Yard & Garden Report


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Something Special About Yew

Yew is the finest evergreen for shady areas.

Yews have glossy green needles and bright red seedpods. ‘Taunton’ (left bottom) resists winter burn and ‘Dark Green’ (right bottom) has deep green needles.

The finest evergreen for shady areas is rarely used in North Dakota. Why?

All of us plant shrubs around our home’s foundations. Throughout the Upper Midwest, it’s very common to plant yews (Taxus spp.) along the shady sides of homes.

Yet you don’t see many yews in North Dakota. It is an underutilized shrub, especially in urban areas.

Yew needles are deep green and lustrous; they contrast beautifully with the snow of winter. Yew is a beautiful shrub all by itself or can serve as an attractive background to shorter perennials. The red arils (seedpods) are brilliant and attract birds.

Yews are especially useful in shady areas—where other evergreens struggle. This makes them special!

Yews grow slowly, tolerate shearing and require minimal care when planted in the right spot.

They prefer moist soil and must have good drainage. Give them bark mulch to keep the soil cool and moist. Give them a drink of water in autumn before the ground freezes.

Yews struggle when exposed to high winds; so plant them near your home in a sheltered location. Yews do very well in urban sites and suffer from no serious pests (only deer).

Among the most popular cultivars, ‘Taunton’ yew shows superior resistance to heat and winter burn. ‘Morden’ yew shows superior hardiness (good in Zone 3). ‘Dark Green’ is noted for deep green needles. ‘Nana’ is a dwarf form.

The next time you are looking for a shrub for a shady spot, consider what other gardeners in the Upper Midwest have discovered: Yews are superstars in the shade and provide year-round beauty.

Written by Tom Kalb, Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. 

Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: Alpsdake via Wikimedia; Bailey Nurseries, Inc. (2).

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