Ashridge Nurseries Blog & Recipes

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 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. Please note that hungry deer are partial to fresh young Yew shoots, so you may need to protect your hedge while it regenerates if they are around.

4. Yew may or may not be Yggdrasil

Our guarantee does not cover your Yew tree's failure to become the world tree and connect the nine planes of existence, but if it does, please let us know in the comments below and send us a photo.

16 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

    Reply
    • 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

      Sorry

      Reply
  • N

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

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
  • Ian Watts

    Hi,

    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?

    Regards

    Ian Watts

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  • 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

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
  • John

    Hi,
    I have a row of over grown leylandii along the front of my house along the roadside. We live in the countryside but the privacy it gives us is great. I’d like to remove all (approx 40 / 50m) of them to expose an low dry stone wall and plant our native Irish yew as our new hedge. Would it be possible to plant / grow the yew to a decent height before removing the Leylandii. I’d have no issue cutting back in garden side of the leylandii to give the yew some light.
    Thank you,
    John,
    Killarney,
    Ireland

    Reply
    • Ashridge Support
      Ashridge Support 19th April 2021 at 10:33 pm

      I think it unlikely that relatively young yew will be able to outcompete very large leylandii. You will need to remove the trees (and the poisonous rotted down needles under them), grub out the roots, take out a trench filled with improved soil and plant the yew in that for them to have a chance of doing well. But get advice locally if you can as I may have missed something.

      Reply
  • Christian

    Hi,
    I have a Yew in my garden. Unfortunately it is so big that it is going to get in the way of future plans for the garden. I’d like to keep the yew but want to know if I can cut off the lower branches to make it look like a tree instead of a bush

    Reply
    • Ashridge Nurseries
      Ashridge Nurseries 30th June 2021 at 6:50 am

      Yes, absolutely. Yew is happy to be hard pruned (one of the reasons why it such a popular hedge). This will encourage regrowth from the trunk: rub this off as it appears if you want to keep the trunk looking tidy. If the branches are big, cut them off in sections to make it easier.

      Reply
  • Jad

    Hi,
    I planted new bare root yew hedges last October. Some central top stems started to turn brown, so I had to cut them to save the hedge. Now they are still green, but my question is will these be still growing in height? I’ve read that a yew hedge when tips are cut will only grow 10cm in height per year. Is this only for first year then pick up to 30cm? Or stay forever slow growing in height?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • Ashridge Nurseries
      Ashridge Nurseries 29th July 2021 at 12:17 pm

      Hi Jad,

      It may not have been necessary to cut the tops, it's quite possible that they were only dropping their leaves, unless the whole stem was clearly dead, with no healthy green tissue visible inside the bark when you made the cut. It is not uncommon for evergreens to lose some leaves in their first year due to transplant shock. Even if the stems had died, cutting them off would only tidy up the appearance, it would make no real difference to regrowth.

      Based on our experience, your hedge will grow upward slowly, now that the apical bud has been cut, certainly for the near future. On the plus side, it will be nice and bushy, because all the auxiliary buds will be a bit more vigorous.

      Reply
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