Yews (Taxus spp.) are evergreen conifers that have become popular landscaping plants thanks to their versatility and low-maintenance nature. Some cultivars reach a dizzying height of 60 feet while others barely grow to three feet tall. This diversity allows yews to be incorporated into landscape designs or gardens no matter what plant niche you need to fill. We’ve compiled a list of yew landscape ideas for including these magnificent conifers in your yard. Whether you’re looking to add a hedgerow to your backyard for privacy or a unique topiary to act as a focal plant in your front yard, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect idea for “yew”!
Growing and Caring for Yews in the Landscape
When it comes to growing yews, you’ll first want to consider which species you want to add to your landscape. There are 9 species of yew which are all native to the Northern Hemisphere. The Florida yew (Taxus floridana), Canada yew (Taxus canadensis), and Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) are native to North America. European yews (Taxus baccata) and Japanese yews (Taxus cuspidata) are most commonly used for landscaping purposes, though the Japanese yew has been reported as invasive in some areas of the Northeast.
When it comes to choosing a yew species to plant, Dr. David Trinklein from the University of Missouri explains “The cultivars best-suited for landscape use are the result of a cross between English yew and Japanese yew. The resultant hybrid (Taxus x media) combines the ornamental quality of the English yew along with the hardiness of the Japanese yew.”
After deciding on a species to plant, you’ll want to make sure you provide yews with the optimal growing conditions. Yews grow best in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. They can tolerate full sun to partial shade. When it comes to soil, yews prefer moist, slightly acidic, well-draining soils. Larger varieties develop deep root systems to help support their above-ground growth.
Once established, yews are fast growing adding up to a foot of new growth each year. They handle heavy pruning without any issues. Annual pruning in late summer will help them maintain their shape and keep their foliage thick. Yews are toxic to humans and pets. Use caution when planting them where small children and pets play.
Overall, yews don’t suffer from any serious disease issues when they’re planted correctly. Problems with yew hedges can occur if the soil is water-logged. If your yew shrubs are turning yellow or brown the soil may not be drained well enough which leads to root rot and other disease issues.
Insects that can cause minor damage to yews include black vine weevils, Taxus mealybugs, Taxus scales, and yew-gall midges. Insects don’t usually cause significant damage or warrant the need for pesticide use.
25 Yew Landscape Ideas for Every Yard
Plant Yews In Flower Beds To Add Structure
Every flower bed can benefit from having a few evergreen shrubs mixed in. When it comes to landscape design, evergreens can help add structure to flowerbeds. They can be pruned or sheared into neatly shaped shrubs to provide a formal structure to a garden bed. They can also serve as a lush green backdrop when placed behind annual and perennial flowering plants. They help anchor the overall design and can fill in spaces without overwhelming other landscape elements in your garden.
Bring Color To Flower Beds With Yew Shrubs
Evergreens like Yews provide year-round color in your front yard flower bed. They’ll prevent your yard from looking cold and empty in winter. Yews also add color to your garden in fall and spring. In fall, female yews produce bright red berry-like fruits all over. In spring, new foliage emerges as a bright green or even yellow color before turning a darker green as it matures. Planting yews brings a variety of subtle colors to your garden space throughout the seasons.
Utilize Yews As Focal Plants In Backyard Gardens
Focal plants in the landscape help to direct your eye to a specific place or direction in the space. With their ability to add structure and color to landscape designs, yews make wonderful focal plants for your backyard garden. There are multiple species and varieties of yews to choose from, so you can easily find one that fits your space perfectly!
TIP: When placing a plant on its own in your landscape, evergreens like yews are the best choice since they won’t become barren during the winter months.
Use Narrow-form Yews As Specimen Plants In Tight Spaces
While many yews grow into round shrubs, there are several narrow-form varieties available to use in smaller spaces. They can help to add height to your garden design without taking up a ton of space. For example, the Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ cultivar shown above matches the height of the neighboring teacup magnolia without encroaching over the sidewalk. A few other narrow-form cultivars of yew worth considering include:
- Taxus x media ‘Flushing’ (2 to 3 feet wide)
- Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ (3 to 5 feet wide)
- Taxus x media ‘Viridis’ (1 to 2 feet wide)
Pair Yews With Flowers To Create Magnificent Backyard Gardens
Mixing flowering plants with conifers is a surefire way to create an exquisite front yard flower bed. Flowers can add color and interest during the warmer parts of the year while conifers hold down the fort with their evergreen foliage in winter. This magnificent garden features Irish yews ( Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’) and a variety of heather shrubs (Calluna vulgaris) mixed together to create a breathtaking landscape. The yew shrubs add some height and formality to this outstanding scene, creating focal points that move your eyes throughout the garden.
