Many kinds of yew bushes and trees are grown on the landscape, including Japanese yews, English yew bushes and crosses between the two. But as always when discussing plants, it’s best to begin with the taxonomy, to ensure that everyone knows the exact plant to which we’re referring. In the case of yew bushes, we must pay particular attention to all the varieties of Japanese yews.

When people use the common name, “Japanese yews,” much confusion can arise. All true yews belong to the genus, Taxus. That includes Taxus cuspidata, plants which bear the common name, “Japanese yews.” However, plants of an entirely different genus, namely, Podocarpus macrophylla, are also commonly referred to as “Japanese yews,” so be careful. This is just one more instance illustrating why we use scientific names of plants when precision is required.

Yew bushes often serve either as foundation plants around a house or in hedges. Varieties used in privacy hedges are often proportionately taller than they are wide (since you need the extra height for screening). By contrast, yews with a spreading habit are more suitable as foundation plants or in short, decorative hedges. Yew bushes are slow growers. This is not necessarily a drawback for shrubs used as foundation plants, since a slow growth-rate means lower maintenance (i.e., less pruning). However, homeowners who plant hedges (especially hedges specifically for privacy) usually desire quick results. If you have your heart set on using yew bushes to form a hedge, buy mature plants; otherwise, the wait while very low maintenance may be unbearable for you.

All yew bushes are soft like needle-bearing evergreens. The foliage on most is soft, dense and is a dark green color on top, with a lighter underside. The needles are flat. Most yew bushes can be grown in zones 4-7 in a soil with a neutral PH. Yew bushes produce red berries called “arils.”

Most regular Japanese Yew bushes can be grown in sun or shade. “Podacarpus” variety prefers more shade. Their shade-tolerance gives landscape designers an important option in challenging areas. Another selling point is the ease with which overgrown yew bushes can be rejuvenated. Most mature evergreens do not respond well to a severe pruning. Arborvitae and yew bushes are the exceptions. If you do have an area that get mostly sun I have found over the years that the “Maki” variety is a great choice.

Sizes and shapes vary widely between the different varieties of yew bushes. It is important to be aware of these differences. Yew bushes suitable as foundation plants or short, decorative hedges won’t necessarily be a good fit for privacy hedges, and vice versa. Let’s take a look, then, at some of the cultivars of yew bushes, what they look like and common uses for them. English yew bushes (Taxus baccata) and Japanese yews (Taxus cuspidata) are among the most popular, as are their hybrid crosses (Taxus × media), which include Hicks yews (or “Hick’s” yews) and Taunton yews.

Taxis Yew Bushes, Japanese Yews, Hicks Yews, Taunton Yews

• Spreading English yew bushes (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’): spreading growth habit, 2’-4’ high by 12’-15’ wide and used as foundation plants or in short, decorative hedges.

• Taxis Yews (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’): columnar shape, 15’-30’ high by 4’-8’ wide, and used in privacy hedges; one of the English yew bushes.

• “Emerald Spreader” Japanese yews (Taxus cuspidata ‘Monloo’): spreading growth habit, 30” high by 8’-10’ wide, and used as foundation plants or in short, decorative hedges.

• Hicks yews (Taxus × media ‘Hicksii’): columnar shape, 12’-20’ high by 6’-10’ wide, and used in privacy hedges.

• Taunton yews (Taxus × media ‘Tauntonii’): spreading growth habit, 3’-4’ high by 3’-4’ wide, and used as foundation plants or in short, decorative hedges; resists winter-burn.

If you have a vertical column or are perhaps looking to soften a lower window with a challenging light condition, and you are not the type to go out and trim your shrubs on the weekend versus watching the game, then this plant can be your new best friend in your landscaping.

Question: Jimmie, I have a fairly new pool and love a tropical feel. I know we get really hot here and sometimes really cold here. I love Palm trees — can you recommend a few I can think about installing around my pool? I also have two nice containers that a decent size. Is there such a thing as a Palm for a container? Thank you so much! I have two friends who used your company to help them and they told me you are the guy in Prosper to use! Denise H.

Answer: Hi Denise, thanks for the kind words. Best tree-like-Palms for our climate zone that require least maintenance are Windmill, Sabal, Pindo and Mediterranean Palms. Best for your containers will be Sago Palm, however that one I would cover when we have a hard freeze or bring inside.

Until next time…Happy Gardening!


Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at or in care of the Prosper Press at Jimmie is the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company. He is a resident in Prosper. His landscaping and gardening column runs every other week in the Prosper Press.