How to Care for Taxus cuspidata (Japanese Yew)

Taxus cuspidata, also known as the Japanese Yew or Spreading Yew, belongs to the Taxus genus (coniferous trees family) and grown for their beautiful foliage. The Japanese Yew plants are native to Japan, Korea, northeast China and in some parts of Russia. The Japanese Yew plants are evergreen, have beautiful foliage and they come in a variety of sizes. They are mostly grown indoors for ornamental purposes.

There are some varieties of Japanese Yew plants that are dwarf and make perfect for indoor pots and planters while some other varieties can grow like a large-sized shrub. Some varieties of the Japanese Yew plants can even grow like a tree. Most of these varieties can get as high as 10–18 meters tall.

Japanese Yew plants are slow-growing species so when they are young you can keep them indoors and grow them in the planters. But when they start gaining height, it is better to transfer them to the garden or backyard. Apart from their height, they can also grow very thick, some plants can even get a 60cm wide trunk.

The Japanese Yew plants have dark green flat leaves. Each leaf can measure up to 3cm long and 2 mm broad. The leaves are arranged on the branches in a spiral formation. They are conifers so they do not grow any flowers they grow reddish cones that contain seeds. The cones appear like a berry.

Varieties of Japanese Yew

Below are the details about a few important varieties of the Japanese Yew plants:

Capitata: This is a variety of Japanese Yew very famous for its beautiful dark green foliage. They are mostly grown for ornamental purposes. They can reach up to a considerable height but they grow very slow so you can keep them indoors for the long term. The central stem grows a lot of branches that further divide into sub-branches and make it appear like a bushy plant. You can grow them in under the full sun to a partial shade environment. They can also be grown in very cold regions as well.

Densa: Densa is a unique variety of the Japanese Yew plants cultivated for its beautiful ornamental foliage. They have dark green leaves that appear almost blackish green. They grow like a small-sized bush. They can reach up to 10 feet high. They do not tend to grow tall instead they grow very thick and wide. They are mostly grown for indoor decorations as they are small and they are also grown for landscape beautification as well. They grow very well in the cold regions and they need the partial sun to partial shade environment to thrive.

Emerald Spreader: The Emerald Spreader, a name given to this variety due to its lush green leaves and its spreading nature. They are cold hardy and can even survive in the frost. They are mostly grown for indoor decorations and in the landscape. They require low maintenance and are easy to grow. They need the full sun to partially shade the environment to thrive. They grow very well if they are provided with well-draining soil.

Expansa, Nana, Fastigiata, and Aurescens: These are also one of the most important and most grown varieties of Japanese Yew plants. They grow very well in the cold and they also retain their leaves during the coldest winters as well. They are perfect for both indoor decorations and outdoor landscapes.

Growing Conditions and Requirements

The Japanese Yew plants need a well-draining soil that allows the quick drainage of the water. They need full sun (in colder areas) to partial shade (in extremely hot areas) environment. If you are looking forward to growing them indoors you must keep them in a place where they can get enough sunlight. Apart from these, the proper use of fertilizers, on-time watering, repotting, and pruning also helps your plant thrive.

Below are the details about the growing conditions and requirements:

Water Requirements

Japanese Yew plants need Proper and regular watering. Their watering depends on their age, size, soil, and seasonal factors. Small plants and the plants in the planters and pots need more frequent water supply than a grown-up plant and a plant in the garden. That is because the small plants have small roots and they cannot access the water from the deep soil while a mature tree can easily access that water.

Below are the proper guidelines about watering your Japanese Yew plants based on different scenarios. 

●     Once you sow their seeds in the soil you need to provide them some water and keep the soil moist for most of the time. If the soil is too dry or too wet the seeds will not grow so you only need to maintain moisture. Pour only a small amount of water while watering the seeds.

●     Seeds take a few days to sprout and seedling appears above the grounds, once this happens. You can water them once every 2 to 3 days depending upon the soil and climate. Keep following this pattern for almost 4 to 5 months. Pour a small amount of water only enough to create some moisture.

●     Once the plants are almost 6 months old you can start watering them depending upon the situations for example if there is the hot season you can water them more often but if it is cold you can water them less often. In the hot days of the summer and hot regions, the soil becomes dry very quickly, that is why more frequent watering is required.

●     However, as the season changes and winter comes, you need to keep watering your plant more frequently. Provide them enough water during this period so that they can survive without water during the frost period.

●     Watering also depends on the size of the plant and the age of the plant as well. Young and small Japanese Yew plants need more frequent watering but need a very small amount of water. The older Japanese Yew plants need less watering but need more water each time.

Lighting Requirements

Japanese Yew plants thrive in full sun to partial shade. They need a bright environment but also require protection from the hotness of the sun during the hot summer days. Try to keep them in an area where they can get enough sunlight during the morning and are under the shade when the sun is extremely hot. But the plants that are grown in the landscapes are mostly under the full sun all day long and they do very well there as well.

If you have planted the Japanese Yew plants in the indoor environment, keep them in a window that opens east so that they can get the required amount of the direct or indirect sunlight. If your plant is moved from the indoor environment to outdoors, its leaves might change the color but once it is kept outdoors for long enough, the leaves will start regaining their original color.

