Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonii

Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonii

This product is currently out of stock and unavailable.


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


The Japanese Plum Yew is fantastic substitute for English yew in hotter parts of the country, and an attractive plant in its own right. This evergreen shrub has long, dark green needles like the yew tree, but it thrives in the heat and humidity of the south. It is very shade tolerant, and it will grow even in full dark shade. It grows into a dense bush to 10 feet tall and wide, and it can easily be clipped into shapes and hedges, just like English yew can be. Female trees may produce plum-like fruits which are highly regarded for eating in Japan.

  • Excellent evergreen for shady beds and beneath trees
  • Reliable replacement for yew in hotter zones
  • Attractive foliage, with long, dark-green needles
  • Can be trimmed as needed
  • Produces edible fruits

Grow the Japanese Plum Yew in partial or full shade. It will also grow in full sun in zone 6. It is easy to grow, preferring sandy, moist, well-drained soil, but tolerating some drought once it is well-established. It normally has no pests or diseases, and deer leave it completely alone. It is not poisonous like English yew, and this easy, low-care plant is extremely useful for filling shady areas, especially in hotter zones.

Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9
Mature Width 5-10
Mature Height 5-10
Sun Needs Partial Sun, Shade
Zones 6-9

If you live in warmer parts of the country, and you have shady areas in your garden, it is likely that you have tried growing English yew bushes, a popular choice for shade, but without much success. Yew is a plant for cooler areas, and beyond zone 7 it will struggle, especially with the heat and humidity of the south-east. What to do? Those blank shady spots continue to be a problem, and they make your garden less attractive than it could be if it was lushly planted everywhere. We have the answer – the Japanese Plum Yew, a shade-tolerant evergreen that looks a lot like yew and that tolerates shade just as well. The big difference is that this plant is happy in heat and humidity, enjoying it and thriving where yew struggles and eventually gives up. Even if you live in zones 6 and 7, you should consider growing this plant, for its own qualities, and as another evergreen to brighten and fill those shady places, as well as growing in partial shade, and even in full sun in zone 6.

Growing Japanese Plum Yew

The Japanese Plum Yew is an evergreen conifer with a strong resemblance to the English Yew (Taxus). The upright stems grow from the base, making a dense, bushy plant that is usually as wide as it is tall. It is slower growing, generally adding about 6 inches a year, but in ideal conditions young plants may increase their size by as much as 12 inches a year, giving you a good-sized bush within just a few years. After 10 years a plant will be between 5 and 10 feet tall and wide


The dark green leaves are glossy, and of a rich, healthy color. They are between 1 and 2 inches long, and just ¼ inch wide, flat, with parallel sides that end abruptly with a rounded tip. They are in two rows along the stem, and arch upwards and outwards in a ‘V’-shape like the wings of a dove – as if a yew tree had suddenly decided to become graceful and more elegant. Young shoots and leaves are a bright, lighter green, making an attractive contrast between the new and the old for several weeks in the spring, or after trimming. The leaves remain in place for 4 or 5 years, before falling, leaving the bare older stems to thicken and develop rougher, textured dark-brown to gray bark. 

In spring, older plants may flower. Male and female flowers are carried on separate trees, and when being propagated both types may be used, so we cannot say if the tree you receive will be male or female. When they flower male flowers appear as a pair of round yellow balls beneath each pair of leaves, all along the stem. They release pollen from March to May. Female flowers are also in pairs, but only scattered, and knob-like. If you have male trees to pollinate them, female flowers develop into one-inch diameter round ‘plums’, that are green at first, and brown when ripe. They are edible, and this plant is cultivated as a food crop in Japan – so enjoy! It is, of course, this fruit that gives the tree its common name.

Planting and Initial Care

You can grow the Japanese Plum Yew in full sun in zone 6, if the soil is moist, and in partial to full shade in all zones. It is tolerant of dark shade, but the growth will the slower and more open. It prefers sandy, well-drained soil, with plenty of moisture, but not wet soil. Once established it is moderately drought resistant, but the great advantage of this plant as an evergreen for shade is its tolerance of high temperatures and humidity. For this reason, it is ideal for zones 8 and 9, where English yew grows poorly. It will grow in sheltered gardens in zone 5, although in severe winters it may suffer some browning and die-back. Spraying with anti-desiccant will help it resist winter browning in zone 5. It can be trimmed as needed, by pruning branches or by trimming with shears, so that attractive shapes and hedges are easy to create with this versatile and adaptable plant. For a hedge, plant 3 feet apart in a row. Pest and diseases are not usually problems, and deer leave this plant strictly alone. Unlike the English yew, no parts of the plant are poisonous, so it is perfectly safe, even around small children, another plus for this valuable evergreen.

History and Origins of Japanese Plum Yew

The Japanese Plum Yew is called Cephalotaxus harringtonii by botanists, and sometimes ‘cow-tail pine’, and it is a native tree of Japan. It is found growing from Hokkaidō southwards as far as Kyūshū. There it grows beneath larger trees, in the shade, and it can be a small tree 20 feet or more in height. It was introduced into Europe in 1829 and named as Taxus japonica in 1839. Later it was more carefully recognized as different and given its present name. It was named because of the activity of the Earl of Harrington, who encouraged its use in English gardens. Strangely it remains underutilized, although gardeners in the south have become aware of it, and the demand is high and the supply low. Our stock will soon be gone, so if you have found Yew hard to grow, choose the Japanese Plum Yew instead. Order now, while supplies last.

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Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonii