Dense Spreading Yew

Taxus x media 'Densiformis'

Dense Spreading Yew

Taxus x media 'Densiformis'


How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me


Dense Spreading Yew is a broad spreading evergreen bush with soft, dark green needles and a dense structure. In 10 years plants will be 3 feet tall and about 6 feet wide, if untrimmed. Older plants can eventually be double that size. This is the perfect shrub for planting around your home or covering areas out in the garden, beneath trees, along paths, or in shrub beds. It can be trimmed into neat shapes and its size controlled, or it can be allowed to form a natural undulating plant to cover large areas.

  • Classic dark-green evergreen for sun or shade
  • Broad spreading form is easy to trim, or leave alone
  • Natural dense habit with dark-green needles
  • Ideal for foundation planting and under trees
  • The most cold-resistant yew tree of them all

The Dense Spreading Yew will grow well in almost all light levels, from full sun to light full shade, but not so well in the dense shade beneath evergreens. It grows in most soils, preferring lighter, well-drained soils enriched with organic material. It is fully cold-resistant in zone 4, unlike almost all other varieties of yew. It rarely has pest or disease problems, but it should never be planted in wet, badly-drained soil. Trim as needed, between late spring and early fall.

Plant Hardiness Zones 4-7
Mature Width 6-10
Mature Height 3-5
Sun Needs Full Sun, Partial Sun
Zones 4-7

Foundation plants are the fundamental planting around your home, and so fundamental is the Dense Spreading Yew to this important task, that it is often called ‘Foundation Yew’. The absolute ‘go-to’ when you want to fill spaces, in sun or shade, this is also the toughest yew for cold-resistance, growing perfectly happily without protection in zone 4. Beautiful as the English yew can be, it can’t take the cold, so if you garden in cold areas, do yourself a favor and choose this bush for evergreen planting. A moderate grower, it will always be broader than it is tall, and almost begs you to take the clippers to it, so easy it is to clip and shape into neat edges and rounded forms. Of course, in today’s more casual gardens, why not just let it do its own thing – you will be amazed and thrilled by the natural arching form it takes as it spreads outwards. The perfect evergreen for busy gardeners, and those who want to see things look good, without having to fuss over it. ‘Dense’ and ‘spreading’ just about sums it up, not forgetting of course the rich dark-green of those soft needles, and the classic charm of a reliable old friend.

Growing Dense Spreading Yew

Size and Appearance

The Dense Spreading Yew is an evergreen bush that grows 3 to 6 inches a year, spreading outwards with undulating branches densely covered in foliage. After 10 years it will be about 3 feet tall and 5 or 6 feet across, if you haven’t trimmed it. It will continue to grow, and plants double that size, or even more, can be seen in older gardens across the northeast. With trimming it can be kept indefinitely at just about any size you want, but it is always best to keep a broad, lower form to it. For upright looks there are other choices among our yew trees. The strong stems are covered in an almost smooth brown-black bark, but branches are rarely seen, because they are covered in dense foliage growing on side stems.

Young shoots are greenish, holding that color through the first winter. The foliage consists of soft, flat needles, 1 to 1½ inches long, ending in an abrupt point, and arranged in two rows more or less spread flat out on either side of the stems. The color of young foliage is bright green, soon turning to a rich dark green that holds through winter. Needles remain on the bush for several years, eventually yellowing and falling in the inside of the plant, mostly invisibly. This is a female plant, so although some small pollen cones may be seen in spring, no red berries are produced.

Using Dense Spreading Yew in Your Garden

Wherever you need to cover areas of ground with a reliable dark-green color, creating a rich lushness, then Dense Spreading Yew is the right choice. Plants can be spaced at least 3 feet apart, or even more, so it is also an economical way to cover larger areas beneath trees, along paths and drives, or around your home. Use it behind low-growing flowering plants for permanent structure. It can be trimmed as needed, as frequently as you like, or left to grow naturally.


This is one of the hardiest of all the yews, completely hardy in zone 4 and growing well and vigorously all the way through zone 7. It is not suitable for hot zones and areas with high temperatures and humidity in summer, but it will grow in zones 8 and 9 in the northwest.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Although often thought of as a bush for shade, Dense Spreading Yew grows well in full sun, as long as the ground is not too dry. It will become very dense, and perhaps a little lighter green. It also grows well across a wide range of shade conditions, although not so well in dark full shade, such as beneath large evergreens. Pretty much anywhere in your garden – it will grow. The soil should be well-drained (this is important) but rich, moist soils are preferred. Established plants can easily handle normal summer drought in cooler zones.

Maintenance and Pruning

Dense Spreading Yew is normally free of serious pests or diseases, and any problems are usually related to being too wet or too dry, or in too dark a place. It can be trimmed more or less at will, at any time of year, although in the coldest zones it is recommended to only trim between late spring, when the new growth has matured a little, and early fall. Otherwise new growth may be damaged by winter cold. Always soak plants deeply at the beginning of winter, and spread mulch over the roots in cold zones, to prevent any winter damage to foliage. New bushes should be watered regularly during their first couple of summers, but after that little attention will be needed.

History and Origin of the Dense Spreading Yew

The story of the Dense Spreading Yew begins around 1900 at the grand gardens of the wealthy H. H. Hunnewell, in Wellesley, outside Boston Massachusetts. He had a world-famous collection of conifers in his Pinetum, and his head gardener T.D. Hartfield collected some seeds from an upright English yew, Taxus baccata. It turned out that the pollen-parent was a Japanese yew, Taxus cuspidata, and the resulting hybrid plants were named Taxus x media. Around the same time, the same cross in the opposite direction, with seed taken from a Japanese yew, was made at Henry Hicks Nursery in Westbury, Long Island, New York. From these original plants many varieties were selected and bred, including one first mentioned in the 1951 catalog of Hoogendoom Nursery, Middletown, Rhode Island. That plant was named Densiformis, and is the Dense Spreading Yew we know so well.

Buying Dense Spreading Yew at the Tree Center

We always try to keep a good stock of this basic shrub, in different sizes, on our farm, because it is always in demand. So much in demand that it can be hard to keep around. Right now we have a good supply, so take this opportunity to enhance your garden, but not increase your work, by ordering right away.

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Dense Spreading Yew

Taxus x media 'Densiformis'