It’s always a challenge to find excellent plants for deep shade, especially plants that will look good year-round. Though not widely known,
Japanese plum yew fits the bill perfectly. It works well in many of the same landscape situations as regular yews (Taxus), but—unlike regular yews—it’s also deer-resistant, a big bonus for gardeners!
This evergreen shrub’s form may be either low and wide-spreading or more upright, depending on the cultivar. Its handsome foliage consists of long, flat, glossy, deep-green needles arranged in a V shape on its stems.
Male Japanese plum yews bear small pollen cones, while pollinated female plants develop plum-like, fleshy-coated seeds.Though one of its most valuable traits is its superb shade tolerance, it will grow well on sunny sites, too.
Common name: Japanese plum yew
Botanical name: Cephalotaxus harringtonia
Plant type: Evergreen shrub
Zones: 6 to 9
Height: 5 to 10 feet
• Sun: Sun or shade
• Soil: Tolerates a range of soil types
• Moisture: Moist but well-drained; somewhat drought-tolerant once established
• Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch
• Pruning: Prune only to remove broken branches or improve form.
• Fertilizer: Apply compost or soluble fertilizer annually or as needed.
Pests and diseases
• No serious problems
• ‘Duke Gardens’ has a compact, spreading form and deep-green foliage that resists sunburn.
• ‘Fastigiata’ has an upright columnar form.
• ‘Korean Gold’ has an upright form and greenish-gold foliage.
• ‘Prostrata’ has a low, wide spreading form.
• Japanese plum yew looks beautiful planted in groups or masses along shady drives, on slopes or under tall shade trees.
• It makes an ideal backdrop for shade-tolerant perennials like hostas, foamflower, heart-leaf brunnera, ferns and hellebores.
• It tolerates sun better in cooler regions where nighttime temperatures drop enough to help perk up the foliage.
All in the family
• It’s sometimes listed as a member of the plum yew family (Cephalotaxaceae), containing only the genus Cephalotaxus, but other botanists roll that family into the larger yew family (Taxaceae).
• Though less widely available, the closely related (and very similar looking) species C. fortunei and C. oliveri are also handsome landscape plants for shade.
Where to buy
• Broken Arrow Nursery, brokenarrownursery.com
• Niche Gardens, nichegardens.com
• Plant Delights Nursery, plantdelights.com