Dead and Dying Yew Hedges and Trees

Yew has a reputation for being indestructible, and given fair treatment, there are yew trees planted today that will still be alive when mankind is sailing around the solar systems* in fusion powered, garden filled hyper-barges

At the same time, Taxus baccata is like any living organism and can die prematurely. Because it is so tough, you may be able to save your tree or hedge with swift action. Here are a few reasons why yew dies when it should not.

Dogs and Cats kill Yew Trees and Hedging

Well, what comes out of their furry back ends harms younger plants. Cats like to excavate holes in the same place area and bury their “raw lion dung topdressing”, which from the tree’s perspective is slow poisoning.

Dogs are potentially worse, in that where one marks a spot, others seek to follow. Then, according to tradition, the first one comes back to mark their marks with his mark, and yews do not like uric acid on them.

A cheap and easy solution to this is to pile dead bramble or other thorny plant cuttings along the hedgerow for its first few years.

Yew dies by drowning

English Yew grows just about anywhere – there is a lovely yew hedge by the river Wylye that is flooded whenever it rains. But then the ground drains. The moral of the story is that you can plant a yew hedge in any kind of soil as long as the roots do not sit in water for extended periods of time. Dig a trench in solid clay and fill it with lovely compost and topsoil, and you have created a death trap for your hedge. The clay does not drain and the trench will fill with water and stay that way. So if you are planting on poorly drained soil either ensure there is drainage or DO NOT PLANT IN A TRENCH. Clear the ground, and plant bare-rooted stock in slits which you close up firmly when you have finished. There is an excellent planting video on our site which shows the technique.


The salt that is spread on roads whenever there is a hysterical reaction to the possibility of freezing conditions is bad for all plants. Full stop. If your hedge is in a place where thawing ice, snow or just rain will run off, then think about a wall or fence. Most plants hate salt in the quantities that can collect in some places at this time of year. If your hedge will not suffer from direct run-off and only gets splashed by traffic, go out the day after the thaw and wash it with a hose until it has established for at least 12 months. Given our climate, you probably will not have to do this at all.

Root Rot

Root rot is caused by a number of organisms most notably Phytophthora. Some form of phytophthora exists in all soils (a bit like cold germs in tube trains…). Just because it is there does not mean your yew plants will die, like most diseases it needs the right conditions to cause damage. It is always best, therefore, to improve the soil with organic matter to help drainage and to encourage new root growth. Expensive plants like yew are also helped if you use a mycorrhizal additive when you plant – it is not cheap, but the benefits are considerable.

Honey fungus

As with Phytophthora, there are a number of forms of Honey Fungus, not all of which are dangerous to plants. However, the ones that are, kill any tree or woody plant whose defences they penetrate, yew included, although the number of reported deaths of yew caused by honey fungus is very few as it is extremely resistant. Honey fungus travels underground and attacks trees and hedge plants through their root systems. If you cleanly trim off any broken bits of root with secateurs before planting, and if you improve the soil with organic matter, you reduce the chance of a honey fungus attack.

Watch your hedging grow, and enjoy


*Assuming that space is in fact real (can’t trust anyone these days).

By Ashridge Support

Ashridge Nurseries has been in the business of delivering plants since 1949.


  1. Liz says:

    I have over 60 dying Yew tree down to poor drainage and water logging after a particularly bad summer of rain in SE Ireland… I could cry looking at the brown and dying trees! Anyway, my husband and I spend the weekend taking them up and re-planting in a raised bed to try and save them from dying completely. Most of them are very brown, my question is should I cut back the brown and dead leaves or leave them to get established (hopefully) in their new home?? Any help would be very helpful as we are at a loss what to do with them for the best. Just out of interest I am planning on planting an Alder hedge this time around – likes wet and water logged soil I hear!?

  2. Julian says:

    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for your query.

    Yew first (no pun intended). They are either dead already, in which case there is not much to be done, or they are just poorly. You must work on the assumption they are poorly. Give them a foliar feed, which will boost the plants. By all means cut the really brown stuff off – yew regrows from old wood, so it won’t hurt. And be patient – even if you think they are all dead, wait at least until the spring. Yew is incredibly tough and can come back from the edge of the grave. You have done the right thing getting them out of the water – they hate it. Now let time take its course.

    As for the Alder. They will grow in very wet ground as long as it drains occasionally. However, Common and Grey Alder in particular are susceptible to root rot (Phytopthera). If any of your yew had mushy black roots when you lifted them, I would be inclined either to plant Italian Alder, or to use willows to be on the safe side.

    Hope this helps –

    Good luck

  3. Liz says:

    Julian, Thank you for the comments, it gives me some hope as the trees were so beautiful to begin with. The ground is very wet but does drain eventually, climate changes here has meant that it is extremely more soggy than normal. The Yew for the most part still held the size and shape of the pots they came from when I pulled them up -with the exception of the very evidently dead ones which had practically no root left. So maybe they will survive. I will look at alternative alder – thanks again for the advice. Liz

  4. Julian says:

    Liz, I hope there was something there that helps. Foliar feed is a miracle worker with almost all hedging that is in trouble.

    If the yew roots still were pot shaped, it either means that they were pot-bound when you got them, or the planting holes were not prepared as well as they could have been. All pot grown yew hedging likes large holes (a little deeper than but twice as wide as the pot) with good soil containing plenty of well rotted organic matter returned around the roots. The roots themselves are pretty tough and can be teased away from the root ball a bit to encourage them to grow into the surrounding soil faster.

    Let us know how you get on.


  5. Charles says:

    An alarming number of plants in a yew hedge planted this spring are turning brown and look as if they might be dieing. It could be that they are waterlogged after the recent very wet weather. But they are also planted under a walnut tree. I understand that walnut trees can give off a chemical that prevents some plants growing underneath them Could this be the problem for my yew hedge.

  6. Julian says:

    If the walnut is a Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) then very possibly. It would not touch an established yew, but newly planted hedging is another matter.

    If you are not sure if your walnut is black walnut or not, then English and Black walnut are easily distinguished by looking at their leaflets. Black walnut leaves have between fifteen and twenty three leaflets, whereas English walnut has between 5 and nine. English walnut leaflets are much larger and oval, while black walnut leaflets are slimmer and smaller and have serrated edges.

    There is not much point in moving the yew at this stage. It is an incredibly tough plant, and it may be brown for other reasons (and totally brown yew can still recover). The wet weather (if you are on heavy/clay soil may also have something to do with it. Give them a foliar feed and leave them alone.

    Good luck

  7. Alf Holliday says:

    I am trying to find a reason for a young yew hedge suffering from individual plants bronzing and whole branches dying. Hedge is 4 years old, from cell grown plants. Each year a plant will go brown and the branch is clearly dead. Trimming off the dead branches leaves a stump but some life remains and the plant looks like it may come back.
    I live in North Scotland and the hedge is on a south facing slope on a clay soil. I also lost a specimin conifer to the same problem last year.
    Thought I had got away with it this year but noticed one of the larger plants now a dark brown colour. We do have dogs but problem seems to affect whole branches rather than the whole plant.
    Any thoughts?

    Regards Alf

  8. Julian says:

    Hi Alf
    Yew hedging bronzes or goes brown because the yew plants in it are stressed (physically rather than mentally). From what you describe, if I had to pick one cause, it would be root rot. It sounds as if you are on clay, which drains badly, and we have had a succession of wet winters and/or summers. Being cell grown plants I guess you planted your yew in holes or a trench, and either would have spent a good part of the last four years full of water. (For future reference, you may find it better to plant bare root hedging plants). They are cheaper, establish better and can be slit planted so there is no hole to fill with water and drown the roots. There is a film on our main website on How to Plant a Country Hedge which shows the technique you should use.

    I hate to say this, but if you dig up one of the affected yew plants in late October, you will almost certainly it has some see soft, black rather smelly roots. If so, you might think about
    – giving your yew hedge a foliar feed now to try to give it a boost,
    – digging up the whole hedge & trimming the diseased roots off (and burning them)
    – trying to improve the drainage by digging a relief drain so water flows down the hill
    – replanting and mulching heavily.

    Yew is a wonderfully resilient hedging plant and your existing plants can recover if they are given a little help (and if it is not too late). But it must be worth a try.

    Hope this helps, and good luck


  9. Charles Huxtable says:

    Interested to know your readers comments. We live in Somerset and blest with three Yew trees one of which is over 300 years old. We have a problem with the youngest of the three which is approximately 40 to 50 years old. It is on well drained ground. The problem has arisen this year. The West facing side of the tree, the foliage is turning brown and showing signs of soft canker. The other sides of the tree appear to be unaffected.I have taken cuttings and shaken them to see if there are any avids and pleased to note there are none, only a few tiny insects, light coloured which could be spiders or similar.Is there any action that I can take or should I just leave it until spring next year to see if the problem persists. Any advice or help would be appreciated.It is to be noted that a neighbour has lost a well established fir tree to avids attack together with part of his fir tree hedgerow. Its odd that only part of the hedge has been attacked. Is this down to the sex of the fir being either male or female and that one is resistant to attack and vice versa.

    1. Kate Brookman says:

      Hi – also a resident of Somerset , with a listed probably 300 yr old Yew in our garden that is looking very poorly !.We too have one ‘segment ‘going brown and dropping needles -I had thought at first it was perhaps windburn but its looking worse now. What happened to your tree !?…just wondering whether to leave all alone or get the brown section removed ?- Kate B.

      1. james says:

        Hi there, did you find any solutions for your yew tree? I am in East Devon and have an old yew tree dying back on one side only. Any help appreciated. Thanks. James

  10. Sally Coulson says:

    I have many very old Yew Trees in my garden, the 1 we wanted to make a feature of our new drive way so dug the drive way round the tree (like a roundabout with the tree in the middle). Looks beautiful. Only now its been about 9 -10 months all the leaves are turning brown. I will be mortified if we have killed the tree. What can I do?…. The other yew trees are lovely & green.

  11. Julian says:

    Thanks for your question. Without a photo (email me on it is very hard to tell. However, here goes.

    All English yew (be they grown as trees or yew hedging) can go bronze. The weather we have just had – very cold with windchill can do it. However, if the other yew trees in your garden are OK that is unlikely unless the one in question is more exposed than the rest.

    Yew can also bronze when it is stressed. This is most noticeable with new English yew hedge plants while they are trying to establish (especially in heavy ground).

    In both cases, the plants almost always recover and green up again.

    A possible cause of stress with your yew may be the trench. Possible reasons might be:
    1. It has caused too much root to be removed, or
    2. It has acted as a drainage ditch and the “roundabout” in the middle is very dry.

    Yew is tap-rooted and so will not depend entirely on its surface roots, but to minimise the risk I would suggest filling the trench in.


  12. jaxson says:

    Great thread – thanks julian. It has answered a whole bunch of questions i have had about my yew hedge. I was panicking as it was going bronze, but I can already see new green growth coming through. Phew

  13. Liz says:

    Hi Julian, liz here again. I asked about my dying yew at the top of this thread. My question today is to do with the cutting I took from the healthy trees (before they began dying!). I have about 60 cuttings in pots covered with plastic in the greenhouse over the winter. They still are moist and look a beautiful green colour so hopefully have rooted… but what do I do next? Do I leave them in the greenhouse covered for the spring and/or summer? Do I uncover them and leave them out – have no idea! They are about 2-3″ above soil level and are closely planted in their pots. Can you help with the next stage so that I might recover some of my trees for the future. THanks LIz

  14. Julian says:

    Hi Liz
    Well done. You will be supplying us with yew hedge plants before you know it!

    Here is a quick guide:

    1. You will know if your taxus baccata (fastigiata?) have rooted when you either see fresh growth on them or roots show at the bottom of the pot. Don’t do anything until you are sure they have really rooted.

