Allowed to grow, a yew tree (Taxus baccata) can reach heights of approximately 15 metres (50 feet) in a pyramid shape. A popular specimen, the yew has been used for centuries as a beloved hedge. In England and Wales, many yew are over 3,000 years old.
The yew has the ability to withstand shearing in many shapes and forms. Shearing removes the outer edges of all the branches uniformly to attain a desired shape, size or structure. Many are sheared and formed into elaborate topiary art or unique, twisting hedges.
Shear and prune a yew tree in the late winter or early spring. Begin pruning before new growth starts and as soon as the soil is no longer frozen for best results. Refrain from pruning a grown yew tree past the middle of June, because late season pruning removes the tree's new growth.
Clip the sides of newly planted yews to maintain their overall appearance and encourage the young plants to grow bushier. Avoid clipping the top of the yew until it has reached the desired height, because clipping its growing tip will slow the shrub's growth down radically.