Planting Yew Trees for a Hedge: What You Need to Know | Hedging UK

Taxus baccata, commonly known as the English yew or European yew, is an evergreen conifer tree native to Western, Central, and Southern Europe, as well as parts of North Africa and Southwest Asia. Yew Trees are members of the Taxaceae family and is one of the longest-living tree species in Europe, with some individuals estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Yew, as it is commonly known, is a slow-growing tree that typically reaches a height of 10 to 20 meters (33 to 66 feet). It has a dense columnar shape with dark green, needle-like leaves. The bark of the tree is reddish-brown.

In landscaping, the English yew is popular for its ornamental value. It is often planted as a specimen tree in parks, gardens, and formal landscapes due to its attractive foliage and ability to be pruned into various shapes. It is a popular choice for use as topiary and Its dense growth habit also makes it suitable for hedging and defining borders.

Overall, Taxus baccata is a fascinating evergreen tree known for its longevity, distinctive appearance, historical significance, cultural value and making some of the best hedges.

Below is some useful information about using Yew / Taxus Baccata for hedges. Alternatively, click here to see our Yew Hedging for sale

Description of Yew Trees/ Taxus Baccata

Yew trees Appearance:

Taxus Baccata have a dense columnar shape with dark green, needle-like leaves. The leaves are arranged spirally on the twigs and have a flat, glossy upper surface and a duller lower surface. The bark of the tree is reddish-brown and ridged. Yew trees typically reach a height of 10 to 20 meters high.

Slow Growth and Longevity:

Yew hedges grow relatively slowly, requiring less frequent pruning compared to some other hedge species. Additionally, yew trees are known for their longevity and can maintain their form and structure for many years, adding a sense of permanence to the garden

Formal Hedges and borders:

Yew hedges are a popular choice for creating formal borders in gardens and landscapes. Taxus baccata, or the English yew, is particularly well-suited for this purpose due to its dense growth habit, evergreen foliage, and ability to be clipped and shaped into precise forms.

Dense and Compact Growth of Yew Trees:

Yew hedges have a naturally dense growth habit, which makes them ideal for creating a solid and impenetrable barrier. The evergreen foliage provides an attractive backdrop throughout the year for other plants and structures.

Tolerant of Pruning and Shaping:

Yew trees respond well to pruning and can be easily shaped into various forms, such as straight hedges, curves, or intricate topiary designs. This flexibility allows gardeners to create precise and well-defined borders that complement the overall design of the landscape.

Privacy and Noise Reduction:

The dense foliage of yew hedges provides excellent privacy, acting as a visual screen to block unwanted views and create a secluded atmosphere in outdoor spaces. Furthermore, the dense foliage also helps to reduce noise, making yew hedges an effective choice for creating a peaceful and tranquil environment.

Versatile and Formal Aesthetic:

Yew hedges have a classic and timeless appeal that lends itself well to formal garden designs. Whether used to define pathways, enclose garden rooms, or create geometric patterns, yew hedges add an element of structure and elegance to the landscape.

When planting yew hedges for formal borders, it is important to consider their preferred growing conditions. Yew trees thrive in well-drained soil and prefer partial shade to full sun. They are generally hardy and can tolerate a range of soil types.

Overall, yew hedges are an excellent choice for creating formal borders, providing privacy, and adding a touch of sophistication to garden and landscape designs.

Is Yew good for making a hedge?

Yew or Taxus baccata is often considered an excellent choice for making hedges. It has been used for centuries and is valued for its dense foliage, evergreen nature, and the ability to be easily shaped and trimmed into formal hedges. Yew hedges provide privacy, windbreak, and an attractive backdrop for gardens. Additionally, yew hedges can tolerate a range of soil types and can grow well in both sun and shade.

Where is the best place to plant a yew hedge?

Sunlight: Yew hedges can tolerate a range of light conditions, from full sun to partial shade. However, they tend to perform best in areas with partial shade or dappled sunlight. Avoid planting them in areas with intense, direct sunlight, as this can lead to leaf burn or discoloration.