    2. Then take the plastic off but leave them in the house. Assuming you have more than one cutting per pot, transplant them into pots of their own about 4 weeks after you took the plastic off.

    3. Gradually harden yew hedge plants off in the greenhouse. Open windows increasingly during the day, then leave them open all night and finally move them outside in late May/early June.

    4. Then I would be inclined to try an experiment with a couple. In November, take them out of their pots and knock the compost OFF their roots. Do not prepare the ground where they are to be planted, instead just clear off any weeds and slit plant them as you would a country hedge. Take a look at our film on our home page if you don’t know how. If they survive and grow away, you know how to plant your next yew hedge…..

    Good luck, and send a photo.

    3. Take the plastic off

  15. Liz says:

    Hi Julian, Thank you again for the great advice and for your time. I checked the cuttings yesterday and to my surprise they have not rooted yet. They are a beautiful green colour so I was amazed – still learning here! I will keep them under wraps for another while and wait for things to warm up a bit. I will keep you posted. Thank you very much. Liz

  16. Tina says:

    Hi Julian,
    Very interesting reading, and this fills me with some hope.

    I too have a yew hedge planted in heavy clay soil.
    I imporved the soil as best I could prior to planting and planted some of the trees on a ridge to prevent their roots sitting in water in the worst ares. Others are in level ground.
    the first year they were lovely they greened up aftre the initial shock of being moved and stayed nice and green for the summer.
    They grew well and I was very happy.

    After this winter, I am now faced with bronzed foliage and some trees looking like they are duying, ie yellowing and blackened needles.

    You mention foliar feeding to help this problem.
    what do you recommend I feed them with and is there anything else I could do to help?

    My soil is alkaline and I believe they prefer acidic conditions, is it worth me trying to lower the ph with leaf mould or peat?

    Thanks in advance

  17. John Rowlands says:

    Thanks for the really great thread on here. I’ve got a very windy, SW-facing hilltop site (300′ amsl) and planted my bare-root stock in January, just after the very cold spell. Many have been bronze since then, but several are worse now. But this is limited to the larger branches – most have new growth valiantly erupting now it’s early April. Out of 45 planted and kept very well-watered since, I’d say one straggly-looking example, and the very smallest one sent, are probably lost for good. I’m not too unhappy with that.

    Any info. to share on Yew in windy places? Always ready to learn!

    John. (Anglesey)

  18. Elisabeth says:


    I would be grateful for your advice about maintenance of a new yew hedge. I had 40 sturdy rootball plants put in last November. A few look yellower but I think they are all basically OK. They are about 100cms tall. Should I trim the tops to help them thicken at the base? if so , when? Should I feed them? if so with what and when?

  19. Edward says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Yew grows less vigorously when the terminal bud of its leading stem is cut, so I recommend leaving the tops alone until the plants have reached your desired height – use your judgement with the side branches, bearing in mind that you want to keep the base a little wider than the top of the hedge. Yew hedge plants should not need feeding, although an organic foliar feed (that you spray onto the leaves) certainly can’t hurt – use it in the morning or evening of a cloudy day.

    The yellowing is totally normal for establishing yew.

  20. Elisabeth says:

    Edward, thank you, just what I needed, what a brilliant site this is.

  21. Steve says:

    I am hoping someone can help me sort out a problem with my yew tree which must be well over 50 years old.
    The tree is in my front garden, approx 25 feet high and only about 10 feet from a busy road.
    I noticed last year a lot of brown needles had fallen.
    Also, I usually have a lot of drive cleaning to do after the berries have fallen, but last winter there didn’t seem that many berries to deal with.
    Today, there are a few small branches that look dead and I see a lot of the needles have yellow tips and some are brown.
    This tree is very dear to me and I’m very keen to help it along.
    If it would help, photos can be provided.

  22. Pat says:

    We have planted a yew hedge on a fairly exposed site with good drainage (which was put in). Several of the yews have yellowing needles towards their trunks. They appear to be no more exposed (in fact are sheltered) than their neighbours; and were all planted at the same time. The tips of the branches are green; the branches and trunk appear to be healthy. Any advice appreciated. They were planted a month or so ago.

  23. Julian says:

    Hi Pat
    Sorry for the delay, but we have been on holiday.
    make sure they are no allowed to dry out, and leave them alone. Newly planted yew all over the UK has struggled this year. On past experience they may end up looking worse before they get better, but unless they are waterlogged – and it does not sound like it – they well recover and grow away in time.

    Good luck

  24. Julian says:

    Hi Steve
    Difficult to say from the information you have given. A photo would be helpful – can you email one to me at [email protected] (remove the letters in capitals in the email address before sending).

    However here are a couple of thoughts.

    1. It may be that the tap root has hit something it does not like (London clay for example). If this is the case there is little that can be done.
    2. The tree is diseased – honey fungus is the most likely. Take off a bit of bark at soil level – if there is a white filigree underneath, then it is. Nothing to be done.
    3. You say the road is nearby. There was a lot of salting of roads done last winter and this – yew hates salt water.
    4. The ground it is growing in may be “tired”. A really good mulch with well-rotted compost or manure on the ground under the tips of the branches will give it a boost.

    In any event, remove any dead yew branches as that will allow you to see if it is getting worse or not.

    Good luck


  25. Steve says:


    Thanks for your reponse.
    I’ve emailed a couple of photos of my yew tree to you.


  26. Tina says:

    throughtout this thread, you mention helping with discoloured/stressed trees with foliar feeding.
    What would you reccommend to use as a feed and any tips?

  27. Edward says:

    Hi Tina,

    There are a range of foliar feeds on the market (as a quick google search will reveal) and they all do much the same thing – they have pretty much the same nutrients that you would find in normal plant food.

    There is no reason that you can’t just make your own – get some really well rotted, extra rich compost and or manure (perhaps add a pinch of something like Growmore), leave it for a couple of days in some rainwater and spray the resulting “tea” liberally over your plants – twice a week should be plenty.

    Alternatively, we received a tip that if you mix the compost with carbonated water, the CO2 gas that makes it fizzy both helps the leaves absorb the nutrients and boosts the rate of photosynthesis. This does sound entirely possible, though we have never carried out scientific tests!

    It is important to make sure that the pH is either neutral or only slightly acidic – between pH 7 (neutral) and pH 5.5 (roughly that of rainwater) testing kits are cheap and easy to use. Only use foliar feeds on cloudy days, ideally in the morning. If it doesn’t rain after several applications, you may want to wash off any mucky residue with a hose in the evening or early morning (i.e. when the sun isn’t shining on the leaves) – this will give the added benefit of reducing moisture loss through the leaves.

    Good luck!

  28. phil says:

    my yew tree i bought 6 months ago was a little bronze in colour, and not the dark green i was hoping for ,it has new growth but again this is light in colour can i do anything to improve this ?

  29. Edward says:

    Hi Phil,

    I’m happy to report that it sounds like you have a healthy tree that is establishing nicely. The bronze colour was due to the stress of being transplanted and the young, light green foliage will darken over the course of the year, becoming deep green by winter. This pattern of pale young leaves becoming dark green will repeat itself every year.

    You can sit back and relax with this one!

  30. stefany says:

    I live in the US (Dallas, Texas), so don’t know if this is the right place to write in with a yew problem, but here goes … I planted 4 yew shrubs last September (2008), they were about 4 feet tall, and were pretty full and green. I noticed new growth (the light green leaves, which then turned dark) – they were fine all winter. Within the last few months, the leaves have started to turn brown, branch by branch. I’ll see evidence of new growth, but then that turns brown too! The weird thing is, it’s not the whole plant – just the back sides of them. They are in the shade of a large tree, but at certain times of the day, the sun does creep in and hit them (esp in the late afternoon). I took a branch too my local nursery, and they said I was either over or under watering them. WHAT? That seemed crazy. I don’t water them excessively, and I don’t NOT water them – so that did not make sense to me. Can ANYONE help? These plants were SO expensive, and I cannot figure out the problem 🙁

  31. Julian says:

    Hi Stefany
    Sorry you are having a problem with your yew hedging plants. The most likely cause of their problem is poor establishment (the way the roots of the yew plants have worked their way into the soil OUTSIDE the planting hole.

    Poor establishment of yew (taxus baccata) can be caused by one or more of the following:

    1. Not enough water (especially on free draining soil).
    2. Too much water (especially on badly drained soils such as clay)
    3. Too small a planting hole.
    4. A round planting hole with smooth sides – the roots just spiral round the hole and never find their way out.

    Yew trees are incredibly tough and if you think any of the above might apply, dig the plants up again, remedy the problem and replant. That way they have a chance…

    Good luck


  32. Andy says:

    Hello Julian,

    Very helpful forum, thanks. I’ve just been over for wander in our mature deciduous woods and discovered that 90% of the yews have lost or are in the process of losing leaves. Many of the trees are over 100 years old and until recently seemed to thrive in the shelter of the SW facing slope. Since the hunting ban this wood has been infested with deer, and I notice that the ground immediately beneath the tree is bald, stripped bare by the deer (I know not much grows under yew anyway, but this ground is bare earth). Questions are:

    1. Are deer (which may have been nibbling roots) known for damaging yew?

    2. Is there some form of insect or microbial pest doing the rounds?

    3. Have you (or any other readers) noticed significant die-back of established, wild yews?

    Many thanks
    Andy, East Sussex

  33. Amanda says:

    Our huge yew tree has recently started turning brown, it looks really sick what can i do ?

  34. Edward says:

    Hi Andy,

    1) Deer can eat yew hedge leaves (unlike most animals) but I haven’t heard of them going for the bark / roots. In any case, they certainly couldn’t touch the roots of a mature tree. As for the bark, you are our man in the field – investigate and report back!

    2) Not that we know of.

    3) Like all conifers, yew leaves last quite a long time and grow slowly. Instead of all falling at once at a certain time, like deciduous trees, a conifer’s needles go through seemingly irregular patterns of falling – sometimes steadily throughout the year, sometimes in flushes. I am guessing that the mostly wet summer with its brief “heatwave” has caused the trees to shed their older leaves and they’ll be looking fresh and green in no time at all.

    I hope that is helpful to you too, Amanda.

    Good Luck!

  35. John says:

    I purchased a yew tree (about 1.5m tall) in a pot last november with the intention of putting it into a large planter. I left it in it’s original pot and it was fine until the spring, when it started going bronze, yellow, on one side. I thought that it might not be getting enough water, so I gave it plenty- The original pot was well drained – so it did not get waterlogged, or that that side might have been scorched by the sun. It continued then to go completely yellow. I am not sure if it is now dead, or whether it will come back to life if I repot it into the bigger planter. Should I cut it back or do anything other than continue to water it?

    1. julian says:

      Hi John
      Yew can change colour when it is stressed (and look completely dead and then come back to life). However, if it is discoloured on only one side I would think that the cause is external and on the side that is suffering. Too much heat, not enough light or dogs urinating on one side of the plant are the most likely causes I can think of – the last does in more newly planted yew hedges than people realise.

      Repot by all means – it will give you a chance to look at the the roots. If there is plenty of white root (sometimes pink in the case of yew) then you plant is alive and should survive. If the roots are brown and smell a bit then your plant is in trouble. Try to give it a boost with a foliar feed (Miracle Grow/Phostogen/Baby Bio are all good. If you can get the plant into the ground it is more likely to survive – yew are really susceptible to variable watering.

      Good luck

  36. Hobosic says:

    I think you have the best all round online nursery site I have found. Love the information you have on plant diseases and conditions – so useful and you have really helped with reasons why my yew hedge is dying and what I can do about it. Keep it going!

