How to Grow a Yew Tree

Updated February 21, 2017

Yew trees, Taxus species, are similar enough in requirements that whether you choose English yews, Anglojap yews or Japanese yews, your planting and care process is the same. Favoured in the home landscape for their evergreen foliage, gardeners prize them for their disease resistance. They thrive within USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 7. Often grown as barriers or hedges, these symmetrical trees or shrubs grow in a wide range of heights from approximately 2 1/2 feet to 50 feet tall.

Contact your local county extension agent for information on having a soil test performed on a sample of your soil. Follow through with the soil test before planting your yew, as it is easier to amend your soil before planting than troubleshooting after planting in poor soil conditions.

Amend your soil according to your extension agent's suggestions based on the soil test. Maintain well-drained soil in addition to the suggested alterations, as yews can suffer health decline quickly in the case of excessively wet soil. Maintain the desired acid soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Choose a site exposed to full sun to partial shade but avoid dense shade that leads to poor development.

Dig a hole in the soil with a sharp shovel to a maximum depth of 10 inches, depending on the size of your root ball. Adjust your depth accordingly to allow approximately 1 inch of the root ball to stick out of the top of the hole. Dig the hole to a width twice the diameter of the root ball to provide sufficient room for root growth.

Cut away the sides of the root ball with a spade or loosen the roots from the root ball and then place the remaining root ball and roots into the hole. Shovel soil into the space surrounding your roots until the hole is filled.

Lay a 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch on the soil surrounding your tree, but do not press the mulch against the yew's trunk. Use an organic mulch like dead leaves or pine needles, as mulch improves soil as it breaks down, keeps soil temperatures stable and prevents weed growth.

Prune your yew according to your design tastes, as yews are tolerant of pruning. Make clean cuts to prevent die back that occurs with injured branches where bark is torn.


Wear gardening gloves when handling the poisonous yew tree and to prevent injury to yourself when using sharp tools.


Choose your planting location carefully, particularly near areas travelled by children, as yews are poisonous to humans.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp shovel
  • Spade
  • Organic mulch
  • Pruning shears
  • Gardening gloves
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About the Author

Tarah Damask's writing career began in 2003 and includes experience as a fashion writer/editor for Neiman Marcus, short fiction publications in "North Texas Review," a self-published novel, band biographies, charter school curriculum and articles for various websites. Damask holds a Master of Arts in English and creative writing from the University of North Texas.