There are a wide variety of flowering plants that pair well with yews. Other flowering plants that do well with yews include:
- Coral Bells
Make Use Of Yews As Foundation Plants
Yew shrubs make superb foundation plants you can use to emphasize certain aspects of your home’s architecture. Foundation plants are those that can be used near your home close to the walls, windows, or doors. Varieties like Taxus cuspidata ‘Aurescens’ which only grow to about 3 feet tall and wide work well under windows. Taller cultivars like Taxus cuspidata ‘Capitata’ can be used to frame entryways. Here they’ve used Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’ at the corner of the home to soften the edges and frame the house which is visually pleasing when it comes to curb appeal.
Install Yews To Enhance Backyard Ponds
Planting a yew or two near your backyard pond can improve the look and health of your man-made aquatic ecosystem. Installing larger shrubs and trees near your backyard pond can have a variety of benefits. They can help regulate water temperatures and reduce algae growth with the shade they create. Many pond fish species also enjoy having a shady spot to rest during the day. Here they’ve planted a large, columnar yew next to the pond which balances out the tall, rock water feature in the background and provides some much-needed shade over the water.
TIP: Evergreens are always a good option near ponds since they won’t dirty up the water with falling leaves in the fall.
Create An Enchanting Archway With Yews
Yews tolerate severe pruning with ease, allowing you to fabricate some unique garden features with them. In this garden idea, yews have been planted on either side of the staircase and pruned to create a living arbor. While establishing this feature in your backyard garden can take several years, the final result is amazing to behold!
Yews Can Produce Abundant Shade In Your Front Yard
English yews (Taxus baccata) can grow 30 to 60 feet tall and wide allowing them to be used in your front yard or backyard as shade trees. They form a large, rounded canopy that will provide abundant shade all year. Not only will they keep you cool outside during summer, but when placed correctly they can help lower your electricity bill in summer too! Planting shade trees on the south or southwest-facing side of your home will reduce the amount of sun on your roof. This can naturally cool your home, reducing your usage of air conditioning and lowering your power bill.
Including A Bench Under Yews Creates A Shady Hangout
Add a seating area under your yew tree to create a shady space you can enjoy outdoors. Incorporate a simple bench where you can sit to read a book or a table and chairs where you can eat a meal. Having a place to kick back under the shade of a yew tree will help you get even more enjoyment out of your backyard oasis during the hot summer months.
Surround Yews With Seating For All Day Shade
This yew tree has been encircled with a wooden bench which is genius! As the sun moves throughout the day, the shade from trees moves too. With this circular bench, you’ll have a seat in the shade no matter where the sun is shining from! In the evening, it also provides ample seating for guests if you like hosting get-togethers.
Manufacture A Cozy Reading Nook With Yews
Every gardener deserves a garden-side seating area where they can sit back and delight in the fruits of their labor! Incorporating a place to sit in your garden will encourage you to take a load off and appreciate the beauty you’ve tirelessly worked to bestow upon your backyard. If you want your seating area to blend in seamlessly with your garden, feast your eyes on this garden seating idea! A semicircle of yews has been cut back to form a nook that houses a simple wooden bench. Sitting in this little cubby of foliage will make you feel at one with your garden and allow you to immerse yourself in its enchanting beauty!
Add Yews To Patios And Porches Using Planters
Yews aren’t just for gardens and flower beds. They can easily be incorporated into the design of your front yard porch or backyard patio if you plant them in containers. A little greenery added to porches and patios can help tie them in with the surrounding landscape. I love the use of contrasting shapes they’ve used here, combining a square concrete planter with a yew that’s been pruned into a perfect circle! Using a circular shrub in this planter imparts more visual interest while a square bush would create a more subtle design element.
Soften Hardscapes By Incorporating Yews In Flower Pots
Strategically placing potted plants can help to soften hardscapes on your property. The accent wall adjacent to this patio is awe inspiring on its own. However, adding a little greenery to the mix helps to soften the appearance and helps to tie it in with the landscape. The green foliage of the yew contrasts with the orange color of the accent wall making it pop!