  37. Jane says:

    Dear Julian
    I would like to thank you for the advice given to me at the end of last year regarding a client with some Yew hedging plants (not supplied by you).

    I planted them in April 2008 and when I left the client to it after finishing the project in June, they seemed to have been growing very well, the next time I saw my client, after an appalling summer, she said that they appeared to be dying. Her gardener said that they would all die and should all be replaced.

    After a lot of research – and stress! I phoned you, you very kindly looked at photographs of them, and suggested that the problem could be bronzing and maybe it would be better to leave all the yew plants where they were for a year and see what happened. I am very pleased and thankful to you as most of the plants seem to have recovered and taken off! My client now has the beginnings of a really good yew hedge. Thank you so much. (By the way – For the same client, I also bought over 100m of native hedging from you which are looking really good and healthy! Thank you again!)

    Jane Hicks

  38. James says:

    Sorry to bother you but i have been reading the advice and questions you have been answering on your site.
    We have lots of very old yew hedging 50-100 years+ and we have some kind of problem. We started to get lots of tips that had bleached out and then go brown.
    We thought it was drought and needing a feed so we fed and watered as much as possible. We also pruned off and bad bits, but its now starting to get more.
    We are desperate for some help.

    It would be great if you would like to come out to see the problem, the hedges are a huge feature of the garden and we really need someone with your knowledge to come tell us whats wrong. We would be happy to pay you a consultancy fee and travel expenses. We are in Dorset at SP11.

    Many thanks


  39. julian says:

    Hi James

    I will help as best I can, but I am afraid that we do not provide a consultancy service, and we do not have the facilities to always identify plant physiological problems accurately.

    If the problem only started recently I would be inclined to leave it be for another year. 2009 was a terrible growing year for yew – much too wet and yew hedges all over the country were showing signs of stress. Equally, the very late frosts in the spring of 2010 have done real damage to new growth, but if that is part of the problem, fresh shoots will show in the next few weeks.

    If you are a member of the RHS, or if you know a member, or failing that, if you join, they provide a (free I think) service to members where you send samples of the plant you are worried about to their labs at Wisley, and they will diagnose the problem. Their scientists are the best in the business for this kind of thing.

    Hope this helps


  40. Mandy says:

    Dear Julian
    Having seen your the comments made to other people about dying yew bushes I thought I would ask your advice about ours. We ordered some yew bushes(not from your company) and they came in the New Year. My husband duly followed all the instructions given about planting, making sure that they were not waterlogged and giving proper nourishment to the new plants. All went well until a few months later when some of the shrubs started to show signs of brown branches. Out of 15 shrubs we have about 6 affected to varying extents…some are completly brown,some half brown and slightly brown.

    We contacted the supplier who insisted that the problem was connected with watering and advised my husband to water them well and cut back all the brown branches. My husband pointed out that all the shrubs had been watered in the same way so how could it be that some were thriving and some were dying? They did not seem to have an answer to this.

    We have been given such a lot of different advice….some people have said dig up the dead shrubs and replace them, some say just cut the branches back and they will resprout. We are totally confused as to what to do. Please could you help as you seem to have suggested to some people that Yew is very robust and will grow back healthily with a foliar feed.

    I am sending you some photos of our plants to see whether you can advise us. Also,could you tell me whether it is better to hose the plants with water or just water them with a watering can….. we do not want to make them waterlogged but of course realise that they need a lot of water in this hot weather.

    Thanks very much

  41. Julian says:

    Hi Mandy
    Thanks for your email.

    They look pretty dead. The certain way to find out is to scrape a bit of bark off a branch with a fingernail (start near the tip of the branch). If it is green underneath, the branch is still alive so leave the plant alone and wait for it to recover. If it is not green, repeat the process but closer to the trunk. If it is brown all the way to the trunk, the branch is dead. If so, scrape the trunk and you can diagnose accordingly.

    If they are dead, then whoever you bought from ought to replace them (as we do if plants we supply die).

    As for watering. I would use a hose to water and completely soak the plants. Then LEAVE them alone and do not water until the top 2cms of soil is DRY. That way they will not drown.

    Good luck

  42. Angela says:

    Hello Julian
    I’ve just found this useful website and wonder if you could answer a question please.

    A neighbour has a yew tree which is estimated to be between 100/150 years old. It is situated close to a shared driveway which is made of concrete. The owner of the tree has begun construction of another driveway on the other side of the tree, leaving the tree in a sort of island with new concrete and limestone aggregate right up to its base.

    It would seem that because of an application regarding the tree, the council has now reported that the roots have been damaged by compaction; the limestone aggregate which is poisonous and many roots have been severed. The tree is looking very poorly. It has many dead or yellowing branches, and is showing no new growth from the tips of its branches.

    What are the chances of its recovery? We are concerned because this large tree is only about 15 – 18 feet from our property and we would not like it to cause damage to that or our car and driveway.

    Any help you can give would be appreciated. Thank you

  43. julian says:

    Thanks for your email.

    What a waste of a healthy yew tree. From your description I doubt there is much chance for it. It has lost access to rainwater, has suffered severe root damage and been poisoned.

    I hope it falls on your neighbours new car….


  44. Martina says:

    Hi Julian
    I inherited a boxed yew hedge when I purchased my house in north west London. For the first year I was very neglectful of it (i thought the English weather would take care of irrigating the hedge). After a year of watering it only every month or so (!), it had gone very bronzed and dry. So I decided to pull up my socks and take better care of it before the whole thing died.

    Out of 9 original plants, I lost 2. But once I started tending to them, 5 of them have reacted very well. Since last 9 months of trimming, twice weekly watering and foliar and root feeding, they are fuller greener and healthy looking. Two of them are, however, looking worse and worse with every passing month, while the others thrive from my TLC.

    I’ve replaced the top soil with composed, i’ve fed the roots, fed the foliage and now i am at my wits end. I’ve grown very attached to them and it will brake my heart if I’ve killed them (and be a very ugly entrance way, indeed).

    At almost 2 meters in height, they are not the kind of plant that i could excavate and treat the roots directly.

    Also (while I have your ear) in amongst the green thriving foliage of the healthier yew are individual branches that are completely bronzed and dry. Sparse bits, but also worrying.

    Do you have any suggestions?

    I would be happy to send you photos if it would help!
    thanks for your time

  45. Peter Holt says:


    On the Eastern boundary of my property, and therefore facing West, there are three or four very well established leylandii – which have been well looked after. Nevertheless their roots are causing a real problem for my stone tiled drive.

    Parallel and very close to them – say about a metre – on my neighbours side is a well established yew hedge – this by definition faces East. In spite of its proximity to the leylandii it is very healthy.

    We are considering taking down the leylandii – with our neighbours approval!! Our main consideration is that their removal is bound to leave a nasty looking bare patch since the yew, on its western side, has been obliterated by the leylandii. Do you think that the yew will be capable of recovery to provide the lovely green healthy cover it plainl;y gives to my neighbour and if so over what time frame. Plainly it will be facing in the right direction.

    Kind regards

    Peter Holt

    1. Edward says:

      Hello Peter,

      The answer is yes, absolutely, go for it, Yew is unusual for a conifer in that it will readily sprout new shoots from old wood.

      Time frame depends on several things, but I’d expect that the bare side will be covered in green sprouts within a year and these will turn into branches – they’ll get there. I reckon it’ll be looking pretty good within 3-4 years.

      If you use a nitrogen rich feed in spring & then mulch around the hedge with some good old manure (spread it out around the hedge but leave about 6 inches between the mulch & the stems of the yew) you’ll help it along.



  46. Anna says:

    Hello Julian,
    I have read with great interest your advice on Yew.
    I also have inherited a huge (3m high) square Yew hedge. Currently I am in the process of proposing a small ground floor level extension on our house which will run parallel with the hedge. It grows very close to the house and I am desperate to keep it. Three main tree roots might be affected by building work. Could you advise at to how best approach the hedge/building project – what steps I can take to best look after the roots?
    I appreciate that no building work would be ideal but I would really value your opinion.
    Many thanks.

    1. julian says:

      Hi Anna,

      It sounds to me like you have made your mind up!

      The only thing I can suggest is to dig the foundation pit, inspect the roots that have been cut and tidy them up with a small saw if necessary, using some pruning paint won’t hurt either.

      Apart from that, get stuck in. Your mature plants are unlikely to be bothered, but if the new building blocks the prevailing wind, it will also block a lot of rain fall.

      Your hedge may need watering in hot summers for a couple of years if this is the case, to let the roots recover.

      Have fun,


  47. Su Handley says:

    Hi Julian

    I have been reading your advice on the website regarding sick trees, and hoped that you might be able to help me too.

    We recently moved house and have inherited a yew hedge comprising approximately 25 plants, which has been trimmed to about 6ft high and 2ft wide. It looks as though the trunks are about 2 – 3 inches in diameter.

    Unfortunately, we need to extend our drive to the house and the hedge is in the way. We would love to transplant all of the hedge, but it is probably not going to be possible and we may have dispose of some of the plants. However, what I would really appreciate your help with is:

    1. What size roots we might be dealing with here?
    2. Do we need to do anything to prepare them for replanting? and
    3. What is the best way to transport them, if necessary?

    I would be really grateful for any assistance you might be able to give.

    Su Handley

  48. julian says:

    Hi Su

    Thanks for your enquiry about your yew hedge plants.

    If you need to extend your drive in the next 4-6 weeks, then use the mini-digger that will inevitably be needed for the drive and scoop out the yew that have to be moved with as big a rootball as the digger can handle. Yew is tough, and they just might survive.

    If the drive extension can wait until next year, then dig a semi circular trench around each yew plant that needs to me moved. Make it at least 30 cms deep and keep it close to the trunk of the plant – about 25-30 cms away. Cleanly cut every yew root in the trench and then fill the trench with good soil. The roots will regenerate over the summer and in the autumn you will be able to lift the plants with much more root attached and so with a better chance of survival.

    Yew roots are tough old things. Some will have nearly the same diameter as the trunks of the trees, and they can go very deep.

    If you can’t plant them straight away in their intended destination, then put them in a trench and surround the rootballs with good earth, peat or course sawdust. If they are going to survive they can stay there almost indefinitely.

    Yew rootballs are very heavy – the size of plant you are talking about will be a two man lift (i.e use a barrow or a mini digger or similar).

    A word about value – a well grwon yew hedge plant, as a rootball which is 2 metres tall and well shaped is worth about £100. Don’t throw them away lightly.

    Hope this helps


  49. Hannah says:

    Hi Julian
    I have a large Yew Tree over my drive, this year I have noticed lots of ends of branches (10-15cms) snapped off on the drive. Most of these look like the cut has been diagonal. There is no sign of browning on the tree and this has not happened in previous years.
    Do you have any idea what could be doing this to the Yew and why? I have not noticed any unusual birds or animals, the field fares were on the tree over Christmas but have now gone.

    1. Edward says:

      No idea. Sounds like a phantom hedge trimmer!

  50. Hannah says:

    I now know the culprit, a grey squirrel – he bites off the ends and eats some and drops the rest

  51. Sid says:

    We planted a 4m Yew hedge Feb 2010 consisting of 85 trees.
    In Sept 2010 we replaced 8 which appeared to be dead. The roots were very dry. The site is next to a farmer’s field and is exposed to the prevailing winds. We put in a drip feed irrigation system and covered the roots with bark mulch.
    58 of the trees including the replacements are now ok. 12 appear to be dead closer to the trunk but still green on the outside. 4 are mostly brown throughout and look thin. 11 have green innres but bronzed and brown pathcy outers. Other 2.5m tres planted elsewhere on the site are looking very healthy. Help!