Soil: Yew trees can grow in a variety of soil types, including loam, sandy soil, and clay. They prefer well-drained soil but can adapt to slightly moist or dry conditions. It’s essential to ensure that the soil is not consistently waterlogged, as this can lead to root rot.

Wind exposure: Yew hedges can handle moderate wind exposure but may suffer in extremely windy locations. Consider planting them in areas where they are partially protected from strong winds, such as near a fence, building, or other established windbreak.

Space availability: Yew hedges can be used to create boundaries, screens, or formal garden features. Consider the available space and the desired height and width of your hedge when planning the location. Ensure there is enough space for the hedge to grow and expand without crowding other plants or structures.

Toxicity concerns: Remember that yew foliage, seeds, and bark contain toxins that can be harmful if ingested. If you have children or pets that may come into contact with the hedge, take this into account and ensure appropriate safety measures are in place.

When is the best time to plant a yew hedge?

The best time to plant a yew hedge is during the dormant season in Autumn or early spring. These periods offer favourable conditions for establishment and root development.

Typically, from September to November, is an ideal time to plant yew hedges. The soil is still warm enough for root growth, and planting at this time allows the Yew trees to settle in and establish their root systems before winter dormancy.

Alternatively, late Winter / Early Spring, typically from February to April, is another suitable time for yew hedge planting. As the weather begins to warm up, the Yew trees can take advantage of the increasing sunlight and soil moisture to initiate growth and establish themselves before the summer.

Planting during these seasons provides several advantages:

Cooler temperatures: Planting during the cooler months helps minimize heat stress on the newly planted Yew trees, allowing them to establish without excessive water loss.

Sufficient soil moisture: Autumn and early Spring often have more consistent rainfall, providing ample soil moisture for root establishment.

Less competition: Planting during the dormant season means less competition from weeds or other plants, allowing the yew hedge to establish its root system without being hindered by neighbouring vegetation.

Early establishment: By planting during the dormant season, the yew trees can focus their energy on root development and establishment, which sets them up for better growth in the coming growing season.

How far apart should you plant Yew trees to make a hedge?

When planting a Yew hedge, the spacing between each tree depends on several factors, including the desired density of the hedge, the mature size of the trees, and the available space. Here are some general guidelines for spacing Yew trees in a hedge:

Understanding how far apart to plant Yew hedge plants will give you a better idea of how many plants to purchase in the first instance. This spacing depends on several factors.

  • The size of plants initially purchased,
  • The eventual height the hedge will be
  • The time it will take to create dense hedge at that spacing
  • Budget constraints.

Planting Yew trees close together (so they are almost or just touching) will create a dense hedge in a shorter time period. Find out what size and width the plants are and work back from this. The bigger the plants are initially the further apart this spacing will be. If using really small plants then it is best to give them enough room to grow into and not overcrowd them. The minimum spacing, we would recommend for planting Yew trees would be 30cm apart. If you have purchased bigger trees then this can be increased anywhere up to 1 metre or even further apart. Leaving a gap between the plants will just take more time for the plants to fill out as a hedge. The bigger the gap the longer this will take.

We provide recommended planting densities for all the plants listed on our website. Our recommendations are based on planting at a density that the plants will start to join together as a hedge after 1 full growing season. This is only a guideline and please use more plants to reduce this timescale or less plants per metre if you have time to wait.

How do I plant a Yew Hedge?

Planting a Yew Hedge is pretty simple and easy to accomplish. Please refer to our planting guide for more details.

Are Yew Hedges easy to maintain?

Due to their slow growth, it may take several years for a yew hedge to reach its desired height and thickness. However, once established, yew hedges are known for maintaining a neat and tidy appearance with relatively infrequent pruning.

Proper care and maintenance practices, such as regular pruning, watering, and feeding, can contribute to the health and longevity of a yew hedge. Neglected hedges may become stressed or vulnerable to pests and diseases, reducing their lifespan.

What is the lifespan of a Yew hedge?

Yew hedges are known for their longevity and can live for several decades, even centuries, under favourable conditions. With proper care and maintenance, a well-established yew hedge can easily last 50 years or more.

When is the best time to prune a Taxus hedge?

