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Pruning yew: When is the right time for a radical and when – for a topiary?

Yew is an evergreen, very robust topiary. In the garden it is often used as a hedge plant. It is a true survivor and has no special requirements for location and soil. The only thing that is important in the care is pruning. Because the woody plant is the only one among the native hedge plants , which tolerate both a radical pruning, and a caring topiary. We explain when to prune the yew.

Pruning yew: The right timing is crucial for the final result.

Yew pruning in the spring tips for hedge plant

A caring pruning, which is done once – or twice a year, ensures an even growth. The yew hedge becomes opaque in just a few years, as the plant sprouts vigorously. Depending on whether it is an old or young plant, and the purpose of pruning, the right time can also be determined.


  • The right time for a topiary is between March and April. It is best to prune the yew on a frost-free day. It is not advisable to prune in late spring and summer: the strong sunlight can burn the cuts. The result: the branches turn yellow and die. If you prune the woody plant in spring or late winter, it will form red berries.
  • Heavy pruning is necessary if the yew is affected by diseases or pests, or if it has not been pruned for years. Such radical pruning should be done in late February – early March, before the plant comes out of winter dormancy and sprouts again.

When is pruning allowed?

Yew pruning care instructions and correct timing

Radical pruning is allowed by law until the end of February. Bird breeding season begins in March. Maintenance pruning is allowed, but be sure to check first to see if birds are nesting in the hedge.

Pruning the poisonous yew: Here’s what you should consider

The yew is a very poisonous woody plant. Almost all parts of the plant contain taxine, which is lethal to humans and animals even in minimal doses. Therefore, families with children and pets should avoid a yew hedge.

Those who already have a yew hedge in their garden should not take any special protective measures when pruning. It is sufficient to wear cut-resistant garden shoes and dispose of the cuttings immediately.

Is it possible to prune the yew tree during frost?

The yew is a hardy plant. However, you should not cut it during frost. The cuts are particularly sensitive and can dry out quickly. If the frost damage is too great, the entire plant may even die.

Cut yew hedge

Yew tree proper pruning shape tips

When cutting a yew hedge, the first thing you should pay attention to is the shape of the hedge. A trapezoidal shape allows the lower branches to get enough sunlight as well. If the hedge height is between 1.5 and 2 meters, you should keep it at least 80 cm wide at the bottom.

Shorten the old shoots by a quarter and the new ones – by 20 cm. You can additionally thin out the hedge. Even a young hedge should be pruned annually.

Pruning yew: Radical pruning

Yew tree proper pruning useful tips for spring

With radical pruning, the yew tree needs time to sprout again, first of all. Therefore, the end of February is the perfect time. Cut back all shoots by two-thirds. Then provide the plant with water and slow-release fertilizer to encourage growth. It may take the yew 1-2 years to recover.

Prune yew: Topiary

Yew tree topiary when is right time tips (1)

Yew is not only a hedge plant, but also a topiary. It can tolerate topiary without any problems. Beginners should start with simple geometric shapes: a cube or a pyramid are best suited as first attempts. Experienced amateur gardeners first use pruning shears to shape the woody plant and then use pruning shears to shape the details. The rule of thumb here is that the more complicated the shape, the more often you should pick up the shears. For spirals, you’ll need to prune the plant three times a year: in spring, late spring and fall.

Young plants tolerate topiary best. Start doing this as early as the first year.

Care after pruning

Yew pruning instructions for amateur gardeners

To encourage the plant’s growth after pruning, fertilize and water the yew regularly. Liquid fertilizer is not the optimal choice for hedge plants, it is better to use complete fertilizer. This is worked into the soil two to three times a year. Frost protection is not necessary, the yew will recover quickly.

The yew is a low-maintenance, cut-tolerant and robust topiary . When pruning, however, you should follow several simple basic rules. Above all, the right timing is crucial for the final result.