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Sid, dryness and competition from weeds are the main killers of new trees, so those first 8 almost certainly died from it.

      As for the bronzing, this may take some months to right itself. How tall are the yew plants? The taller they are, the more the wind will push them about and give their roots trouble, which makes the bronzing worse.

      Inspect the worst looking plants to see if they need firming back down into the soil and support with a stake.

  52. Sid says:

    Thanks Edward, the plants are 4m high. Sounds like the bronzing is not too serious but there are 12 which look dead towards the trunk but still green on the outer branches. How long would you advise leaving them before replacing? I’m aware that we’re at the end of the transplant season & customer is concerned!

    1. Edward says:

      You can transplant a young tree anytime of the year – March is just the end of the bareroot planting season, pot-grown Yew are available all year round.
      Best thing to do is wait. If their stems are clearly brittle and dead in summer with no new growth at all by August, you can either replace them them then or wait a few weeks for next season.

  53. Julia says:


    I have a problem with my Yew not mentioned by anyone else. The Yew trees are old more than 10 years but kept trimmed, I am in France. They have always been healthy but I have just noticed that one or two have a problem with the old leaves, they have turned black and crumble when rubbed. The new growth is lovely but I am cautious about trimming them. These Yes are used to extremes in weather but there has been a lack of rain throughout the winter and we are now in drought conditions. I do water but only once a fortnight. Your help would be much appreciated.

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Julia,

      You don’t need to water them so much. Once a month would be fine if there was no rain at all. Your plants are well established now and their roots can pretty much look after themselves.
      It sounds to me like those are just dead leaves. They don’t last forever.
      As for trimming, how big is the hedge now? Is it full size?

  54. Lisa says:

    Please help. I’ve recently planted 40 x 1.75m yew plants to form a hedge. I have just discovered that a number of the plants have Yew scale. Being an amateur at this I haddn’t recognised the tell tale sooty black mold – just thought that they were dirty! What can I do to try and save the hedge please. (should point out that these black plants did not come from yourselves). Thanks!

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Lisa,

      If you have the labour force to do it, go round by hand and scrape off the adults wherever you see them. There’s no need to kill them, they can’t move, but some will have eggs under their shields, so it’s best to collect them in a bag and throw them away afterwards.
      That will help, but you need to spray Provado systemic insecticide to get them all. It kills both the adults and the immature scale bugs, which crawl around like normal aphids and are harder to spot.
      It won’t be cheap to spray so many plants. You need a windless day and and a good sprayer will help alot – borrow or rent one.


  55. prissypie says:

    Thanks to all for your help but my neighbor figgered out my problem. Seem by Bonny husband gets up in the middle of the night and takes a leak in the yard on my Yews.

    1. Edward says:

      The murderous midnight micturition.

  56. Carole says:

    Having read all the problems, ours doesn’t seem to appear!
    A 9 year old yew hedge has suddenly developed two plants where the leaves on one side have a coating of what looks like green alga(?) and then drop. It is happening about half way up a one and half metre high bush on the shady side. We have had dry spring then wet summer and our soil is clay with flints. Would nitrogen rich fertilizer and foliar feed help, or should I look for root problems?
    I would be so pleased if you could help

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Carole,

      Sorry we can’t help on this one, if you could send me some photos at [email protected] we might have some idea.
      It’s too late for a feed to help those leaves and it does sound as though shade & humdity could be the cause here – has the hedge been sprayed with water sprinklers? Is it underneath a tree?

  57. sharon says:

    Hi Edward
    I’ve been trying to find an answer to a problem similar to Lisa (on May 11th), but I don’t know if my hedge has scale insect. My hedge surronds my front garden and goes down the side of my houst and is about 1.5 metres high. I noticed small white miniscule ‘grains’ or rice on the majority of the leaves as well as almost completely covering the bark. There are a few brown ones on a small % of the leaves. Last year I sprayed the whole hedge with Provado Ultimate bug killer a few times as per the instructions. The white bugs weren’t removed from the leaves but the turned to powder when I scaped them with my finger. However my front hedge lost all it’s leaves in one part and I now think this is dead as it hasn’t recovered this year. The white bugs are still there so it all looks terrible. I check it regularly and now the bugs have come back as they are stain orange when squashed. Is there anything else I can do or use that might get rid of them for good?

    1. Edward says:

      Hi Sharon,
      Could you send me some photos, please?
      [email protected]

  58. cheryl taylor says:

    Hi I have a yew tree 20yrs started yellowing leavea can you please help never had this before conditions for tree have not changed thank you.

  59. Jon Jefferies says:

    Hello Julian… I wonder if you can advise me please. I have just cut back a large yew hedge, reducing its height and width considerably. It’s now naked (no green). There are large areas of very dry brittle twigs. I assume these are dead but I’m reluctant to remove them as they give shape to the hedge. Do you think new healthy growth would replace these twigs if I remove them?

    1. julian says:

      Hi Jon
      The usual way to reduce the height and width of a yew hedge is to do it in three stages over three years.
      In year 1 you cut one side back pretty much to the main trunk in the middle of each yew.
      In year 2 you cut the top off to the height you want to reduce the yew hedge to.
      In year 3 you cut the other side back as you did side 1 in year 1.

      This gives each part of the hedge a change to start to regrow before you chop more off. It also means that your yew hedge is never “not green”.

      I am not sure if this is what you have started to do or not. If you have taken all the greenery off, I am afraid you will have set the plants back quite a bit as all plant life, (yew included) needs foliage to breathe, photosynthesise and so create the materials that allow it to grow.

      Taxus is as tough as old boots, so I doubt you will have killed your yew hedge, but I would advise against taking any more off it until it has a coat of green again. Then give it another year to fully recover and adjust its shape as I have outlined above.

      Good Luck


  60. Scarlett Ellyson says:

    Interesting reason. I prefer to see clearly.

  61. Anonymous says:

    Hello i have a row of upright yew that are about 30 years old. i notice that one or two of them are turning brown and look to be dying. the ground is we drained, is there a chance it could be spider mite or another insect. thank you and looking foreword to your advice.

    1. Edward says:

      Yew will occasionally shed its leaves in one go, usually this has to do with the weather. To check if it is actually dying, scratch the back on a few of the stems that are losing their leaves. If the inner layer is green and moist, there should be nothing wrong. If the stems are drying and brown inside, this indicates that something is wrong.

      Spider mites are easy to detect: you can look for their webs and eggs, which are ruddy-brown: these should both be obvious if the attack is a bad one. You can also hold a large sheet of white card under an affected branch and shake the branch up and down – the tiny spider mites will be visible on the white surface, crawling slowly about.

      Let me know what you find.

  62. Catherine says:

    Hi Julian, I was so relieved to find your website while I was searching for why my 2 meter yew tree, planted only 2 months ago is losing all its lower leaves and branches. I feel I may have overwatered it as I was watering it heavily till I noticed the problem one week ago and since have not watered it at all. I read that you advise that watering once a month is sufficient. It was planted as a focal point in a border and has bark mulch at its base. It was quiet an expensive tee and I hope you can advise me Julian why its losing all its lower branches and leaves and what action I must take.

    1. julian says:

      Sorry to hear you have a problem with your yew. I know how expensive a 2 metre specimen can be. Without more information it is hard to diagnose, but I would suspect over watering. That can only happen if you are on clay soil that drains badly. If that is the case, stop watering and let the ground dry out so air can get in to it so the roots can breath. Assuming there has not been too much damage done, you should see your yew perk up a bit. Then water well once a month except when there has been heavy rain.

      I hope this helps

  63. Catherine says:

    Thank you Julian. Your advice is much appreciated.

  64. Angela says:

    In July 2010, I sent you the following email:-

    Hello Julian
    I’ve just found this useful website and wonder if you could answer a question please.

    A neighbour has a yew tree which is estimated to be between 100/150 years old. It is situated close to a shared driveway which is made of concrete. The owner of the tree has begun construction of another driveway on the other side of the tree, leaving the tree in a sort of island with new concrete and limestone aggregate right up to its base.

    It would seem that because of an application regarding the tree, the council has now reported that the roots have been damaged by compaction; the limestone aggregate which is poisonous and many roots have been severed. The tree is looking very poorly. It has many dead or yellowing branches, and is showing no new growth from the tips of its branches.

    What are the chances of its recovery? We are concerned because this large tree is only about 15 – 18 feet from our property and we would not like it to cause damage to that or our car and driveway.

    Any help you can give would be appreciated. Thank you

    You replied that there wasn’t much hope for the tree.
    This is now the third summer that the yew tree hasn’t produced any new growth, although it still had berries on last Autumn. Many needles and small twigs are falling down and there are some bare branches on the south side of the tree. There is another yew tree in our road that is a nice healthy green, but the one near us is a lighter green with parts that are looking yellow. There are many bare branches in the middle of the tree. There are some small sprigs of new growth emerging from the trunk of the tree, but we’re guessing this may be because there is still some moisture in the trunk. Do you think that’s the reason, and why did the tree still produce berries last Autumn when there had been no new growth? How long would our new neighbours (who now have responsibility for the tree) have to wait before they could bring the tree (which has a TPO on it) to the attention of the local council?

    1. julian says:

      I am sorry the yew is suffering so much. The small sprigs of growth from the trunk are not from moisture on the trunk but are its attempts to put out new foliage, driven by root activity.

      It sounds as if it might survive, but yew grows and regenerates slowly, so it would be many years before it would look good again always assuming there is enough moisture and nutrient in the ground where it is growing. If it were mine, I would get a tree surgeon to look at it to see how it could be pruned back to encourage new growth.

      As for the TPO and the council, it sounds to me as is your neighbours have contributed to the sorry state of the tree, so they may not want to bring it to the council’s attention, but the answer to your question is “whenever they like”

  65. Angela says:

    Thank you for your interesting reply Julian. Do you know why this tree continues to produce berries, even though it’s shown no new growth for three years?

    It’s not our current neighbours who’ve caused damage to the yew, but the previous neighbour. The council were aware of the situation.

    1. julian says:

      Your yew tree is producing fruit because it is not dead. Even trees that are sickly (and it may still pull through) will produce fruit if they can. The urge to reproduce is strong. I have looked at your photos and my advise about a tree surgeon stands. There is no reason I can see why, with sensible pruning, this tree will not survive and look good again.

  66. Bethany says:

    Hello Julian,

    I found this site while searching for answers on why one of my newly planted spreading yews appears to be dying. I live in the US and I don’t know if that makes a difference. I will email you with a couple of photos so you can see what is happening to one of them. It is planted right next to an identical yew and that one is doing just fine. The soil is clay. After reading other comments, I may have overwatered them during this drought we’re having here. But wouldn’t both yews look stressed if that was the case? I have a couple other spreading yews on the other side of the house and they are going on 5 years old. Both are thriving in the same soil. Any suggestions to help save this evergreen? Once you see the photos, could you let me know if it’s too late? Thank you!

    1. julian says:

      Yew hedging and trees are susceptible to bad drainage when planted. This can be extremely local as the porosity of clay can vary in the space of a few inches. Also, newly planted yew can brown alarmingly and then recover. My inclination would be to leave it alone for a few more weeks and see if any new growth appears before pulling it out.


  67. Angela says:

    Thanks for the helpful advice Julian.

  68. Bethany says:

    Hi Julian,

    I may have overlooked your email if you had sent a response. An update to the yews in the photos I sent you. The one that looked like it was dying is completely brown and dry now. But the other seemingly healthy one is also starting to turn brown. Are they completely lost if they turn all brown? Or should I wait until next spring to see if they come back?

