Even in the Middle Ages, a well-groomed garden without trimmed yew trees was unthinkable, whereby the most creative design ideas can be realized. The famous gardens of Versailles, for example, are significantly influenced by the European yew with imaginative hedges and shapely solitary plants. Nevertheless, the Taxus baccata is on the Red List of endangered species because its hard wood has long been used in furniture, bows and rifle stocks. For the modern hobby gardener, the Taxus baccata is an enrichment for large and small systems. Thanks to the variety of varieties, he gets a creative component at hand, which ensures an individual appearance. With the European yew, however, caution is advised,


Thanks to its pronounced ability to regenerate, its winter hardiness and its location tolerance, a yew tree can live for many hundreds of years. If you want to cultivate one or more specimens of this remarkable conifer in your own garden, you should find out about the different varieties of Taxus baccata in advance:

Adpressa Aurea – Gold-Eibe

  • shrubby growth
  • Needles sprout yellow
  • later the twigs glow yellow-green
  • ideal for rock and heather gardens


  • columnar upright growth
  • evergreen and slightly glossy
  • beautiful solitary and hedge plant

Fastigiata – green columnar yew

  • upright, narrow growth
  • Growth width 150 cm to 200 cm
  • particularly dense
  • the ideal hedge plant
  • Growth height up to 7 m

Repandens – Kisseneibe

  • great ground cover
  • grows no higher than 50 cm
  • tolerates shade and full sun
  • never loses its dark green needles
  • forms a wonderful contrast to brightly colored flowers

Fastigiata Aureomarginata – yellow columnar yew

  • narrow, straight growth
  • gold-yellow edged needles
  • maximum growth of 5 cm per year
  • Growth height up to 500 cm
  • adorns heath gardens, graves and entrances
  • also suitable as a container plant

Very elegant

  • Growth height up to 500 cm
  • green needles with a golden sheen
  • ideal hedge plant
  • also does well in the bucket
  • annual growth approx. 20 cm

Dovastoniana – Eaglewing Yew

  • grows wider than tall
  • slanting, swinging branches
  • Width 400cm to 800cm
  • dark green, sickle-shaped needles
  • very slow growth

Green Diamond

  • dwarf yew
  • spherical, compact growth
  • evergreen
  • after 10 years only 50 cm high
  • well suited as a solitaire or in a group
  • tolerates city climate well


  • Dwarf columnar yew
  • always stays small
  • ideal for small gardens and tombs
  • also looks good in the Japanese garden
  • dark green, short needles


  • exemplary hedge plant
  • A final height of 600 cm is rarely reached
  • very robust and cut compatible
  • perfectly hardy
  • has already been awarded several times

Black green

  • absolute rarity
  • black-green needles, tinged with violet
  • bushy, upright growth
  • brings variety to green woody plants

All the varieties presented bloom from March to May. The budding of the young needles is – depending on the variety – lighter at first. Incidentally, the needles darken over time, even with the yellow-colored varieties. Those who are not yet familiar with the European yew will be surprised that it does not have any cones. When the red fruits form around the seeds in autumn instead, the Taxus baccata delights its viewer with another play of colors. Although all parts of the yew plant are highly toxic, the red fruits of the female yew tree can be eaten provided the seeds inside have been removed. However, they are not a culinary delight, but have a sweet aroma reminiscent of artificial sweeteners. Consuming too many of them can lead to a bad stomach ache.


In terms of care, the European yew is quite undemanding. Although praised for being exceptionally site tolerant, it does best in nutrient rich soil that is slightly moist and only minimally alkaline. In addition, experienced hobby gardeners pay attention to the following care instructions:

  • A sunny to partially shaded location is preferred.
  • Shaded place is tolerated.
  • Support young yew trees with a stake.
  • When planting, enrich the soil with compost and horn shavings.
  • Mulching protects against moisture loss from the soil.
  • Waterlogging is not tolerated.
  • Only water deeply in case of extreme dryness.
  • Fertilize with compost in spring.
  • Work compost into sandy potting soil more often.
  • Do not use de-icing salt nearby.
  • Cut off dead shoots and twigs in spring.
  • Check regularly for diseases and pests.
  • Cut once or twice a year.

Since numerous varieties of Taxus baccata are also suitable as a container plant, to prevent waterlogging, it is essential to ensure that there is a water drainage hole that is covered with drainage made of fine gravel, expanded clay or shards of pottery. In the planter, it is also important to ensure that water is given more frequently than is required in the wild.

Pruning of the European Yew

The remarkable tolerance to pruning has contributed significantly to the popularity of the Taxus baccata. Which enthusiastic hobby gardener does not know them, the pictures of the magnificent Residenzgarten in Würzburg with the yew sculptures or the famous hedge labyrinths made of yew trees, which are not only a happy pastime in England? Gardeners who don’t want their yew to grow the way Mother Nature intended will use hedge trimmers at least once a year. Since it is one of the few conifers to sprout from the old wood, even beginner’s mistakes do not have any lasting consequences, as is the case with most other hedge plants.

