Why do I love spreading Japanese plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’)? I grew up with the sandy soils of southeastern New England. That freely draining soil meant that yew bushes (Taxus spp.) did phenomenally well. The house I grew up in was a ranch built in the 1950s, with landscaping to match. On the corner of the garage was a yew bush that my dad kept sheared into a perfect, Roomba-looking disc. It was about 3 feet tall and easily 8 or 9 feet in diameter.
English yews don’t really care for our clay soils here in Virginia. I did a mass planting of them as part of a Culpeper winery landscape design, and while they’re still alive and kicking, they’ve barely gotten any bigger in the last several years. The deer also love munching on English yews. Luckily we have spreading Japanese plum yews.
Spreading Japanese plum yews have long, dark green glossy needles on gracefully arching branches. They’ll grow to 2 to 3 feet tall, with a spread of 4 to 5 feet. Their growth habit makes them a terrific substitute for ‘Repandens’ English yews (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’). I really do think that spreading Japanese plum yews are way underused in the landscape here in Virginia.