Plant Profile: Yews

Yews are a popular evergreen shrub that can add both beauty and privacy to any landscape. They are known for their dense foliage, interesting growth habits, and adaptability to a variety of growing conditions. In this plant profile, we will explore the beauty and characteristics of yews.


Yews belong to the genus Taxus and are evergreen shrubs or small trees. They typically have dark green, needle-like leaves that grow in a spiral pattern around the stem. Yews can grow up to 50 feet tall, but most are kept as shrubs that range from 3 to 20 feet in height. The foliage is very dense, which makes them an excellent choice for privacy hedges or screens. Yews are also known for their red berries, which are actually the female reproductive structures and are quite attractive.


There are many different varieties of yews available, each with their unique characteristics. Some of the most popular varieties include:

  1. Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’) – an upright, dense yew that is commonly used for hedges and screens.
  2. Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) – a slow-growing yew with an upright habit that is commonly used in formal gardens.
  3. Anglojap Yew (Taxus x media) – a hybrid yew that combines the best traits of the English and Japanese yews.
  4. Densiformis Yew (Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’) – a compact yew with a mounding growth habit that is excellent for small hedges and foundation plantings.
  5. Taunton Yew (Taxus x media ‘Tauntonii’) – a broad, spreading yew that is perfect for use as a ground cover.

Cultural Significance

Yews have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and their wood has been used for carving and making bows. In ancient Celtic culture, yews were considered sacred and were often used as a symbol of eternal life. Today, yews are commonly used in landscaping to create hedges, screens, and foundation plantings.

Landscaping Uses

Yews are one of the most versatile plants for landscaping. They are commonly used for hedges and screens, but can also be used as specimen plants or foundation plantings. Yews are very adaptable and can tolerate a wide range of growing conditions, including full sun to partial shade and a variety of soil types.

Care and Maintenance

To keep yews healthy and looking their best, proper care is necessary. Yews should be planted in well-draining soil and given regular watering during the growing season. Pruning should be done in late winter or early spring to promote new growth and maintain the desired shape. Fertilization can also promote healthy growth.

Yews are a beautiful and versatile evergreen shrub that can add both beauty and privacy to any landscape. With their dense foliage and interesting growth habits, they are a popular choice for hedges, screens, and foundation plantings. By planting and caring for yews, you can bring the beauty and adaptability of these beloved shrubs to your own outdoor space.

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