    1. julian says:

      If a yew hedging plant is completely brown at this time of year I would judge it dead. If another yew is turning brown I would suspect something underground. The obvious possibilities that will kill yew plants are overwatering (which drowns them and which may cause root rot) or underwatering (they die of thirst). 9 times out of 10 the problem is too much water. I would dig up the obviously dead yew plant and take a look at its roots and the hole it was in. If the roots are mushy and the ground is wet, then the problem was too much water. If they are brittle and snap easily then it was too little. Adjust your treatment of the one next door accordingly – it might pull through.

      Good luck

  69. laurie says:

    We have a yew tree which is at least 100/150 years old.It has gone brown but has little green shoots on all the brown branches.Do you think it will recover.Should we cut some of it back?

    1. julian says:

      Hard to tell without a picture, but a lot of yew has gone brown this summer because the ground has been so wet. New shoots are a good sign, so I would be inclined to leave it alone for at least another year.

      Good luck

  70. Les Jervis says:

    I moved into a new house in February this year and planted a yew hedge. Never having grown yew before, I looked around the local gardens and saw quite a few so I assumed a hedge would do well. The ground was under lawn so I cut a trench and planted rooted 4 foot specimens with their roots covered in compost wrapped with netting. The supplier said not to remove the netting or feed them after planting and to go sparingly on the watering. Unfortunately, the summer has been terrible – very wet and cool. The ground is loam down to about a foot then solid clay. When the plants started going bronze, I gave them a couple of feeds with seaweed extract without any visible improvement. I’ve just come back after two weeks away and the plants look in poor condition but all have green bits amongst the bronze. I’m digging the whole lot up and finding standing water under them. I’m cleaning off the roots and potting them in John Innes No 2 with added grit. I should have done this sooner – am I too late? Is there any hope of the roots regenerating over the autumn/winter? You recommend foliar feed, I’ve found seaweed good with other plants but would you recommend anything else? Would you add bone meal to encourage root growth?

    1. julian says:

      Thanks for your yew hedging enquiry. Sorry for the delay replying.

      I think you have answered most of the questions yourself. Yew hedge plants hate to be planted in standing water. Once established they will push their roots into very wet soil, but they do need to be established first. If you have taken no action yet, my inclination would be to dig them up carefully in late November/early December, fill in the trenches they were in to the level of the top of the clay and then replant your yew so the rootballs are higher than they were and above the level of the clay. If the tops of the rootballs are above ground level, then mound the planting soil up, so it looks as if they are in ridges. They should then be fine.

      Good luck

  71. Les Jervis says:

    Thanks for your reply. I dug up the yews in late September and re-potted them in John Innes No 2 with added grit after cleaning off the obviously sour soil. Most of them seem to have surface roots but little else. They are bronze in colour so obviously stressed. I’ll keep my fingers crossed but my wife thinks they are beyond hope. I’ll let you now if they start producing new leaf next Spring but do you think they will be busy producing new root now? The soil is still pretty warm but I’m worried about cold weather now that the plants are totally above ground in pots.

    1. julian says:

      Your yew do not sound hugely hopeful I have to be honest. However:

      1. Yew is incredibly hardy so your plants are unlikely to suffer root death. To be sure however, I would top the pots up with peat or more John Innes just so there is a layer of insulation over the roots.
      2. When they are starting back into growth I would suggest you try watering them with plain water containing Tate & Lyle granulated white sugar mixed in at 30 grams per litre. Give them this treatment once a month (watering at other times with normal water). Don’t soak them, but keep them moist.

      Good luck

  72. Les Jervis says:

    Thanks. I’ve never heard of the sugar treatment. I’ll wait until there are signs of life and try it.

  73. Dan Collins says:

    I have been asked to move 4 established topiary yew “balls” about 5 foot in height. They do not require moving a long distance. I estimate they are 50+ years in age. I would like to know the best time of year to attempt this and also any special precautions you may advise. Many thanks

  74. Darren says:

    Hi Dan,

    The best way is most likely be to prune the roots over a couple of growing seasons while they’re still in their current position.

    Imagine creating a defined, fibrous root ball beneath each plant, which you can then lift and transplant. But it’s no quick fix.

    Personally we’d suggest bringing in professionals to do the job – it probably needs a site visit, for example, to assess exactly the right way of doing it.

    There are companies that could help with this – for example, Bartletts ( might be a good choice.

    Good luck with it – all the best.

  75. Patricia says:

    We have a six-foot east-facing yew hedge in a raised bed at the top of a slope, 3 feet from the house foundation. I don’t know how old the plants are, but they were this large when we bought the house 35 years ago, and we have never had trouble with them. Over the winter I noticed that the two plants on the south side were browning at the tips and the front of the hedge seems to be thinning out. Our summers are always hot (Missouri), but last summer we had a severe drought as well. If you think that dryness might be the cause of these stressed-looking plants, what can I do to help them? The drought has broken, but the plants aren’t looking better. Thanks.

  76. Darren says:

    Hi Patricia,

    From what you’ve described the drought would seem to be the cause. However, it’s worth me saying that it’s quite difficult to comment on how yew should behave in a climate that’s quite different to the UK.

    But there are a few steps that you probably should take.

    First, do give it water – the raised bed should help prevent it getting too wet, but don’t overwater.

    I don’t know how dry the ground gets, but if the roots have dried completely, they just won’t come back. Some kind of irrigation (like a porous hose system) will bring consistency to the root environment, especially if your climate is often hot and dry.

    Second, just give it some time. It’s a well-established hedge, and even though the drought may have hurt it, you might find that spring brings it back to health naturally.

    I hope that helps – but as I mentioned, do bear in mind that we don’t know Missouri! 🙂 A local nursery or farmer might give you some good advice from their own experience.

    Good luck!

  77. Patricia says:

    Thank you — we’ve now gone from drought to deluge, so I’m hoping the recent spring storms will do the trick.

  78. Phillip says:


    Your generous comments on this site are very informative, so thank you.

    We have a 2.5m high 10m long Yew hedge separating our garden with the next door garden. After removing some very overgrown bamboo 18 months ago, we found a 3m stretch which has no foliage and dead wood. The other side of the same trees are growing well and are full of life. I hoped it would come back to life on its own, but there has been no growth.

    Please would you give some advice on getting some grown going. I have cut back some of the dead wood, but otherwise just let nature take its course (or not, as the case may be).

    Thank you in advance.

    Kind regards

  79. Darren says:

    Fingers crossed Patricia, really hope they come back strong for you.

  80. Les Jervis says:

    Just an update to let you know how my yews are getting on. After a very cold winter following the sodden year we had last year, I had pretty well given up on them. Wonder of wonders, all of them, even the worst, are showing signs of life. I potted them into John Innes No 2 last September and they have all put out new roots over the winter. The foliage is returning to green and I hope that in a couple of months I’ll be able to get them back in the ground – if the rain holds off. I’ve not yet tried the sugar treatment but I intend to do so in about a month. I’ll let you know how they go on, but you were absolutely right about yews being tough trees!
    Regards and Many Thanks for the advice and for running the website.
    Les J

  81. Nicki says:

    Please advise. Planted 21 bare root Yews (not from you) (about 18 inches each) on Good Friday. They arrived on the wed and i planted them to the letter of the instructions that came with them 2 days later. Dug trench, removed all weeds, soaked the roots in water, bit of bonemeal, dug in new compost with the old and then mulched. I watered them in and then didn’t water for a week and gave them a good watering and then didn’t water for 10 days as we had heavy rain. Have checked soil and it is moist but not water logged or anything (not clay soil) although i don’t know what soil it is. Anyway (getting there) sorry – they have dry brown bits on almost all of them at the ends now. I cut all of that off yesterday but does this mean they are dying. Can’t believe i,m so worried about a hedge! Any advic please. Thanks so much in anticipation. Brilliant web site!

  82. Mandy Allen says:

    I have exactly the same problem as the previous comment! Dates/timescales are pretty much identical. I’m just hoping the hedge will be ok.

  83. Ian Gill says:

    last yesr in October I bought around 30 yew trees around 30 inches high (not from yourself). when they arrived the leaves were brown and the roots looked “potted”. I planted the trees in November after following the instructions on gardners world web site and making the site well drained with sharp sand and with a manure base. The leaves are still brown and some are turning a white colour – are they dead?

    1. julian says:

      Thanks for your email. If you send a couple of in focus pictures to [email protected] together with the note above we will see if we can help further.

      However, from what you say it sounds as if they were not too happy when they arrived (we would not send out yew with brown leaves). If the roots were brown as well, then the plants had suffered at least some root death which will not have helped. Almost all potted plants can suffer root death if they are either overwatered or frozen hard and suddenly.

      My second concern is that you say that you improved the drainage when you planted them. If you are on soil that does not drain (heavy clay for example) then that will only have made matters worse as the planting trench or holes will simply hold more water to drown the roots with…. if you soil drains anyway then no harm has been done.

      Having said all of which I would do two things.

      1. Let whoever you bought the plants from know that you have a problem. They should be helpful (we would be). If they are not, then let the world know….
      2. Sit and wait. Don’t overwater. Yew is tough and recovers when all seems lost. Like many evergreens it drops its leaves when it is feeling stressed, it then gathers its strength and tries to regrow. So give it time and do not give up on your plants until at least late August.

      Hope this helps – let us know how you get on.

      Good luck


  84. Richard Eade says:

    Hi, I wonder if you can help me with this….a customer of mine has a 35 foot Irish Yew (pic sent to support, subject Irish Yew) just by the corner of their house and they are asking if it can be cut back away from the house. It’s not slim – easily 15 feet wide – but retains it’s columnar habit. Can I get away with cutting the lowest ring of branches off? It would ruin it’s form, but it’s either that or try and reduce the whole crown inwards by several feet, which would be tricky to get right and looking good. Also is it likely to grow much more and how fast? Cheers, Richard

    1. Best thing is to email a picture and your query to support(at)

  85. Nicola says:

    Hi, I planted a bare rooted yew hedge 50 metres long about two yrs ago. I dug holes into the clay. It was followed by a long spell of cold drying easterly winds which caused all of the yews to brown, over time most have recovered and are now growing away well. However, the middle section was still struggling. I dug one of the plants up and could see it was sitting in water ( our soil is clay ) I was hoping to have one long hedge but do not want to waste money buying more plants if they are likely to fail

    If I plant them in a raised mound would the roots not just grow down into the waterlogged soil and eventually die

    I am on a very windy site, should I go for young plants as they are more likely to succeed. I have also read on another site that the yews should be planted 60 cm apart to prevent it going bare at the bottom. If I have to buy small plants the hedge is going to look very sparse for a long time!

    My other option is to give up on yew and plant something else, would holly be more appropriate as I would like it evergreen

    Any advise appreciated, wish I had found this website before I planted my hedge!

    1. Hi Nicola

      I have to be honest and say that there is not much I can to the original post. Yew is hard to establish in waterlogged soil. Planting into holes in clay is unlikely to succeed as you have found out. Once the roots have escaped into the clay and are established there, the problem diminishes but you have to get them going first.

      Small plants, ideally barerooted in November/December. DO NOT IMPROVE the soil. Plant into the clay and firm the clay well around the roots so as little water as possible is trapped. They will struggle for a year or so and then start growing away and you should be OK.

      Next time – try to sort the drainage out before you plant if you can as very few things like being planted in a hole that does not drain.

  86. laurie barnett says:

    Hi, any idea why my well established yew tree is constantly bleeding black sap from a deep crevice in the bark about 1m above ground level?


    1. Not without more information I am afraid. If you can email a good picture to support(at) we will take a look.

  87. Jane Allen says:

    Could you give me any advice for Yews that have Yew Big Bug mite. I have taken 2 out with very distorted foliage and cut the others back hard. I am not aware of any product that I can use to prevent or curse this mite. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. The hedges are 3 years old. They were 2 meter high root balled specimens.

