Help! Leggy Yew North Facing

milkyjJune 27, 2012

I have several evergreen shrub along the front side of my house(north facing). I think they are yews(?). I don't know how old they are but they are sad looking. Every year I gave then "hair cut" once or twice. There are healthy new growth but only on the top part. As you can see the lower part of the plants is unsightly and the foundation of the house is exposed. My question is: can I cut them back dramatically to rejuvenate the plants? How far back can I cut it without killing them. I understand the plants are in moist shade and they will never look as full as a south facing one. At this moment, I don't have the energy and money for a total makeover. I just need some green at the foundation level. Or am I better off planting some other shade loving plants in front of the yews to block the view of dead-looking branches? I am in North Jersey zone 6b if that matters. Any suggestion is welcomed. Thank you.

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I can't really tell if those are yews or not. I sincerely doubt you're going to get much regeneration from the bottoms (at least not closely resembling the top growth) at this stage - possibly many years down the road after cutting them back nearly to the ground.

If they're to be saved, I'd think about planting something in front. But what? The experts on the forum will have to chime in.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 11:32AM
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I can't tell if they are Taxus (yews) or Junipers or what from the photo.

IF they are Taxus, those definitely CAN be cut back very hard, basically to a stub, and will regenerate. Taxus is one of the few everygreens that can regenerate in this manner. Most can't. Try the same thing with junipers or arborvitae and you just have dead stumps.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 12:37PM
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Thank both for your inputs. This is shooting from the window above. Is it Taxus? The top looks pretty healthy. Just don't look at them from the side. I don't mind the plant being small for a couple of years after pruning. Neighbors don't mind "in-progress" looks in my yard as long as I am making effort to improve. If I CAN cut it back to stub, is it OK to do it now? The site is pretty cool and moist during summer but I just want to make sure it will survive.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 2:27PM
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They (the literature anyway) say a little pruning on taxus can be done until mid summer. Waiting later than that to do a light prune, should you happen to get a flush of new growth, it doesn't have the chance to harden off before winter.

But a regular - and pretty experienced - poster on the trees/conifers forums said in an old thread, a rejuvenation (ie. cut down to about 6" stubs) can be done now. And I'm thinking, you likely won't see any hint of regeneration until next season.

With the specimens you've got, I don't think you have anything to lose by taking them all down to 6".

    Bookmark   June 27, 2012 at 2:59PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

they are planted.. about 6 feet too close to the house ... and really need to go ..

when you have the budget and the energy ...

it shouldnt be all that expensive.. to remove them.. and plant some other things .... a few feet further from the house ...

that said.. all that will be lacking.. is what i myself lack.. the will or energy to want to do it.. lol ...


    Bookmark   June 28, 2012 at 8:32AM
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Yes you can cut them back hard, and yes they will start rejuvenating this season. Within a couple of years you will have new dense plants about to the height of your current plants. I do agree with Ken that they look too close to the building, but if you are willing to prune them to keep them away from the siding, and don't mind if they look a bit asymmetrical, then no reason to remove them.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2012 at 8:16AM
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Thank you everybody! I will cut them back next spring. Just want to play safe. I am very patient and timid when doing gardening. Hope the yews are as tough as the azalea I chopped to ground two years old.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 2:28PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

If you cut them back hard, do it in early spring, as in March. Problem is, this is the front of your house, they are planted too close to the house and they will look butt ugly for a good four years. Yes, they may start to recover that first year, but being close to the north side of a building it will take a looooong time before they look good.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:54PM
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why is it that most houses i see has bushes and trees planted right beside the house the person who plants them should know their gonna spread out and get taller plus the roots can crack the flooring in the house like it started to do in my house from who ever planted these tulip trees very close to the house and silver maples.

like on milkyj picture who ever planted those i guess yews are to close to their house they could top half of those and in a year or 2 it should start coming back with new growth.

on my 2 female yew bushes they kept spreading out wide and was growing taller so i trimmed around them then cut half off and had alot to burn the fresh green needles pop when you burn them and makes alot of white smoke.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 2:47AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

hey mike...

half the problem.. is that they are planted by the builder.. who just slaps in.. whatever he can get for cheap... and for immediate impact.. puts them right on the foundation ...

the other half of the problem.. is homeowners.. who see a bargain.. and never conceptualize that the things will grow FOREVER ...

i wonder what ever happened to these.. the post being a year old...


    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 8:49AM
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