The best time to prune a Taxus (yew) hedge is in late winter or early spring, before the new growth starts. Pruning at this time allows the yew hedge to recover quickly and promotes healthy regrowth during the growing season.

Late winter or early spring pruning has several advantages for yew hedges:

Dormant period: Yew trees are typically dormant during winter, which means they are not actively growing. Pruning during this time minimizes stress on the plant and reduces the risk of damaging new growth.

Stimulates growth: Pruning in late winter or early spring triggers new growth as the growing season begins. This promotes denser foliage and helps the hedge maintain its desired thickness and appearance.

Can a Yew hedge be cut back hard?

Yes, Yew hedges have the ability to tolerate hard pruning or cutting back if necessary. Yew trees are resilient and can regenerate from old wood, allowing for rejuvenation of an overgrown or neglected hedge.

However, it’s important to keep a few considerations in mind when planning to cut back a yew hedge severely:

Timing: The best time to perform hard pruning on a yew hedge is during late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins. This timing allows the hedge to recover and regenerate during the upcoming growing season.

Gradual approach: If your yew hedge has become significantly overgrown, it’s generally recommended to approach severe pruning gradually over a couple of years instead of cutting back all at once. To do this only cut back one side of the hedge leaving the other to continue to provide some protection whilst also reducing the stress on the hedge as a whole.

Maintenance pruning: After a hard pruning or rejuvenation, regular maintenance pruning is crucial to help fill in any gaps in the new growth and keep the hedge in check and maintain its desired form. Light annual pruning can help prevent the need for severe pruning in the future.

Recovery period: Yew hedges may take some time to fully recover and fill in after a hard pruning. Be patient and provide proper care, including adequate water and nutrients, to support the hedge’s regrowth.

Can you keep a yew hedge small?

Yes, it is possible to keep a yew hedge small through regular pruning and maintenance. Yew trees (Taxus Baccata) are amenable to pruning and can be easily shaped and maintained at a desired height and size.

To keep a yew hedge small, follow these guidelines:

Regular pruning: Prune the hedge annually or as needed to maintain the desired size and shape. Yew hedges can tolerate significant pruning, and they respond well to shaping. Regular pruning encourages denser growth and helps control the overall size.

Light, frequent pruning: Instead of allowing the hedge to grow too tall or wide and then drastically reducing its size, opt for light, frequent pruning sessions throughout the growing season. This approach helps maintain the desired shape and prevents the need for severe pruning.

Selective pruning: Focus on removing the new growth or excessive growth to keep the hedge compact. By selectively pruning back the vigorous shoots and branches, you can control the size and promote a more compact habit.

Pruning techniques: Use sharp, clean pruning tools to make precise cuts. Trim the hedge to maintain a slight taper, with the bottom slightly wider than the top to allow sunlight to reach the lower foliage.

Regular maintenance: In addition to pruning, provide regular maintenance such as watering, fertilizing, and monitoring for pests or diseases. Healthy plants are better able to maintain their desired size and respond well to pruning.

Remember that even with regular pruning, yew hedges still have a natural growth habit, and their size will be influenced by factors such as the specific yew species or cultivar, environmental conditions, and soil fertility. Regular monitoring and pruning adjustments may be needed to keep the hedge consistently small.

Can Yew hedges suffer from Pests and diseases:

While yew trees are generally resistant to most pests and diseases, they can still be susceptible to certain issues such as scale insects, aphids, or fungal infections. Regular monitoring and prompt treatment can help mitigate these risks.


Yew hedges are often valued for their longevity and the ability to maintain a neat and tidy appearance with relatively infrequent pruning. While they may take longer to reach the desired height or thickness compared to faster-growing hedge plants, their dense foliage and evergreen nature make them popular choices for formal hedges or architectural purposes.

If you’re looking for a hedge that establishes more quickly, you might consider alternatives to Yew, such as Privet (Ligustrum), or White Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis Brabant) or certain types of laurel, Prunus laurocerasus or Prunus Lusitanica. These plants tend to have faster growth rates and can form hedges more rapidly. However, if you have the patience and are willing to wait for a slower-growing hedge, Yew can still be an excellent option.