    Many thanks Jane

  88. Wendy barratt says:

    Hi Julian. I have been impressed by all of your advice. I have two old English yew trees and two Irish yew trees. One of the Irish treesturned brown on one side last year and is now only green on one side, I think it is dying. In the last month my old 50 year tree has started turning yellow and some leaves are now brown and falling off. I really don’t want to lose this tree, is there anything I can do? I can’t see any pests on it. Many thanks.

    1. Catherine Young says:

      Hi Wendy
      Happy to help, please send some photographs of your yew to [email protected] and we will add you to our mailing list and answer as best we can

  89. Patricia Mundy says:

    I bought 8 80/100 yew plants in May but they were not very even in shape or size so after planting as instructed I trimmed the many long shoots to give similar shapes and they looked a bit like thin Christmas trees. They have had new growth and I did not cut the top of them so they are still different heights. I also planted them 18 inches apart and think a bit to close so can I replant them again wider apart? Also with one yew near a neighbours border a spray weed killer was used on their weeds and now this one has lost its lush look and looks very dull and will it recover?
    23rd August 2014.
    Thank you Patricia Mundy

  90. Patricia Mundy says:

    August 23rd 2014
    Can I replant my 8 80/100 yew plants planted in May 18 inches apart to 30 inches apart without harming them. Also one yew plant near a neighbours border killed their weeds with spray weed killer and it has now lost its lush look and looks very dull. Will it recover?
    Thank you.
    Patricia Mundy.

    1. Julian says:

      I cannot find your details on our database so I presume you bought these elsehwere.

      So if you send pictures to our support desk support(at) along with your name and address details so we can add you to our mailing list, they will be delighted to advise.


  91. Paul Reading says:

    My father has planted about 50 yew plants in October 14. The winter was very wet and in the spring he dug them up because they showed signs of stress owing to water coursing through the ground. He replanted them above the ground in a “bund”. Most of the trees fruited but now about ½ the trees are looking dead on the outside and dark green in the middle. Some have lost off their needles on the higher branches and some are browing right to the middle.

    Should I cut back the dead/brown braces and just leave the green bits, this will ½ the size of some trees. Will they recover from he brown bits? What do I do about the trees that has lost all its lease at the top, do I cut that back as well? I would be grateful of any advice.

    1. Julian says:

      To be honest it sounds as if they were planted in an unsuitable place and were then moved. Both of these things will have set them back and weakened them, and I would be really surprised if you did not lose a fair proportion as a result.

      Having said which, it is probably best to leave them alone for the time being. I would wait for the spring. By the end of May you should see some new growth appearing from living wood. On dead wood, and dead plants the foliage that was green will fade in colour. If it becomes brittle it is dead. If the foliage is bronze but soft, it is alive.

      That will give you an idea of what to cut out and what to leave. I would err on the side of caution when pruning as yew is very tough indeed and can recover from the most awful treatment.

      When you have established which plants are alive and which are dead, get rid of the dead ones, roots and all. Replace them in the autumn. The survivors can be cut back as hard as you like once they are established. I would not recommend it, but if you cut them down to the ground, they would regrow.

      Hope this helps

  92. Fiona says:

    Hi, I have been following the above chats with great interest and hope I may seek some advice. Our yew tree hedge, planted approximately 5 years ago and comprising around half a dozen trees, has just been “hacked back”, for want of a better expression, on one side to enable removal/replanting. Where healthy branches once grew we now have short exposed stubs, with a great deal of the cutting having taken place towards the bottom of the trees, and we are worried they may be past salvaging.

    My primary concern is their survival as if it’s unlikely we may have to rethink the replanting. If I am worrying unnecessarily and survival is likely, how best are we to manage the removal/replanting process as we need some building work done to create the new planter area before they can be replanted and this is likely to take around 6 weeks. Should the trees be stored in soil-filled sacks in the meantime?

    I sent a photo to show you the situation and would greatly appreciate any comments/advice you can offer.

    Many thanks.

    1. Julian says:

      Thanks for your query.

      The hedge will survive the hacking back – what you have done is normal if you were trying to rejuvenate an overgrown hedge. However, it will take a growing season to recover and during that time, I would advise against moving it. The double shock of hacking and moving could easily prove too much. It is also generally better to move yew as its growth is slowing down (November – January) rather than when it could be coming into growth as new foliage demands water and so requires a functioning root system. Which you won’t have immediately after moving.

      So delay the move to next winter if you can.

      Good luck

  93. Chris says:

    Hi there,
    I ordered some bare root yew off you about a month ago. Planted the yew over two different weekends. The yew in the first planting (conditions v.wet when planted in clay) are turning white (all on one side facing the prevailing wind). However, the yew planted over the second weekend are looking fine with no discolouration. I’ve tried googling what causes yew needles to turn white but can find nothing (only about needles turning yellow). Can you help please? Thanks Chris

    1. Julian says:

      We have replied to your query about your newly planted yew hedge plants directly from our support desk (it is always best to email with questions about orders using the Contact Us link at the top of every page of the site)

      Without seeing photographs it is difficult to be 100% sure however it sounds very much as though your plants have a bit of wind scorch particularly as you mention the side that is effected is facing the prevailing wind. If this is the case then your plants are losing water through their leaves as the wind is drying them out quicker than your young establishing plants can take up water to replace the loss. Without misting the leaves regularly or covering your plants in a protective fleece there would be very little you could do to prevent this happening. After a couple of years as your plants establish you will be unlikely to see the wind scorch again.

      If you are able to email us some photographs we would be happy to have a look.

  94. Chris says:

    I’ve just read a very enlightening message board about Yew Tree problems and thought, if you don’t mind, if I could pick your brains.

    We live in a clay area (after reading your messages I suspect this is the problem!), there is approximately 8″ of good quality soil and then clay.

    We planted approximately 200 Yew trees in early November last year, a mini digger dug to a depth of approx 12″, the turf was chopped up and put back in the trench and a layer of composted manure was put in, the 3l plants were then put in and the topsoil put around the plants. Composted manure was put on top as mulch. They are in an exposed spot and have been subjected to some strong winds. Our neighbour has a thriving yew hedge and we have several established fruit trees that grow well in the same soil…

    A large number of the plants are no longer the nice green colour they were when first planted, some have gone very brown and one has died completely, I do have some left over to replace where needed. I’m worried the other plants will start to die off and turn brown/orange and I’m happy to try anything to improve their health. Your messages recommend a foliar feed, do you sell one or if not, can you recommend one?

    Any advice, help will be gratefully received.

    1. Julian says:

      Thanks for your post about your yew hedging. So many points to make.

      1. Using a digger on clay soil is never a good plan. The digger bucket smears the clay making it even more waterproof than before. The trench the digger excavates then fills with water/becomes saturated, the roots in the trench cannot breathe, they rot and then they die. If there is enough root-death the plant dies as well
      2. Yew goes bronze/brown if it is stressed. Too much water in the trench above is stressful. Lack of water through the winter combined with moisture loss caused by wind (the planting site is exposed and east winds are especially drying) is stressful. If the plants have been buffeted by the wind, it is perfectly possible they have become loose in the soil. Any young roots trying to grow into the surrounding the soil will have been broken if the plant is rocked by the wind and that loss is stressful.
      3. The turf was chopped and put in the bottom of the trench. It is always a bad idea to bury green matter in a planting trench/hole. For it to rot into a useable nutrient, green matter needs plenty of nitrogen (this is why you “aerate” a compost heap). Nitrogen underground is in short supply. It is also an essential component of plant growth and is fundamental to the development of healthy foliage.
      4. Layers of well rotted manure/compost are also not a good idea as they are too rich by themselves. It is always much better to mix compost/manure with the soil from the planting site.
      5. You say that composted manure was used. I am sure it was OK, but to be clear manure should be stacked and left for at least 12 months before being used. The giveaway is if there is any smell of ammonia at all. Well composted manure should be crumbly and sweet smelling otherwise it will harm the plants.
      6. Finally, if the top of the compost the yew were growing in when they were in pots is exposed then wind will “wick” moisture away and the rootballs can be bone dry while the surrounding soil is damp.

      My inclination would be to do the following:
      1. Make sure none of the plants are loose.
      2. Make sure the planting trench is not dry – scratch down a couple of inches with your finger. If the soil is dry you need to water really well. If it is wet, the plants are suffering from too much water. if it is damp, it is just right and should be left alone. Check every couple of weeks.
      3. Make sure the pot compost is covered with 1-2 cms of soil.
      4. Check the ones you think are dead really are. Scratch the back off a branch. If the wood is green underneath there is hope. If it is brown and dry, then the plant is gone and should be removed.
      5. Bear with the bronze ones for now, they may very well perk up as the summer goes on.
      6. Do not replant the gaps for now, instead keep the spares in their pots and only plant them when the rest of the hedge has perked up.
      7. Let us know how you get on.

      Good luck

  95. Chris says:

    Many thanks for your comprehensive reply. I’ll have a look at those things you suggested and report back to you.

    Would a foliar feed be worth doing on this hedge?

    Thanks again,

    1. Julian says:

      Absolutely, but I would wait a bit until the weather is a little warmer so the leaves will absorb food more readily. Most important at present is to ensure your yew hedging is well anchored and has enough, but not too much, water.

  96. Jon says:

    Hi Julian, I have a mature yew and it’s has die back on one side and thinning all over. The die back side is exposed to the wind. Drainage is good although on a steep bank. Next doors yew looks v. Healthy. Any suggestions?

  97. Simon Hill says:

    I had landscapers plant about 210 yews in single (45cm) and double (75 cm wide) mostly double dug trenches in late April with screened but not certified soil and fish, bone and blood fertiliser. A dozen or so of the yews most exposed to the sun browned first, not helped by someone apparently watering the leaves as well as the roots one the late afternoon. Concerned about the challenge of getting enough water down in an area of free draining downland (chalk), I soon bought a leaky pipe system and have been automatically watering them in the early morning for 2 hours for several weeks. Howevering the situation is worse than was. At this stage around 15% of the plants are mostly brown while another 30% have some brown branches. In general, I can push my finger into the topsoil down to my knuckle no problem, however I noticed today that on the worst affected section of double yew, the soil was hard between the yews. I am minded the lay a leaky soil pipe between these yews and overall increase the water dosage by 50% as well as replace around 20 plants. Any comments ?

    1. Julian says:

      Dear Simon

      Thank you for your yew query. I have looked in our records but cannot find your email address. If you bought your plants from us, please let me know as they would be under guarantee and we will solve the problem or replace them.

      I would be pretty certain that the problem is to do with water and/or drainage (the crusty soil suggests compaction which may happened if they used a digger to take out the trenches.

      If anything it sounds as if you are watering too much – daily for a couple of hours is a lot and I would be inclined to reduce it rather than increase. I would also dig up one of the worst affected (from one of the double rows so it does not show so much and look at and SMELL the roots. If you are over watering, then they will be rotten. Soft, mushy and smelly. If so, don’t stop watering, but reduce it by about 75%.

      I also think you should talk to your landscapers, especially if you bought the plants form them as well. They should give you some support I would think.

      Good luck

  98. Anita says:

    Dear Julian,

    Many thanks for this fantastic resource. I have read previous comments in depth, but am still not sure what is going on in my case or what to do. We are in New Jersey (mid-Atlantic US), & one of our English yew foundation plantings is ailing. Last spring I noticed a lot of bronzing and became concerned, but it seemed to recover. This spring, however, it seems like the entire plant is dead or dying. In both cases it looked fine during the winter. I can send photos if you want – let me know how.

