The Ashridge Nurseries Blog

Growing Yew - A Message from the Suppliers

Busting Myths about Growing Yew

Yew is quite a pricey plant, especially sizes over 80 cms tall that are delivered as rootballs.
If you were going to get a free hedge and based your choice on saving the most money, Yew would be a top contender.
As you know, we are are yew hedging suppliers (amongst a few other plants!).

You might well guess that our friends and family often try to blag a few plants from us.
If they cook us a nice enough dinner, we might even give them a deal on some.

So we've seen a few yew hedges come up in their gardens since 1947 and we want to say a few of things about them:

1. Yew is not slow growing

Yew is a fairly fast growing plant when it is young.
It will easily grow 30cms per year, more if it is in full sun all day and well cared for.
Yew will begin to grow slowly when the growing tips of the central, leading stems are cut.

With a young yew hedge, simply leave the tops alone and give the sides just the lightest trim once each winter.
When the hedge reaches full size, trim the tips for the first time.

2. Yew Loves Heavy Clay

Yew trees need a reasonably well drained soil to grow. They do not like bogs or riversides.
However, they will grow in any soil that isn't really wet for most of the year - some winter flooding is fine.

Yew loves heavy clay - it grows beautifully on it in most places.  You will only be unable to grow Yew if the site traps water for long periods.

When planting in clay, do not dig out a trench and fill it with topsoil.
Simply make a slit in the soil and use the spade to sweep the roots gently down into it. Firm it closed again.

3. Yew is Futureproof

Your hedge's lifespan is ~4000 years.
Unlike the other lush evergreen conifers, an old Yew hedge can be hard pruned if necessary and it will regrow beautifully.

10 thoughts on “Growing Yew - A Message from the Suppliers”

  • Elisabeth Ollier
    Elisabeth Ollier 16th April 2012 at 4:01 pm

    This is a yew tree question. I wonder if you can help. We live in a Tudor house with a Yew tree planted a foot away from the side. It's a gorgeous tree and it could well be 3-400 yrs old. I am being told to cut it down by surveyors as they think it's damaging our floors as its the closest tree to the house. Am I wrong in thinking that by this amount of time the tree would have done all it's root growing and it's more likely to be a different tree further away? Please help as I so want to keep our Yew tree!! Many thanks Elisabeth

    • julian

      Thanks for your yew tree question.

      I am not sure I can answer this clearly.

      1. All trees slow up in terms of growth as they get older, but a yew tree (taxus baccata) can live to several thousand years so it has plenty of time to grow a bit more.
      2. To complicate things further yew has a clever ability to NOT grow when times are hard so it could well be older than you think.
      3. You also do not mention what the other trees that might be affecting your house are and how far away they are.

      Having said all of which, 1ft is incredibly close to a house, especially an old one whose foundations are not going to be concrete.... so I have a horrible feeling it might have to go


  • N

    I was wondering how long does it take to get Yew mature and use it for cancer research?

    • Ashridge Support

      Yew grows at about 30 cms a year once established. I have no idea how much foliage you need for cancer research but we would not recommend cutting it back hard for at least 4-5 years after planting.

  • Conchita

    Please tell me what is the minimum distance a yew tree can be planted from an old building? And also are they drought tolerant once established?

    Many thanks

  • Ian Watts


    Hope you can help, I've noticed on my yew plants that are approx 3-4 years old and average from about 4ft to 6ft high now, that new singular leaves growing from the wooded stems and inside the plant always turn yellow or half green and yellow. I have planted a yew hedge line along a fence north facing with I'm afraid, a horrible large conifer hedge growing on the other side of the fence next door. I first dug a trench along the fence to remove all the conifers roots and added compost to break up the horrible dry compact soil. I water during dry spells to give the hedge a good start. Do I need to feed the yew or am I watering it too much, or maybe not enough. Every year it gets good new growth on the tips etc, and some are gaining height more than others, and it's in shade all year except during the summer, where half does get some sun in the evening. Do you know what's going wrong?


    Ian Watts

    • Ashridge Support
      Ashridge Support 1st July 2020 at 6:36 pm

      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.

      I would suspect the conifer hedge.

      1. Its roots will have regrown into the trench and will be competing for food and water
      2. It may be casting shade which is never the best thing.

      Impossible to tell from the information you give if you are over/underwatering but in normal circumstances a hedge that is a few years old should not need watering at all.

  • Linda Saunders
    Linda Saunders 14th July 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Hello, not sure if you can help, I have inherited my parents house, there is a beautiful golden yew I would say fairly mature, it is around 6.5 ft tall, my father used to trim the height so I don't know how old it is. What I want to know is it possible to move it to another position, we are extending the house and I would love to save it. Thank you

    • Ashridge Support
      Ashridge Support 8th August 2020 at 4:44 pm

      Thanks for your post. Not knowing the age is a handicap. But in general, I would guess it is too large to move without 2-3 years of preparatory work. Without that even if it survives it would take several years to recover. At the same time, if it is going to be dug up any way you lose very little by trying. If you are going to have something useful on-site like a JCB, then it should be able to dig your yew out with a good-sized rootball which will give it a better chance.

      Good luck

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