each year. Fertilize older, more mature and established yews once every other year or less frequently as needed, if at all.

  • Evergreen yews are species of shrubs in the conifer division of plants.
  • But they will benefit from fertilizing, particularly during their establishment years.

Apply a 20-15-15 granular or liquid commercial fertilizer formula around the drip line of the yew without applying the fertilizer immediately around the main trunk. Alternatively, use slow-release tree fertilizer spikes driven into the soil with a mallet. Apply granules or place stakes as recommended on the product labels.

Water each fertilizer application in deeply to saturate the soil. Mulch around the drip line of the yew with a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic material such as shredded bark, compost, leaf mold or cocoa bean hulls. Keep the mulch several inches away from the trunk to prevent rot and continue the mulch to a foot or more past the drip line of the yew.