growing and care

Yews are revered for their wonder, especially the ancient Yews that are often thousands of years old. English Yews grow to 30 to 40 feet high and spread our while the Irish Yews grow up straight and slender to as much as 60 feet, and these are the most common in both Irish and UK graveyards, older than the churches beside them.

Yews are the finest evergreens to use as a hedging tree, but if you create a hedge buy tall plants as Yew is a slow grower. If you intend to use yews as privacy screen and buy inexpensive small plants, there may not be a screen until your grand children take over.

Yew is also a tree to handle with care. It is more toxic than many people allow themselves to believe.

preferred soil conditions?

Prefers soil that drains well. Most growers find they have to add quite a bit of sand around where Yews will be planted before they plant. They love growing on limestone areas.

While a yew will benefit from light fertilization after planting, an established plant should only need occasional feeding at best.

Yew Trees can be raised from seeds or cuttings, Seeds should be collected as soon as the flesh of the fruit begins to turn red, otherwise the birds will have them and they will be gone. Wash the flesh from the seed and plant in very sandy compost straight away.

Cuttings should also be placed in sandy compost in July or August and left somewhere protected from ice and frost through winter.

preferred light, shade and water conditions?

Yews are not fussy about the amount of light they get and grow well in everything from complete shade to full sun. This makes them perfect for land up against north facing walls and woodland,  and other shady areas of gardens and land.

Yews do need regular watering until the plants are well established, but do not make them waterlogged as a good soaking can kill the Yew's roots very quickly. Water when you see the top layer soil is becoming dry and dusty. Do not water during winter months, unless there is a strange long mild dry spell.

Once established, the yew is extremely hardy and drought tolerant.


An evergreen that also sprouts new buds in spring. Leaves are small, a little pine looking, and naturally dark green on wild trees, but Yews are also cultivated with variable color leaves.

If leaves fall from your Yew trees, do not be alarmed; They do this sometimes. If the leaves shrivel or turn brown and remain on the branches, then that is a sign you have root problems, probably from being too waterlogged. Severe pruning in March or April and more sand dug in around the trees may save them.


Male and female flowers appear through February and March. The male flowers are small yellow catkins. Female flowers are very small, greenish, very small, and quite difficult to identify.


Surprisingly, Yews can be coppiced with a good new harvest of wood every 20 to 40 years.

fruit and seeds

Fruit is a tempting bright slightly pinky red that to a small child could look tasty. Inside each fruit is a large dark green to brown seed.

Consuming most parts of the Yew are fatal to human beings, cattle and other animals yet deer can munch on the leaves and twigs with no harm.

The most toxic parts are partly withered clippings and leaves, so while clipping, shearing, and especially when clearing debris, gloves and protective clothing are essential.

for the medical healing qualities of Yew, please click here