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Paul’s Plant Pick Week 9: Yews

The genera Taxus and the related Cephalotaxus include the beautiful and familiar yews and the equally beautiful but less familiar plum yews, respectively. Feel free to think of them interchangeably, for the differences between them are relatively minor, and feel free to plant them in a spot that gets a few hours of morning sun followed by shade the rest of the day or receives dappled light throughout the day and has well-drained soil. Basically, plant them anywhere you might otherwise plant azaleas, because both thrive in similar conditions.

So why do I love yews? Well, let me count the ways. For starters, they’re evergreen, and I think landscapes are often woefully lacking in evergreens. They’re available in different sizes and shapes, from columnar forms (‘Capitata,’ Hicksii,’ and ‘Viridis’) to broad shrub forms (‘Densiformis’) to low, wide forms (‘Emerald Spreader’). They’re great as specimens, as shrub borders, even in mass plantings. They can be sheared again and again to keep them at whatever size and shape you want. Their new growth in spring is a gorgeous lime green, and female plants produce bright red berries in late summer to early fall. Their needles are soft. They’re bothered by few insect and disease problems (but you should inspect plants periodically for scale and mealybugs). And they’re remarkably drought tolerant once established.

And that’s why I love yews. What do yew think?

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4 responses to “Paul’s Plant Pick Week 9: Yews”

  1. Jo Jo says:

    My yew is turning yellow, what do you think the problem is?

    • Paul James says:

      Jo Jo — It’s hard to pinpoint the problem exactly, although poor drainage or a lack of nutrients are likely causes. Feel free to take a picture and bring it into our Solution Center for help with diagnosis.

  2. Nancy H says:

    I love yews too, but caution! The berries are especially toxic for dogs. We’ve had our yews through the lives of three dogs – no problem until the third one carefully picked and ate the berries! $1000 later she was fine, but it could have ended tragically.

    • Paul James says:

      Nancy — All parts of the yew are toxic, though the incidence of pets ingesting them is rare because the poisonous alkaloid in the plant is quite bitter. Sorry to hear about your dog, but glad everything turned out okay.