Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonii 'Prostrata'

Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonii 'Prostrata'


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 Spreading Japanese Plum Yew is a broad, spreading evergreen shrub, growing between 2 and 3 feet tall and spreading 6 feet wide, and ultimately wider. It resembles the English yew, but it thrives in hot and humid areas where that tree normally fails. It has attractive dark-green leaves and it is naturally dense. Grow it in deep shade or in partial shade, in those difficult areas where nothing seems to survive. Use it along a shady path or driveway, or on the shady side of your house. Easily trimmed for a more formal, hedge-like look.

  • Spreading evergreen for full shade
  • Grows well in heat and humidity
  • Covers large areas but stays low-growing
  • Can be easily trimmed as needed
  • Very low maintenance

Grow The Spreading Japanese Plum Yew in partial or full shade, or in full sun in zone 6. It thrives in any well-drained soil that is not too dry, and it has moderate drought resistance once it has become established in your garden. Trim at any time between late winter and mid-fall, and it even tolerates being cut back to bare branches. Pests and diseases normally don’t bother it and deer leave it alone. Unlike English yew the foliage is not poisonous.

Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9
Mature Width 6-10
Mature Height 2-3
Sun Needs Partial Sun, Shade
Zones 6-9

Filling shady parts of the garden is always much more difficult than planting sunny areas. Especially in full shade, the choices are very limited. While perennial plants are useful, for larger spaces nothing beats the ease of evergreen shrubs, and the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew is the perfect choice where you want to cover larger spaces without adding much height. Along a shady walk, or under trees, there are often large spaces to fill. Adaptable and reliable, this attractive evergreen, with its soft green leaves, will give you dense, year-round, rich green and need no clipping or special care at all. Fill your shady corners without adding maintenance chores with this excellent plant. It can also be used to create low hedges, and clips easily, becoming denser the more you clip. It is perfectly hardy in zone 6, but it is especially useful in zones 8 and 9, where the heat and humidity make growing English yew, widely planted in shade in the north, very difficult.

Growing the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

Size and Appearance

The Spreading Japanese Plum Yew is an evergreen shrub with many branches, which after 10 years will grow to be 2 or 3 feet tall. It will spread broadly to 6 feet wide, and later to as much as 10 feet across. The glossy, dark-green leaves always look lush, rich and healthy. Only ¼ inch wide, they are between 1 and 2 inches long, and flat, with parallel sides and a short, rounded tip. They grow in two rows along the branches, arching upwards and outwards like a bird’s wings to make a ‘V’. New growth is a fresh, lighter green, and makes an attractive contrast with the older leaves in spring. The leaves stay on the tree for 4 or even 5 years, eventually falling to show the dark-brown or greyish bark on the stems.

Just like yew trees, the plum yew has separate male and female trees, but the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew rarely, if ever, flowers, so it is not clear if it has the potential to produce the edible, plum-like fruits that distinguish this plant from yew. As well, it is safer to grow because unlike yew all parts are non-toxic.

Using the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew in Your Garden

This attractive evergreen is perfect wherever you need low plants in partial or full shade. This may be beneath tall deciduous or evergreen trees, or along the base of the north-side of a building, wall or fence. Its low height means you won’t need to be clipping it all the time, and it will spread out and cover a large area. It is perfect for edging a path or driveway through a shady part of your property, or for using as part of the foundation planting around your house. A spacing of about 4 feet between plants will give you a solid cover in a few years. Its fresh green look is calm and cooling, and so much better than bare earth.


The Spreading Japanese Plum Yew is hardy from zones 6 to 9, growing well in mild or hot zones, both in the north-west and in the east, including northern Florida and the deep South. English yew is not reliable in zones 8 and 9 in the east, and it is there that this plant really comes to the fore as the perfect shrub for shady corners.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Partial shade or full shade suit the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew perfectly. In zone 6 it will grow in full sun, if the soil is moist. In warmer zones hot midday and early afternoon sun can scorch or yellow the leaves, but morning or evening direct sun is ideal. It grows in any well-drained soil, preferring more sandy soils, but it does need a steady supply of water, especially in its early years. Older plants are more drought-resistant.

Maintenance and Pruning

This tree is normally not significantly affected by pests or diseases, and deer usually don’t bother with it. It can be left to grow naturally or it can also be clipped or trimmed as you wish, and regular trimming will give a solid, hedge-like look. Trim at any time between late winter and mid-fall.

History and Origin of the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

The Spreading Japanese Plum Yew is a selected form of the Japanese plum yew, Cephalotaxus harringtonii. This plant grows naturally in Japan, from Hokkaidō southwards as far as Kyūshū. It grows in the shade of large trees in the forests, and there it will in time become a broad tree up to 20 feet tall. It is sometimes called ‘cow-tail pine’, and at first it was thought to be a type of yew tree. Introduced into Europe in 1829 it has always been used as an alternative to English yew (Taxus), and its value in the heat and humidity of the south-eastern states has made it popular there for a very long time. Early in the 20th century, at the famous Hillier Nursery in Britain, a branch on a tree was noticed that grew sideways, instead of upwards. Pieces were grown, and they kept that spreading habit. This plant was named ‘Prostrata’. Today we call it the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew.

Buying the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew at The Tree Center

If you have struggled to grow plants in shady parts of your garden, then the Spreading Japanese Plum Yew is the shrub you need. It’s beauty and usefulness make it very desirable, so the demand is always high, while the supply is low. Order your plants now, as they will be gone very soon.

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Spreading Japanese Plum Yew

Cephalotaxus harringtonii 'Prostrata'