Everything You Need to Know About Yew Shrubs

Everything You Need to Know About Yew Shrubs

Yew Shrub

The Yew family of shrubs, also known as Taxus. Yew trees and shrubs were symbols of immortality for some and omens of doom for others. Easy-care conifers, you will enjoy the year-round greenery, pollen-filled cone-like flowers, and seasonal red berries!

Plants in the Taxus family are steeped in holiday traditions and strongly associated with churchyards, and church graveyards as a symbol of sadness, and as holiday décor!

All About the Yew Shrub

Taxus family conifers were described in 1753 by Carolus Linnæus and the name may have been derived from the Greek word - toxon, meaning bow or arrow. These plants have flat ‘leaves’Yew Foliage that spiral around the flexible young stems, and reddish bark. Produce berry-like fruit from a scale-like cone on female plants. 

There are over 400 cultivars of Yew bushes, but the two main types used for landscaping are the English (European) Yew and the Japanese Yew. However, there are also the Mexican Yew, Himalayan, Chinese, and Canadian varieties as well. All are conifers with similar, flat soft foliage, relatively slower growth, and red berry-like fruit on female plants.

The wood of mature Yews is prized for furniture making and is surrounded by a reddish bark that looks nice in the winter. Plus the bark has the chemical paclitaxel which is being tested for use in curing cancers - including ovarian and gastric cancers!

Yew bushes are long-lived, disease-resistant, and easy to grow! Add their fluffy evergreen factor to your landscape and see why they are a landscaping standard for hedges, privacy, and foundation borders!

For clean formal pruned hedges and even creative topiary, Taxus have a world of versatility and blend into a wide range of garden styles, sizes, and landscape use! Plus Yews are loved for its craft and décor uses around the holidays - like winter wreaths, garland, swags, outdoor holiday container displays, and Christmas decorations!

It is no wonder that Yews are one of the most popular landscape plants!

How to Use Yew Shrubs in the Landscape

These are fantastic shrubs that don’t mind being planted in either full shade or full sun! Few coniferous bushes can boast that! The large variation of sizes and habits displayed by YewsYew in landscape creates numerous uses in landscapes. Some varieties make great hedges because of their dense foliage and others are just begging to be used individually as a specimen. Either way, the soft needles add fine-textured fringe to your garden!

There are many horticultural forms and cultivars and the primary difference between them is the growth habit and size. Plus, the Yew is often a great option when Junipers and Arborvitae are not an option, Yews are perfect alternatives!

Yews shrubs take to pruning very well and even Yews that have outgrown their space can be cut back severely and they will send out new shoots in spring. Bouncing back to looking great in a short time period. Yews are wonderful for topiary work because of just how adaptable to pruning and shaping they are!

Yew bushes have male bushes and female bushes, in a similar fashion to Holly bushes. Male shrubs produce rows of little buttons of pollen along the branch like tiny yellow pom poms. The female cones produce a pulpy red berry around the cone called an aril. Being wind-pollinated, you will need to plant multiple plants in the same vicinity to ensure you have a male shrub among the females in order to enjoy those festive red berries in the fall and to feed local songbirds.

Nature Hills has developed our own complete compliance program called Plant Sentry™. Every single plant that we sell is checked by Plant Sentry to be sure that the plant is not invasive in all states and all destinations that we ship to. Plant Sentry prevents shipments of plants that might be invasive, and prevents diseases and insects from being shipped into areas where each state has restrictions in place for. Nature Hills is doing its part in preventing plant movement of invasives, insects, and diseases! 

Types of Yew Bushes Available at Nature Hills Nursery!

  • For an easily sheared, shaped, and formal hedge that can be kept precise and uniform, look no further than the Hicks Yew! Densiformis Yew
  • Need a fantastic groundcover that fills in large areas? You want the Spreading English Yew for versatile year-round green.
  • The best choice for a foundation plant that won’t block your windows or view, yet maintain year-round presence - Densiformis Yew bushes are the go-to for a full, dense and fluffy row of curb appeal! The Taunton Spreading Yew works wonderfully and takes up even less space!
  • Want a vase-shaped upright hedge that won’t give you any headaches? You want to look further into the Fairview Yew that looks great sheared or natural.
  • Great for slopes and filling in large areas in sun to shade, the Wardi Yew fits the bill! Ideal for low-growing topiary, hedges, and groundcover!
  • Lastly, the Captain Upright Pyramidal Yew is a wonderful vertically-growing punctuation mark for your garden beds and borders! Naturally pyramidal-shaped, Captain works as privacy and windbreak shrubs!
  • The Dark Green Spreader Yew may be just the conifer for you if you are looking for a very easy-to-care-for evergreen with forest-green color!

