Caring for Japanese Yew isn't particularly difficult to care for, as the plant is winter-hardy and highly adaptable to a number of different environments. You can grow Japanese Yews in either shrub or tree form, both of which are fairly low-maintenance given their slow-growing rate, making them ideal ornamental plants for almost any exterior design scenario.
As they are pretty popular plants, you can find Japanese Yews at most nurseries or garden stores. Though it’s difficult to grow right from the seed, you can much more easily propagate them from the bare root, from containers, or from cuttings. Most of the time, however, Japanese Yew are sold as live plants.
When planting, make sure to do so in the early spring. If do not have designs on planting your tree within a week of purchase, make sure that you water the root ball regularly until you actually do plant. When you’re looking for a planting spot, keep in mind that though Japanese Yews are amenable to a number of conditions, they tend not to like hot winds; as long as you find a spot with at least partial shade, you’ll be okay. As with most plants, Japanese Yews do best with well-drained soil; make sure the pH is pretty loamy, about a 5.3 to 7.8 pH. To remove your plant from its container, place the plant and container on its side; roll it back and forth while pressing on the container’s sides. Once it feels ready, separate your plant from its container.
Dig your planting hole so that it is four times as wide as the the rootball, and no more than two inches deeper than the length of the rootball. If you’re planting in clay, the top of the rootball should actually be one to two inches higher than the ground level. If you wish, with a pitchfork or shovel, you can scarify the sides of the hole. Fill the hole in first with a couple of handfuls of sand if you’re worried about drainage, position your plant centrally, and backfill the rest with soil and compost (which will also help with drainage). Tap lightly on the soil to eliminate air pockets. If you plan on growing hedges, space your planting holes at least four to six feet apart.
To ensure healthy roots, create a water ring reservoir around its perimeter. This will direct the most water to the outside of the roots in the first year. You can throw some mulch (at least 3 inches) on top of the soil in the ring if you are so inclined, so the area retains as much moisture as possible. Right after you plant, you should water your tree with one gallon of water. When you’re watering during the first year, you should keep the plant's first 18 inches of soil moist in between waterings, which should be at least weekly for the next three months. Eventually, you’ll only have to water it when the weather is especially dry and hot.
Within the first year you’ve planted, you’ll want to help stimulate root growth by using a fertilizer that is phosphorous-based. In the spring, you can check on the soil to assess its nutrient levels and adjust the type of fertilizer you’ll use accordingly. If you feed your plant well in the first few years, you can speed up its growth rate, which is usually pretty slow on average.
If you prefer your Japanese Yew to be very tall (they can reach up to 40 to 50 feet with a 20 foot canopy), don’t prune at all, or only prune for dead wood and leaves once a year. Otherwise, if you want more of a hedge-like result, start pruning early, focusing more on pruning the top of the plant to as high as you’d like it to be.
Be careful where you plant your tree, as the fruit of Japanese Yew is actually highly poisonous when ingested. Only the female cones of the tree can produce this fruit.
Japanese yews are dioecious, meaning that each plant cannot hold both male and female organs. It can only be one or the other.
Though it’s an evergreen, it grows most in the spring and summer, blooming typically occurring in mid-spring.
Not only is it native to Japan, but it is also native to Southern China.
Japanese Yew leaves are dark green, and like many evergreens, are flat and needle-like.
In general, it’s good to water the plant deeply, and especially in the fall, just before the ground freezes.
Japanese Yews cannot thrive in temperatures colder than -28 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to the Missouri Botanical Gardens website, Japanese Yews are considered to be one of the best types of evergreens for shady growing conditions.
Generally, Japanese Yews aren’t prone to any seriously damaging insects or diseases. They are, however, sometimes susceptible to “winter burn,” twig blight, needle blight, root rot (in soils that are not properly drained), weevils, scale, and mealy.
Japanese Yew shrubs are typically used as foundation plants or privacy hedges to circle a house. Although, other types of yews that aren’t as dense are used more as decorative hedges and foundation plants.
Though Podocarpus macrophyllaplants are sometimes referred to as Japanese Yews, they are not part of the Taxus genus; only true Japanese Yews that use Taxus in their Latin name belong in that category.