Accentuate Entryways With Yews In Containers
Plants are a great way to accentuate your home’s entryway and draw attention to it. Plant yews in containers and place them on either side of your front door to highlight it. Choose a container that complements the style and color of your home to make an even bigger statement. These planters have a tinge of orange to them which complements the color of the home. The design of the planters is also complementary with the lines at the top of the planter matching the lines created by the wood paneling on the door.
Delineate Your Property With a Living Yew Wall
The ability to prune and shear yews allows you to create walls of foliage in your garden effortlessly. A partition of foliage can help to delineate various areas of your backyard space from one another. Use them to separate an outdoor dining area from your main garden or to disguise an unsightly garden shed. A screen that hides one part of your garden from another can make it feel more whimsical as you walk about. It allows you to focus your attention on one garden area while also peaking your interest in what you might find as a new area comes into view when you move to the other side of the partition.
Separate Backyard Features With A Row Of Yews
Use shorter yew shrubs to delineate areas of your backyard without blocking the view. These shorter Taxus baccata shrubs are being used to emphasize the separation of the backyard from the neighboring pond. This allows you to effortlessly enjoy the lake view while strolling through the garden.
Line Walkways With Yews To Make Them More Intriguing
A simple walkway through your backyard can be elevated visually by incorporating a few yews along either side of the path. They help the path stand out from the yard or garden and can even encourage guests not to stray from it. These round yew shrubs help to balance the hard straight lines of this gravel path wonderfully!
Mixing Yews With Other Evergreens Creates Stellar Garden Borders
Edging your garden with evergreen shrubs can help define the space and keep passersby from trampling your flowers. Mixing different shrub species in your garden border can make it look more interesting by adding more color and texture. Boxwood shrubs have been used as garden borders and edging for centuries, and are still a staple in many gardens today. Consider adding a few yews to the mix to elevate the look of your boxwood garden edging. For even more visual interest, consider mixing different shapes and bush sizes into your garden border!
Plant Yews Below Hardwoods For More Dimension
Since yews can tolerate partial shade, you can use them for underplanting trees. Underplanting trees will make your garden feel more harmonious and add vertical interest to the space. Make sure you use dwarf yew varieties for underplanting trees like dwarf golden Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Nana Aurescens’) which reaches a maximum height of 3 feet.
Manufacture A Privacy Screen With A Wall Of Yews
If you dream of having a private backyard retreat, take a look at this hedge idea! Adding a hedgerow of yews along your property line creates an exceptional privacy screen. You can prune them into a living wall as shown above or allow them to keep their natural pyramid or column shape. A good yew cultivar to use for a privacy screen is the Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’). Hicks Yews grow 3 to 4 feet wide and 10 to 12 tall which is an ideal size for creating a solid privacy screen.
Place Yews Around Patios For A More Secluded Space
If your space isn’t large enough to warrant a privacy screen around the perimeter, install a row of yews next to your patio to create a private space instead. This patio has a row of yews along the backside to create a small screen and a gabion wall adjacent to it. Together they create a secluded seating area where you can relax and get some fresh air.
Add Yews To Beautify A Tiered Retaining Wall
Yews are fantastic for improving the appearance of a tiered retaining wall. They’ll help tie it into the surrounding landscape and make it feel more purposeful. Here they’ve used yew shrubs at the bottom, middle, and very top of the wall. Alternating conifer shrubs with other plants on the tiered wall allows you to add different textures and colors to the design while preserving a sense of continuity.
Trim Yews Into Stunning Bonsai Trees
Bonsai trees are a great way to add living art to your backyard garden. Some people even consider bonsai trees to be a symbol of balance, harmony, and luck. Since yews have no problem with being pruned, you can easily transform them into unique bonsai trees. Place your yew bonsai in a central location where it can act as a show-stopping feature in your landscape design.
Construct Topiaries In Your Backyard By Pruning Yews
If bonsai trees are a little too abstract for your taste, consider pruning yews into stunning topiaries. Topiaries tend to have a more formal, symmetrical shape while bonsais are made to look more like miniature trees. When it comes to topiary shapes, the options are almost limitless. Here they’ve blended several different topiary shapes which creates a more eclectic vibe.