The best time

In principle, a yew tree can be cut at any time, just not when it’s freezing. Since this coniferous tree grows very slowly, one targeted topiary per year is sufficient. Those who wait until St. John’s Day, June 24th, will carry out the measure most effectively. By then the yew will have finished its main growth and the well-groomed appearance will remain for a long time. In addition, most of the native bird species will have ended their breeding season by then, which is undoubtedly of great importance for the environmentally conscious garden lover. Nevertheless, the yew hedge and the solitary plant are thoroughly examined beforehand for inhabited bird nests.

Garden lovers who don’t want to wait that long opt for a double cut. In early spring, they already reach for the hedge trimmers, because the shoots are not yet full of juice and only sprout properly from May. In addition, the birds have not yet started breeding so early in the year. Around St. John’s Day the second, slightly weaker cut is then carried out with the result that the hedge, group or individual plants look accurate all year round and grow even more densely. If all the requirements are met, the last criterion for a successful cut is that the interfaces cannot be exposed to direct sunlight during this time.


The pruning-tolerant Taxus baccata can be brought into any desired shape. Since this coniferous tree also sprout from old wood, the risk of bare vegetation from the inside is not as high as with other hedge plants. The frequently proclaimed trapezoidal shape is therefore not absolutely necessary, but nevertheless advisable so that all parts receive enough light and air. In this form, the crown is narrower and widens by 5° or 15% to 20% to the base. Cords stretched between poles serve as orientation.

If an artistic or geometric shape of the European yew is desired for solitary plants or groups, such as spheres, cones, pyramids or figures, templates are available as aids that can be purchased inexpensively in specialist shops and on the Internet. Even experienced professionals do not rely on their sense of proportion with such an artistic cut, but use the advantages of a template. Under no circumstances should the garden lover do without robust gloves and eye protection, because the danger posed by the poison contained in the plant should not be underestimated. Electric shears have proven their worth for cutting large hedges, especially for the unusually hard yew wood.

In view of the highly toxic content of all parts of the yew plant, the clippings should be disposed of separately. Under no circumstances should it simply be thrown onto a pasture with grazing cows or horses. If they eat the cut yew shoots – and they will certainly do so – they face an agonizing death from poisoning.

multiply yew

Hobby gardeners who accept that Mother Nature sometimes needs a certain amount of time to produce new plants can propagate their European yews themselves. With the help of cuttings, propagation is a little faster than with seeds:

  • Cut shoots from the two-year-old wood in June.
  • Cut all side shoots in half.
  • Remove all needles and side shoots at the base for a length of 10 cm.
  • Put the cuttings in the ground in a wind-protected place.
  • Enrich potting soil with compost beforehand.
  • Keep the soil around the cuttings slightly moist.
  • Cover with fir branches or straw in winter.
  • Water a little on frost-free days.
  • Water regularly in summer.

It usually takes 12 to 18 months for the cuttings to develop enough roots. Then it’s time to dig them out and plant them in their new location. There the soil is loosened beforehand and weeds are removed. Yew trees are ideal for underplanting oak, beech or fir trees, because the young plants can also cope with a low amount of light and their roots can assert themselves there.

diseases and pests

Taxus baccata are sometimes attacked by the Phytophthora rot, especially if they get waterlogged at their location. If the roots are permanently too wet, this condition opens the door to fungal pathogens. First, the needles turn yellow and the branches begin to dry up. If the yew has already grown tall, whole branches can fall off. Since the infestation is usually not recognized until late, diseased plants are completely removed as a precaution to prevent further spread. Preventive measures are advisable in this regard. Waterlogging must be avoided at all costs.

The most common pests are the scale insects on the European yew. They are sucking lice, with the females protecting the eggs with a cup-like shield. Chemical or biological sprays will not penetrate this shield. The application of parasitic wasps to the infested conifers has proven to be a helpful countermeasure. In the event that the vine weevil lays the eggs of its larvae on the young yew plants, the researchers have developed effective countermeasures with nematodes. This now also includes a trap that not only puts an end to the larvae quickly, but also kills off the adult pests.

People have been planting the yew tree with the botanical name Taxus baccata in their gardens and parks for more than 1000 years. However, the yew has gained many friends among modern gardeners thanks to its remarkable pruning tolerance, its ability to regenerate, its winter hardiness and its shade tolerance. As an opaque hedge, it frames many a lovingly tended garden. As a creative solitary plant, it decorates beds and driveways. The Taxus baccata is also nice to look at in the bucket. The hobby gardener is spoiled for choice among the most diverse varieties. With all its natural beauty, the yew requires little care, but a lot of patience.

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