Japanese yews are a popular and versatile evergreen shrub. They make a good foundation or accent plant and dark green leaves make good background for colorful shrubs and perennials. There are numerous cultivars available, varying greatly in size, so choose carefully to find the right one for your site. Be aware that the leaves, seeds, and bark of yews are poisonous.
This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.
All common names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- medium tree (25-40 feet),
- Small tree (15-25 feet),
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
- Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
- Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Occasional drought
Seasons of Interest:
- late winter,
- early spring
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
Size and form
Plants range from 40 feet high trees to 10 feet high shrubs.
Habit is erect to broadly narrow to wide-spreading, depending upon the cultivar.
Tree & Plant Care
Yews grow in full sun to dense shade, but best with some shade to provide winter protection from strong winds.
Prefer moist, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Yews will not tolerate wet soil.
Shallow roots benefit with a layer of mulch to moderate soil temperatures and conserve moisture.
Water well in fall before the ground freezes.
Disease, pests, and problems
More tolerant of windy sites than other yews, but drying winds and reflecting sun can cause desiccation and winter browning.
Root rots in wet soil conditions.
Black vine weevil and scale can be a problem on stressed plants.
Deer can be a problem.
Native geographic location and habitat
Japan, Korea, China
Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife
Cardinal, waxwing, thrushes and many other birds are attracted to the plant’s fruit and use the plant as a nesting site and shelter.
Bark color and texture
Older plants have reddish-brown bark, exfoliating in patches.
The leaves, bark, and seeds of all yew are poisonous.
Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture
Short-stalked, 1-inch long, glossy, dark green leaves.
The leaves of all yew are poisonous.
Flower arrangement, shape, and size
Dioecious, male flowers are tiny, globose strobli in axils of leaves.
Female strobili (cone-like) solitary, green in leaf axils
Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions
Fleshy red fruit (arils) resemble berries, ripening in August-November
CAUTION: The leaves, bark, and seeds of all yew are poisonous.
Cultivars and their differences
Captain yew (Taxus cuspidata 'Fastigiata'): 8 to 10 feet high and 4 to 5 feet wide ; pyramidal shape; grows larger and more open if left unpruned.
Upright yew (Taxus cuspidata 'Capitata'): 25 to 30 feet high; the only tree form of Japanese yew tree; dark green leaves