Yew, a hedge and topiary tree

Common yew is know as a 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.

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

Hedge grown from 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 preferred 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

A gardener shears yew into pyramid and sphere shapes.Native 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.

Take note, though, that yew is a poisonous plant: its berries are absolutely not edible and all parts of the tree are toxic to some degree.

Yew is a beautiful evergreen that bears red berries.

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


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Yew berry by IMS68 under Pixabay license
Yew hedge by Andrew Martin under Pixabay license
Topiary trimmming yew by Ron Porter under Pixabay license
Yew shrub by Matt Brown under © CC BY 2.0

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  • wade wrote on 29 March 2019 at 4 h 42 min

    Hello my name is Wade. Is it ok to prune a yew hedge hard just after planting to bring
    it to desired height?

    • Gaspard Lorthiois wrote on 30 March 2019 at 12 h 52 min

      Hello Wade. Yes, it is. Yew is one of the few plants that can cope with hat-racking (a hard pruning, not recommended for most species).

      Pruning it just upon planting may actually help it cope with transplant shock: since it lost most of its roots, reducing leafage will even things out.

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