How to Plant Yew Shrubs

Japanese Yews are soft and fluffy, and one of the only Evergreens that can grow in full sun and full shade! The shade tolerance is amazing and rare for an evergreen. They can tolerate almostYew Shrub Planted any soil as long as it is well drained. Drought tolerant and easy to grow but they will appreciate a 3-4 inch layer of mulch over the roots.

These plants do have only one mandatory requirement - good drainage. Be sure you have adequate soil drainage before planting. If you suspect you have poor drainage, or an area that is slow to drain after a heavy rain, instead berm the area with 18 inches or more of native topsoil and plant in this mounded, raised-bed location.

In colder hardiness zones you should consider planting your Japanese Yews out of windy, exposed areas or they could see some winter burn.

Fall and winter watering is important for evergreens like Yews to keep them from going into winter dry! Dry roots and cold weather mean plants that retain their foliage all winter dry out and get windburn or winter burn from cold, drying winds and temperature fluctuations. So be sure to water your shrubs well right up until the soil freezes in the fall and provide an extra layer of mulch over the soil surface.

  1. Yew Bushes can be grown in full sun, partial shade, and even full shade.
  2. Plant in a very well-drained location, though Taxus are not partial to soil type! Any rich soil that drains well and is slightly alkaline. But Yews do very well in clay soil types so long as they won’t have their roots sitting in water!
  3. New shrubs need consistent moisture their first year in the ground, and our horticulture staff recommends the ‘finger-test’ - feel a few inches below the soil surface to tell if you need to water or not! Dry - water it! Moist - skip a day and check again the next! After the first year, water only during drought and extreme heat to keep your shrubs looking their best.
  4. Use Nature Hills Root Booster to your planting site, and a 3-4 inch layer of arborist mulch over the soil's surface to give your shrub the best start!
  5. Prune in early spring before new growth forms and annual shearing promotes full uniform growth. Renewal prune or cut back hard if needed - Taxus respond very well to drastic pruning, especially for older shrubs that have become leggy or overgrown. It is also suggested that keeping the lower parts of the shrub the widest part will keep the plants from becoming leggy. 
  6. Provide regular fertility each year in spring as soon as you see new growth according to product directions.

While the berries are not safe for kids, pets, or horses, backyard Birds do love to eat them! The dense, year-round greenery and branching provide bird-friendly shelter and nestingYew Berries too! Thrushes, Waxwings, Blackbirds, Finches, and sometimes squirrels like to eat.

Renewal prune older, overgrown Yew bushes by giving them a hard pruning back by ⅓, and even older, thicker wood will sprout new growth. Prune in early spring, apply a balanced fertilizer geared for conifers, and give them regular water throughout the spring, summer, and fall for the next few years. It may take time, but you will rejuvenate an old hedge that may be encroaching on a walkway or obscuring a window with this method.

Warm Climate Alternatives for Yews

While Taxus are cold-hardy throughout USDA growing zones 4 through 7, the Hicks Yew is an exception and thrives in warmer hardiness zone 8. Do you love the look of the Yew shrub but live in a mild winter area of the country? Nature Hills knows not everyone lives in zone 7 and lower, so we have some great Yew relatives that work great for your climates too!

  • Yewtopia Plum Yew - A smaller evergreen that also thrives in full shade to full sun and loves heat and humidity in USDA hardiness zones 6 through 9.
  • Shrubby Yew Podocarpus - A wonderfully tall yet narrow growing privacy shrub that does amazingly in USDA growing zones 7 through 11! Wonderful columnar evergreen beauty!
  • Japanese Plum Yew - A mid-sized evergreen conifer that works wonderfully sheared as hedging and privacy, and is low-water usage throughout the USDA growing zones 6-9!

Wonderful Versatile Yew!

Your next privacy hedge or evergreen topiary is within reach when you order yourself one of these pest-resistant shrubs that add greenery to your home and garden year-round! Don’t forget all the winter and holiday décor you can make from these scented, soft-needled conifers!

For birds, screening, and ease of care, you can’t go wrong ordering fantastic Yew Shrubs from NatureHills.com!

Happy Planting!

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