Japanese Plum Yew Info – How To Grow A Plum Yew

Japanese Plum Yew Shrub
japanese plum yew
(Image credit: DESIGNOSAURUS)

If you are looking for an alternative to a boxwood hedge, try growing plum yew plants. What is a Japanese plum yew? The following Japanese plum yew info discusses how to grow a plum yew and Japanese plum yew care.

Japanese Plum Yew Info

Like boxwoods, plum yew plants make excellent, slow growing, formal clipped hedges or borders. Also, like boxwoods, the shrubs can be kept trimmed to a low height of a foot (31 cm.) if desired. 

Plum yew plants (Cephalotaxus harringtonia) are dioecious, coniferous evergreens that when grown as a shrub reach a height of about 5 to 10 feet (2-3 m.) or when grown as a tree 20 to 30 feet (6-9 m.) in height.

They have linear, spirally patterned yew-like soft needles that are set in a V pattern on erect stems. Edible, plum-like fruits are produced on female plants when a male plant is nearby.

How to Grow a Plum Yew

Japanese plum yew plants are native to shaded wooded areas of Japan, northeast China, and Korea. Slow growers, the trees grow about a foot (31 cm.) per year. Well-maintained plum yew plants can live from 50 to 150 years.

The genus name Cephalotaxus hails from the Greek ‘kephale,’ meaning head, and ‘taxus,’ meaning yew. Its descriptive name is in reference to the Earl of Harrington, an early enthusiast for the species. The common name ‘plum yew’ is in reference to the resemblance to true yews and the plum-like fruit it produces.

Plum yew plants are tolerant of both shade and hot temperatures which makes them an excellent substitute for true yews in the southeastern United States.

Plum yew plants enjoy both sun and shade, moist, highly acidic to neutral sandy or loam soil. They are hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, sunset zones 4 through 9, and 14 through 17. It prefers shaded environments in warmer latitudes and sun exposure where summers are cool.

Propagation can be made via softwood cuttings in the spring. Plants should be spaced 36 to 60 inches (1-2 m.) apart.

Japanese Plum Yew Care

Plum yew plants have few pest or disease problems with the exception of soil nematodes and mushroom root rot. Once established, plum yews require little care and are quite drought tolerant.

Amy Grant

Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.