Zone 5 Yew Varieties – Growing Yews In Cold Climates

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By Bonnie L. Grant

Evergreen plants in the landscape are a terrific way to reduce winter doldrums as you wait for those first spring flowers and summer vegetables. Cold hardy yews are outstanding performers both in ease of care and also versatility. Many can be sheared into a hedge and there are low growing specimens and tall, stately plants. There are many perfect yew plants for zone 5, one of our coldest planting regions in North America. Select zone 5 yew varieties that suit your garden vision and you will have provable winners year round.

Selecting Yew Plants for Zone 5

Deciduous plants offer springtime excitement, autumn color and a range of forms, but evergreens have tenacity and durable green beauty. Yew plants are shrubs to small trees which enliven the garden even in the middle of winter. There are many cold hardy yews that fit the bill for zone 5, most of which are adapted to full or partial sun locations and even some shady areas.

If you need a plant for any light exposure that grows slowly and tolerates occasional neglect, yews might be for you. Growing yews in cold climates requires some protection from wind, as cold breezes can damage the tips of the needles, and well-draining soil. Other than that these plants can adapt to almost any soil as long as it is acidic and situation.

Yews make formal hedges, elegant trees, green groundcover, foundation plants and even topiaries. You can even shear the plant quite severely and it will reward you with emerald green growth.

Zone 5 Yew Varieties

The smaller yews can get 3 to 5 feet in height. Yews in zone 5 are wonderful in containers, as borders and accents behind other plants.

  • ‘Aurescens’ grows only 3 feet tall and wide, and its new growth has a golden tint.
  • Another low grower is ‘Watnung Gold’ with bright yellow foliage.
  • A good ground cover is ‘Repandens,’ which gets 4 feet tall but grows much wider.
  • The dwarf Japanese cultivar ‘Densa’ is compact at 4 feet tall by 8 feet wide.
  • ‘Emerald Spreader’ is another great ground cover at only 2 ½ feet in height and sprawling out with deeply green needles.
  • Some other smaller yew plants for zone 5 to consider are ‘Nana,’ ‘Green Wave,’ ‘Tauntonii’ and ‘Chadwikii.’

Privacy hedges and stand-alone trees need to be big, and some of the largest yews can approach 50 feet or slightly more when mature. Plant these big guys in a field or on the calm side of the house when growing yews in cold climates. This will prevent wind shears from damaging the delicate leaves.

  • The North American yews are the largest forms.
  • The native Pacific yew is in this group and achieves 50 feet with a lovely loose pyramid shape. ‘Capitata’ develops into a medium sized tree with needles that bronze in winter. A slender, yet, tall specimen is ‘Columnaris’ with year round green foliage.
  • Chinese yew grows up to 40 feet while English yews generally are a bit shorter. Both have numerous cultivars with variegated to golden foliage and even a weeping variety.

Give yews in zone 5 a little protection the first year or two in case long freezes are expected. Mulching the root zone should keep the youngsters healthy until spring thaw.

More Information about Zone 5
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