    The soil here is clay & shale, site is basically flat. The yews were mature when my husband bought the house 25 yrs ago; the combined base of the multi-branched trunk is close to a foot across. The sick one is 1 of 3 with a south exposure; the ones elsewhere are thriving (but they might be younger), and the other 2 on the south side seems fine. The ones on the south side are surrounded by a bed of English ivy, but I try not to let it get its claws into the yew. The sick one is next to a deck rather than right next to the house. It gets full sun much of the day. Suburban neighborhood, not very exposed to wind. The top was hedge-trimmed at one point, but for the last several years I’ve been pruning by hand trying for a more natural look (taking individual branches back to the bark ring). I’ve never taken more than 1/3 of the foliage per year (probably not even close). I don’t water the yews per se, but they do get some when I water the lawn (probably not often enough, but I do my best to keep the grass from dying). Have already been watering this spring, as we’ve had an unusually dry one.

    We do have some scale insects, but they seem more abundant on the healthy yews than the sick one. I haven’t noticed any Armillaria fruiting bodies. I shaved a small spot near the base looking for the mycelium & didn’t see any, but that may just mean I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t tell if the cambium layer is alive, but I suspect not. I don’t see any green when I scratch either a healthy plant or the sick one (it’s more of a pink), but it is moist in the healthy one & dryish/gummy in the sick one.

    Is there anything I can do to rescue this plant? And, if not, to keep whatever killed it from spreading?

    Oh: as to deer. I can’t speak to the habits of British species, but our white-tailed marauders did some serious damage to another yew we have, growing as a tree. The branches on one whole side of the tree died. Finally figured out why: a buck had torn up the cambium layer rubbing its antlers on the trunk. (It was on the opposite side of the tree, but the trunk had a twist.) Our deer will also browse the foliage, but only if they’re desperate. Most winters they leave it alone.

    Again, many thanks.

    1. Julian says:

      Dear Anita
      Thank you for your long, detailed yew post. I am sorry you are having a problem. Generalisations are dangerous, but as a rule yew is unlikely to succumb to honey fungus If you have plants from the viburnum, cotoneaster and malus families they will be attacked much sooner and with more success. Yew is nearly but not quite immune. The bigger/older the yew, the less likely it is to suffer honey fungus attack and the more likely you are to see other subjects dying first.

      There are a couple of diseases attach yew foliage first and that need a laboratory to identify them. I am afraid I cannot advise on these in the US as I have no knowledge of local lab availability. However as a (general) rule if it is one of these then any cure will include VERY hard pruning to try to cut out all affected wood which should then be destroyed.

      Most likely however is environmental stress. You say you are on clay and that it has been a dry spring/summer. While yew do not being waterlogged, they do need water to survive. If you have given them less this year than in previous years, then I would go for that first.
      Hope this helps

      , but it is

  99. Charles says:

    Hello Julian, thanks for a great advice service. We have a 50 year old yew on light clay and a high water table . Some trenches for new drains have been dug about 5 m away and 2.5m deep foundations 10 m away. There green tips on the shoots but needles behind are yellowing and falling off. I thought it might be dry as not much rain over past too months but threads suggest less water is better than too much. Is there anything to be done to help the yew get through the building work? Many thanks

    1. Julian says:

      Hi Charles -Thanks for your yew question. The problem with answering is that a 50 year old yew, depending on growing conditions can be large or small. I am assuming it is quite a size. If so, the drainage works will probably have cut through a mass of feeder roots and the tree is protesting a bit. Foundation works sound as if they might be too far away to do that, but if concrete was involved then it is poisonous to plant life while wet and for a little time after it hardens. If it rained during that time and the rainwater drained towards the tree then that might well explain the foliage. If so, there is really not a lot you can do except wait and hope the tree pulls through. Yew are very tough so I would hope it will.
      Good luck

  100. Ros Kushinsky says:

    Dear Julian,
    I live in Melbourne, Australia and yews are rare here. I planted a small one on the south-east side of the house (this is the shady side) in a renovated garden, the whole bed being made of good sandy loam. Everything has grown well in it, including a Japanese maple, hydrangea quercifolia and a daphne. The beds gets some morning sun, longer in summer.
    There is drip irrigation including around the yew which had grown to 3 metres in about 10-12 years and was healthy till about two weeks ago! Now leaves close to the trunk are yellowing and dropping off, more branches are affected day by day. Most of the tree has new pale green tips but it doesn’t seem to be quite the fantastic dark green and is duller. There are small dark branchlets coming from the trunk.
    We’ve had a very dry winter and spring and some hot days over several months.
    I thought it had got too dry so immediately left a dribbling hose near the tree for and hour a day. I may be hastening the damage, from what I’ve read in the information and questions and answers on your site. I haven’t checked the bark.
    The soil around on the surface seems dryish. The area hadn’t been disturbed and it seems strange that this problem is so swift.
    I will take photos of the current problems and send them through. I can’t work out how to send a photo of the yew in its prime.
    I’m sad as I’ve been pleased in having managed to grow it to this stage.
    I would appreciate your comments.
    Thank you,
    Ros Kushinsky

  101. Ian MacLean says:

    Hi, Julian,

    I’ve been harvesting seedlings from under a mature yew to repair and extend a boundary hedge.I’m in SW Scotland. I potted up a number of specimens last spring, using ericaceous compost, and they all flourished. At one point, however, I think they got too soggy while outside, and there was a lot of blanching of the leaves and some dieback. Fortunately, most survived.

    They’ve overwintered in a frost-free conservatory and they’ve generally recoverd and started putting on new growth. Recently, when the outside temperatures improved, I put them outside, and was mortified to see them tending to blanch again. They certainly weren’t over-watered, and there wasn’t any frost (though surely Baccata is good and hardy!)

    I’ve brought them back in again, and they are looking better. Do I simply need to be more gentle with the transition to the outside, or am I making a silly mistake?

    Thank you for being so generous with your expertise!

    1. Jack Glozier says:

      Thanks for getting touch.
      Taxus baccata can be very temperamental when seed grown. Colour changing in the leaves is very common, it can be suddenly and for no apparent reason then it will usually spontaneously recover just as quickly.
      Your plants have probably blanched due to the change in light so we would recommend leaving them outside and they should recover in their own time.

      All plants including young yew plants are also very sensitive to sudden changes in average temperatures. It is usually a good idea to move plants from indoors to outdoors progressively…. so take them out on warm days, bring them back inside in the evening and gradually work up to leaving them outdoors 24 hours a day.

      I hope this helps.

  102. Kathy Else says:

    I have a large yew tree in my back garden circa 100 years. When I moved in 3 years ago I had it shaped a little and old branches taken out. It has been healthy since. However last month I did some landscaping and put down a gravel path and seating area just outside the yews crown. Now the yew is dropping a lot and going yellow in patches. Has the gravel poisoned it or stopped water getting to it? What can I do to save it?

    1. Jack Glozier says:

      It’s hard to tell from your description what the problem is, are you able to send some photos over to us? Our email is [email protected]

  103. Heather says:

    hello julian, we planted a single larger yew plant about 5-feet tall late last winter. in late july, it developed a few inches of browning/yellowing on the very top of a few branches. this has now increased to a few more branches and appears to be working down the plant a bit. we were considering cutting off that top portion of the plant until seeing the pruning advice in your July 2016 column: “do not please cut the top off”. does this advice apply to larger plants such as this? thank you! heather

    1. root says:

      Hi Heather
      I have checked your email in our database and I don’t think this yew plant came from us. Thank goodness! It sounds as if it is suffering. Browning from the top suggests the roots are not pushing enough nourishment through the plant. So the normal suspect would be poor drainage (roots drowning) or a lack of water. Hard to tell without digging it up – which you don’t want to do. You may have an idea which, in which case water more or less accordingly. If not, talk to the nursery you bought it from. If reputable they should provide an establishment guarantee and replace the plant if it fails.
      Good luck

  104. John says:

    I have a mature range of yew hedges and all appear to be in good health. However, I have one very sick specimen and cannot imagine what has happened to it. Although we have had several wet Springs, the ground drains well. We have tried to treat it without success. The hedge is badly deformed and really is a sad sight. I would like to send pictures if you agree and I would be very grateful for any advice you can offer.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Jack Glozier says:

      Yes that’s not a problem, send us some pictures to [email protected] and we will help you as best we can!


  105. Ann says:

    Can yew trees survive alkaline soil? I have just added a lot of spent mushroom compost to my very poor acidic sandy soil to provide humus and introduce some soil insects, this is a desert in Sussex, but the saplings seem to be beginning to turn brown. do they dislike the lime in the compost?

  106. Ellen says:

    Hi Julian,
    I wished I read your excellent forum before planting our 2 new yew hedges this spring! We have made some classic errors it seems- planting 5ft specimens in a trench without loosening up the soil/sides etc. However one hedge (in a rather exposed position) seems to be thriving, whilst the other (a sheltered position but near a stream, but also next to a very old established and happy yew hedge) is struggling.
    The hedge which is struggling has a problem I haven’t seen mentioned here yet I think- the branches are throwing out plenty of new growth at the tips and to the top, but are denuded along the length. The consequence is some rather straggly long branches with feathery ends rather than a nice thick hedge. Any ideas on why and how to remedy this? We want to keep the hedge trimmed up so need to prune off the long straggly branches.
    Many thanks

    1. Jack Glozier says:

      If you can send some pictures to [email protected] our customer service team will be able to advise you on this.
      Many thanks

  107. Jackie Pullen says:

    I planted a yew hedge several years ago and thought it had successfully established. This spring, however, several of the bushes bronzed up. Having read the blog I suspect root rot, but why only some of the bushes were affected is a puzzle. I now need to replant and wondered whether there is anything in addition to a mychorrizal additive I can use to address the problem.

    Advice appreciated.

    1. root says:

      Thank you for your comment/question.

      1. You don’t say if the yew that suffered is really dead. Yew usually recovers from temporary stress although it can take time. So if there is green showing on the plants, don’t lose heart yet.

      2. It is easy to forget, but last winter/spring was one of the wettest on record. So if your yew is planted in a trench in clay soil, it was probably full of water most of the winter. If the trench goes downhill or is maybe U shaped on a slope then the low point is where the water will flow/gather. Or if the yew that died was planted in individual holes my guess would be that the drainage in some was worse than in others.

      If your plants died from a root rot (if the roots are black and smell awful) then replanting yew without fixing the problem and substantially improving the soil is a waste of time. And when you do, plant as late as you can so your new yew hedging plants do not sit in cold soil all winter.

      I hope this helps

  108. Debbi says:

    HI Julian, ,

    We have two splendid 90 year old yew trees in our central garden, Professional feeding by injection into the soil has boosted them in the past. We live in NJ in th US

    This Spring our yews are under great stress. Many spots of yellowish greens and some branches losing heir greenery.
    In the fall there was masonry work done to move the masonry wall to give the roots more room but the dust from stone cutting and polishing could have affected them. Plus the roots were buried for about 5 months with excess, but high quality, soil and compost.

    The excess soil has been removed. IS there anything we can do to give them a boost? We would greatly appreciate any suggestions.

    Thank yo Kindly, Debbi

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Thank you for your question about your stressed yew. I am really sorry but there are simply too many variables here to be able to give you a sensible answer. I have always thought it strange that there are no truly old yew trees in North America. The seeds are popular with birds and the Vikings regarded the yew as the most important tree – the word yew is derived from old Norse. And the Vikings visited and settled in North America well before Christopher Columbus. I would have thought they might have taken yew with them. So it may just be they don’t like it with you. You say they are 90 years old – in yew hedge and tree terms that makes them teenagers…

      You also talk about stone walls and dust. It is possible the walls could have restricted the roots, but yew would generally destroy the wall rather than the other way round.

