Yew, an evergreen hedge and topiary tree


Common yew is a famous and wonderful hedge conifer.

Yew facts for you

Name – Taxus
Family – Taxaceae
Type – conifer

Height – up to 50 feet (16 meters)
Exposure – full sun to shade

Soil: ordinary, well drained   –   Foliage: evergreen

Its evergreen foliage is very appealing since it is very dense and sprigs are intricately shaped.

How to plant yew

Common yew is a conifer usually planted as part of a hedge, and is often set up at the beginning of fall, but it can also be planted until March or April as long as it doesn’t freeze.

Yew tree twig with a single red berry.As a standalone, this tree can grow quite large, so check upon planting that it has enough space to spread out.

  • Common yew loves locations with a rather high exposure to sunlight, but does well in light shade, too.
  • Yew likes well drained soil.
  • When part of a hedge, keep a distance of 32 inches (80 cm) between yew plants.

After having planted your yew, watering is needed on a regular basis for 2 years to facilitate root development and settling in.

Pruning yew

Yew pruningYew 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.

Hedge yewSpring 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.

Watering yew trees

Yew isn’t a very demanding tree in terms of watering, but does deserve some attention, especially at the beginning.

  • Water regularly after planting for the first 2 years.
  • Water after that in case of prolonged dry spell and only it you feel your yew tree has trouble coping.

Diseases and parasites that attack yew tree

Yew is a tree that resists mots diseases and fungus quite well, and its lifespan can exceed several hundreds of years.

  • If a few branches turn brown and die off, it’s best to eliminate them and burn the waste every time.

All there is to know about yew

Yew hedge topiaryNative to Europe and North Africa, yew has been used for evergreen hedges for centuries, but it also is showcased as a standalone in the garden.

Ideal for persons who are passionate about topiary, it lends itself wonderfully to shaping. It’s perfect for cloud pruning.

Both its longevity and hardiness make it an interesting alternative to boxwood which is more vulnerable to disease.

It’s also reputed to be an excellent wind-breaker ready to resist gales of any power – and block out inquisitive neighbors, too.

Yew is a beautiful evergreen that bears red berries.Poisonous yew berries

Take note, though, that yew is a poisonous plant.

Yew berries are absolutely not edible and all parts of the tree are toxic to some degree.

Prudent gardeners even wear gloves when pruning this tree.

Smart tip about yew

When part of a hedge, think well about how high you want it to grow so that you can determine the planting distance of your yew accordingly! Keep a spacing of about 32 inches (80 cm) to 3 feet (1 meter) for the usual 6-foot (1.80 m) hedge.

Read also

Images: CC BY 2.0: Matt Brown; dreamstime: J. Sanerkin; Pixabay: Andrew Martin, IMS68, Ronald Porter; shutterstock: Kefca