Dead and Dying Yew Hedges and Trees

Dying Yew HedgingEnglish Yew has a reputation for being indestructible, and given fair treatment, there are yew trees planted today that will still be alive when mankind (if we survive) will have escaped the solar system.

At the same time, and like any living organism, english yew can die prematurely, but because it is 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 sort of. Actually it is what comes out of the back end of dogs and cats that kills younger yew trees and hedging. Cats like to excavate holes in pretty much the same place and carefully bury their excrement. It is a bit like topdressing with raw lion dung. Not a good idea and, from the tree's perspective, slow poisoning.

Dogs are worse, in that where one dog pees, others are sure to follow. And then the first one comes back to mark their marks marking his mark, and then they return.... and yews do not like uric acid on either their roots or leaves.

Yew dies by drowning

English Yew grows just about anywhere - there is a lovely yew hedge by the river Wylie 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 top soil 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 draining 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.

Salt

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. If your hedge will not suffer from run off, but gets splashed, go out the day after the thaw and wash it with a hose until it has been in the ground 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 Phytopthora. Some form of pythopthora 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 phytopthora 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 cause 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

135 thoughts on “Dead and Dying Yew Hedges and Trees”

  • [...] presents Dead and Dying Yew Trees and Hedges posted at Ashridge Trees, saying, “Yew (taxus) hedging sometimes causes trouble in the summer [...]

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  • Liz

    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!?

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  • Julian

    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 geting 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 woudl be inclined either to plant Italian Alder, or to use willows to be on the safe side.

    Hope this helps -

    Good luck
    Julian

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  • Liz

    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

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  • Julian

    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.

    Best
    Julian

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  • Charles

    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.

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  • Julian

    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
    Julian

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  • Alf Holliday

    Julian,
    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

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  • Julian

    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. The 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 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

    Julian

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  • Charles Huxtable

    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.

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  • Sally Coulson

    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.

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  • Julian

    Thanks for your question. Without a photo (email me on julian-at-ashridgetrees.co.uk) 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.

    Sorry....

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  • jaxson

    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

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  • Liz

    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

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  • Julian

    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 inclinded 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 countryhedge. 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

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  • Liz

    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

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  • Tina

    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
    Tina

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  • John Rowlands

    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)

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  • Elisabeth

    Julian,

    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?

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  • Edward

    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.

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  • Elisabeth

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

    Reply
  • Steve

    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.

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  • Pat

    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.

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  • Julian

    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
    Julian

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  • Julian

    Hi Steve
    Difficult to say from the information you have given. A photo would be helpful - can you email one to me at julianREM@ashridgetrees.co.uk (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

    Julian

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  • Steve

    Julian,

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

    Steve

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  • Tina

    Julian,
    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?
    thanks
    Tina

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  • Edward

    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!

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  • phil

    hi
    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 ?

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  • Edward

    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!

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  • stefany

    Hi,
    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 :(

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  • Julian

    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

    Julian

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  • Andy

    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

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  • Amanda

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

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  • Edward

    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!

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  • John

    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?

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    • julian

      Hi John
      Yew can change colour when it is stressed (and look completely dead and then come back to life). However, if it is disoloured 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 athe 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 (mMiracle Grow/Phostogen/Baby Bio are all good. If you can get the plant into the gorund it is more likely to survive - yew are really susceptible to variable watering.

      Good luck

      Reply
  • Hobosic

    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!
    Thanks
    Hobosic

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  • Jane

    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

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  • James

    Julian
    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

    James

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  • julian

    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. You can find details at http://www.rhs.org.uk/Gardening/Help-advice/RHS-Advisory-Service

    Hope this helps

    Julian

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  • Mandy

    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
    Mandy

    Reply
  • Julian

    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
    Julian

    Reply
  • Angela

    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

    Reply
  • julian

    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....

    Sorry.

    Reply
  • Martina

    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
    -martina

    Reply
  • Peter Holt

    Julian,

    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

    Reply
    • Edward

      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.

      Best,

      Edward

      Reply
  • Anna

    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.
    Anna

    Reply
    • julian

      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,

      Julian

      Reply
  • Su Handley

    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

    Reply
  • julian

    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

    Julian

    Reply
  • 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.
    Thanks
    Hannah

    Reply
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