      Raising the soil level is never a good thing to do to a tree and that may have had an effect. If it was removed using a heavy vehicle (as in an excavator) the weight may have compressed the soil, reduced drainage etc etc

      To be honest feeding by injection is likely to restrict root growth – why grow in search of feed if it is readily available? If that stopped a couple of years ago then they may be struggling to support the trees. Give them time and they will catch up.

      The climate has also been a bit funny recently and trees react to changing conditions although they are slow to do so.

      So all in all, I don’t know. The best suggestions I can come up with are these:

      1. I was in Haddonfield NJ some years ago and I saw a goodly sized yew tree – I would guess about the same age as yours. The house name was Boxwood Hall which I remember because I thought it ought to have been Yew Tree House. If Haddonfield is anywhere near you, I would at least go and look at the tree. If it is not suffering, then the probability is your problem is “local”.
      2. In the Bronx there are the quite superb New York Botanical Gardens ( In my experience, the curators of gardens such as these have vast interest in and detailed knowledge of their subjects. I suspect they would either be happy to look at a sample of the foliage if you could get it to them (ask first) or one of them could be persuaded in exchange for a slice of cake and a cup of tea to come and take a look.

      Sorry not to be more help


  109. Michel Julien says:

    My large yew tree is shedding a lot of yellow needles from inside. It is still green and lush outside but I am worrying what it will look like as due to be pruned ….. any advice?

    1. Mark Cadbury says:

      Dear Michel, We do have advice on pruning yew hedges (, but not trees. You could try the Royal Horticultural Society.
      However, healthy Yew trees regrow from old wood, so it should leaf up again when light reaches the inner areas of the tree.

  110. Rob says:

    Soon after our neighbours constructed a large concrete wall (with a trench foundation) on the boundary between our houses, our large Yew tree (which is about 1 metre from the boundary) has started to turn brown. Please can you advise how we can help it recover from what we assume is root damage? The ground is heavy clay beneath the top soil. Many thanks, Rob.

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Not a lot you can do I am afraid. The most likely cause is that they cut a lot of your tree’s roots and that it is suffering as a result (exacerbated by the incredibly dry April/May we have had). Yew is pretty tough and generally recovers, so I would recommend patience and crossed fingers.

  111. Will says:

    Hi there, I could do with some expert advice please. I planted a yew rootball hedge for a customer in December of last year, and have had a call today to say some of the plants were dying. I went to check and since we planted them the customer has had a new patio placed around 6 inches from the effected trees. All the other trees are perfectly fine, do you think the chemicals from the cement have poisoned them? Many thanks Will

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      I cannot find your email address on our database, so I presume the plant(s) came from someone else. Our first advice in that instance is always to talk to the supplier. If nothing else, they need to know so they can replace under their guarantee. If they have one.

  112. Jeremy Cridland says:

    Hi Julian

    We have moved into a new property in London that has a yew hedge that runs along a pavement. The garden is medium sized but the yew hedge is 2-3m wide (2mtrs high but this is ok) and often thin so you can see through it. This is particularly true at the front of the property where it is under a large Atlantic white Cypress and the inner garden branches are all brown and leafless and the privacy therefore offered by only the outside branches is minimal. We therefore have 2 issues lack of privacy and a overly thick hedge. What is the best way to rejuvenate, increase privacy but also reduce thickness – do we prune the shaded side first or not at all?

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Take a look at our advice at

      Good luck

  113. Sue says:

    I’ve been reading your comments about Yew and I’m hoping you may be able to help me with mine, we inherited several very large yew hedges, we believe they were planted when the house was built in 1928.
    All has been fine until last year when we noticed one of our yew hedges didn’t look very healthy, it has hardly put on any growth isn’t very green like the other hedges and is looking very sparse,
    You mention on several occasions that yew don’t like wet feet and I’m beginning to think this maybe the problem as the lawn that runs along the side of it does have a tendency to flood a little in these wet winters we have been getting, but at the same time find it hard to get my head round that this hedge has survived over 80 years in the same place and is now having problems with possibly wet feet, I did give it a feed in the spring 16-8-8 hoping that would help it. Would hate to lose it as it’s such a lovey feature in our garden
    Kind Regards

  114. George Marques says:

    I have two large Yew trees in my front garden. For the last two years since I moved into this house, my neighbor has hinted on several occasions that he rather not have one of these trees in my garden.

    Recently one of these trees change color and the leaves began to go brown and keep falling off. I got a tree surgeon to inspect the tree and he has told me the tree has been poisoned going by the amount of dead snails on the ground under the tree. The other tree is littered with snail and the tree is flourishing. They were both planted at the same time many years ago. I decided to try to save the tree as not all of the leaves has fallen off as yet. I have applied sugar water to the roots .
    Any advice on how to save this tree is welcomed. I have confronted my neighbor on the problem which he continues to deny.

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Sorry to hear that, George. I’m afraid that I have no idea how to save a tree that is being deliberately poisoned with an unknown substance, and I have doubts that it is possible if the assassin is determined. Has the neighbour explained why he doesn’t want the tree? If it is shading his garden, perhaps the yew in question could be reduced in height. Otherwise, apart from setting up cameras and having a word with your local police, I don’t really know what else to suggest.
      You could spray his entire garden with glyphosate, but then he will retaliate with napalm, and before you know it you’ll both be in trenches lobbing grenades at each other, which makes it tricky to enjoy a cold beverage around the grill of an evening. It is probably wiser to sacrifice a tree for the sake of avoiding a generational blood feud with your venomous neighbour, but that is your call, not mine. I know a chap who landed himself in prison for a couple of months over an altercation that started with his neighbour accidentally (i.e. drunkenly) causing about £200 worth of damage to his car, which seems like a bad deal to me overall.
      Good luck, and don’t let this grind you down. I’m sure there are more important battles for you to focus on, and it sounds like your neighbour is already suffering from the punishment of having to live with themselves every single day.

  115. Leila says:


    It looks like I am a decade late to the party, but hopefully you can help. We have a massive yew that is about 55 years old or more in front of our home. It is largely woody with some green at the tips; this past fall however, it began to turn yellowish brown ….it’s working it’s way top down. Poorly or dead? Thoughts? Thanks in advance

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Hello Leila,

      This party is barely getting started, the first decade is mostly introductions.

      If your tree has been there for over half a century, it is presumably happy in the well drained soil. Or is there flooding in winter, extreme dryness in summer, or another factor like a busy roadside?

      If the foliage only is dying off in a bronze wave, it’s probably fine, and will regrow.
      If the stems are dying, then something is wrong, it might be a root rot situation. Even then, it can die back and recover, especially if poor drainage is improved.

  116. George Marques says:

    I have a yew tree in my front garden it is about 6ft high and 2ft wide. My neighbor says he accidentally sprayed the tree with weed killer. The tree has now lost all its greenery and appears to be dead. I want to cover the tree with artificial leaves. Is there such a tree wrap on the market?. Please write to me at [email protected].

    1. Ashridge Support says:

      Thanks for your email. I think you may be in the USa and we have no knowledge of what products may be available there. In the UK there is no such product I am afraid.

  117. Steve says:

    Hi. We have a Yew tree in our garden that is possibly 30 years old and maybe older. About 5 years ago we had an extension to the house, though the extension is still 4 metres from the tree and around the same time I removed a great deal of Ivy that had climbed the tree and sat in a large lump at the top of the yew tree. Then over the last 3 years the tree has little green and a lot of brown, with some of the branches devoid of any growth. I also notice that the trunk has quite a number of shoots coming out from the trunk. Is the tree dying? or is there anything I should do?

    1. Frankie Meek says:

      Thank you for your comment. You may need to get a tree surgeon in to take a look at your tree. If you are a subscriber, you are very welcome to send in some photos to our customer service team, who may be able to help further: [email protected]. Kind regards Ashridge.

  118. Catherine Roberts says:

    I know I’m 10 years late for this thread but with a try.
    Our yew tree seems to be dying. Nothing different to previous years Bieber there is a rather large bramble bush situated on our neighbours land that has become overgrown and has caught the low lying branches and now the bramble is covering the lower branches on the one side of the yew tree. Could this be killing the tree?

    1. Frankie Meek says:

      Thank you for your comment. This is difficult to answer without knowing more info. The trees do not like wet ground and overwatering can cause issues. You may need to get a local expert in to come and look to provide advice.
      The bramble could cause issues with a young tree as it will take the nutrients away from the tree, so it’s probably worth removing it. If you need any further help and originally purchased your plants from us, please email your questions to our customer service team, who will be happy to help. [email protected]. Kind regards Ashridge.

  119. Patricia says:

    I don’t know if the thread on yew hedges is still active after all this time, but I have a question about a new hedge. Bare root plants were planted by a contractor in March 2022. Some of the taller plants were brown at the top and several went completely brown and look completely dead within a few weeks. The aftercare advice was to water them well for the first year, and I have been doing that, but I’m not sure if I am under watering or over-watering! The hedge is at the top of a bank, so I’m assuming the water could be sliding down it. I cut back the plants that look completely dead, but I’ve left them in hoping that there might be some life somewhere. Unfortunately, there are 2-3 brown ones together, so it’s leaving quite a gap. I’m hoping that the other ones have a chance to spread out into the space. Is it better to leave them in situ, or remove them. I hope that they can be replaced later in the year – or for a miracle. Here’s hoping this conversation is still alive, too!

    1. Frankie Meek says:

      Thank you for your comment. If you purchased the plants from us, please can you email our customer support team with photos: [email protected]. We would then be able to help further. Kind regards Ashridge.

  120. Bonnie Kramer says:

    Hello and thanks for answering my question. I have five large yews potted in large pots with a good soil and compost mixture and drainage holes. However when it rains, the pots still continue to collect water and we have to manually drain them & poke holes in the soil The plants have been in these pots for about 6-7 years and doing well until this year when all except ones are browning and looking badly. Are they behind hope; should they be removed from the pots & planted in the ground or destroyed? Thank you.

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Hello Bonnie, sorry for the slow reply.

      It sounds like your Yew roots are filling the pot and blocking proper drainage. Removing them, pruning the roots, and putting them back with some fresh potting mix should solve the problem – that’s my guess. Doing this now (second week of May) is not ideal but still fine as long as the new potting medium doesn’t dry out.

      But if the plants got phytophthora (root rot) in the sodden pots then they are quite likely to die whatever you do. I would still try and save them, Yew is very tough, but be prepared to say goodbye.

      How are the patients now?

  121. Jason says:

    Hi, I was just wondering if you’d be able to give me a little advice on my newly planted yew hedge, it’s been planted about a month, and doing well currently, but having read a little about yew hedges and their dislike for water, I’m worried about the place I’ve planted it: the driveway was all hardcore with an old Welsh stone brick wall at the far end, where the yew is. I removed the top layer of gravel, forked over the subsoil about 60-70cms wide as it seemed a little compacted, bought some railway sleepers and some topsoil and created a raised bed, and planted the yews. My concern is that the trench I created by forking the subsoil will create a water trap, the trench is right up against the old (limestone???) wall, and I’m just worried what I’ve done will cause the yews to die as the roots go down into it. They’re currently planted as high as the sleepers which is probably just under a foot above the subsoil, which is a mixture of two types with a blended loam at the bottom and quite a sandy soil on top. Am I right to be concerned about how I’ve planted these, they were expensive and I’d really appreciate any advice on it as I’m a complete novice when it comes to gardening. Many thanks, Jason.

    1. Ashridge Nurseries says:

      Hi Jason,

      It sounds like you have a well drained location? The water trap effect only applies to a heavy clay. Also next to a wall tends to be quite dry. Should be fine!

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