Temperature Requirements

The Japanese Yew plants are cold hardy and frost hardy plants. They do very well in the cold regions, but you can also grow them in slightly warmer areas as well. They thrive when the temperature is between 20–30 °F. If your plants are small you can keep them indoors to protect them from the frost, but if you have planted them in a landscape or a garden, they will easily survive the cold and frost as well. 

Growing them in warm areas can be a difficult task as they do need protection if the sun is too hot. You might need to place them indoors or grow them in a shady and cool place if you are looking forward to growing them in extremely warm areas. 

Soil Requirements

The Japanese Yew plants can grow very well in different types of soil, including the clay, sandy, and rocky as well. The only requirement they have regarding the soil is that it must be well-draining and allow the excess water to move out. If the soil traps the water, it can cause the root rot and lead the plant to death. That is why soil must be porous and well-draining.

You can grow them in all slightly acidic, neutral, and slightly alkaline soil. The soil must contain all the nutrients that the plant needs to properly grow. Try to grow them in enriched soil, that contains sand, cocopeat, compost, organic matter, pumice, perlite, pebbles, and small stones.

If you are planting them in a planter, create layers of these materials, and then at the top add some mulch. Such soil will contain all the nutrients that your Japanese Yew plants need and it is also good for draining.

Fertilizer Requirements

The Japanese Yew plants need a lot of nutrients to properly grow and thrive. When you plant them in the soil, the soil only contains limited amounts of all the required nutrients that deplete quickly. One the nutrients in the soil are depleted, your plant depends on you to provide it with some nutrients, you can provide these nutrients to your plants in terms of fertilizers.

Different types of fertilizers are used according to the situation, for example, if your plant needs nitrogen-based compounds, you can feed it nitrogen-based fertilizers. To determine the deficiency of nutrients it is important to conduct a soil test. Otherwise, you will not be able to properly use the fertilizers.

how to fertilize the Japanese Yew?

Three methods are commonly used to fertilize the Japanese Yew plants, below are the details about them. 

1.    The first method involves mixing the fertilizer with the potting soil before planting seeds. This method helps boost the initial stage growth of the Japanese Yew plants. Once you sow the seeds in such a soil, the seeds will quickly sprout and they will grow very quickly as well. But you cannot keep doing this, again and again, you can only do this before planting the seeds, or during the repotting of your Japanese Yew plants. 

2.    While the second method involves spreading the fertilizer around the stems of the plant. This is mostly done when the plant has gained a significant height and you cannot pour the liquid fertilizers. This method is also helpful for the large-sized trees. You just need a required amount of fertilizer and then spread it all around the stem in a circle. Make sure that you spread one foot away from the stem.

3.    The third method is used for both indoor and outdoor plants. You need to make a mixture of plant fertilizer and water and then keep feeding this mixture to your plants regularly. Mostly it is done when the plants need water, so instead of water, you feed them this mixture.

Read and follow the guidelines related to the fertilizer that comes along with the fertilizer pack. Try to use the fertilizer as recommended by the soil test otherwise, you will not be able to use them efficiently. Do not over-fertilize your plants as this will only harm your plants and can even lead them to death.

Pruning Requirements

Pruning of the Japanese Yew plants is very important. It helps them give a proper shape and stops their irregular growth. It can also help to keep the indoor plants in check and control their size. Pruning also encourages Japanese Yew plants to grow new leaves and new branches. Pruning also helps the plant get rid of its dead or diseased parts.

Japanese Yew plants pruning starts with removing the berries that grow on the branches, these berries fall and create a lot of mess. So, removing them should be your priority, but if you are looking forward to collecting the seeds, then you can spare a few cones.

After removing them, you can start cutting the dead parts or diseased parts. After getting rid of them you can start giving your plant the proper shape that you want. The Japanese Yew plants grow a very thick layer of leaves and branches, you can cut the irregular ones and keep only the ones that are in shape.

Repotting Requirements

The Japanese Yew plants keep growing all their lives, and you have to re-pot them, again and again, every year. To re-pot them, you can use a one or two-inch bigger pot. Use the same type of soil that you are already using. Fill the pot with the soil and add some plant fertilizer.

Carefully uproot the plant from the pot it is already in and then transfer it to the new pot. After transferring the plant, fill the rest of the pot with the soil and then give it some water. Water will help the roots of the plant adjust to the new soil. After that, you only need to keep them in a bright place.

Common Diseases and Pests Control

 Below are a few common problems of Japanese Yew plants and their solution:

Browning: The Japanese Yew plant leaves start turning brown gradually, which sometimes happens due to fungal attacks, or pathogen attacks, but in most cases, if the plant is not being properly taken care of, its leaves start turning brown and eventually they fall. The only way to treat this situation is by checking if you are doing something wrong with your plant and try to properly take care of your plants.

Root rots: If your plant is being overwatered, or if your soil is not well-draining, you will face this problem. The water that is trapped in the soil, attracts different decaying bacteria and fungus, that attack the roots and cause them to rot and die, this can lead to the death of the plant as well. The only thing that you can do to prevent it, is by properly watering your plants and avoid overwatering them.

Black vine weevil: Black Vine weevils also attack the plants, they have three different phases in their life cycles, prepupa, pupa, and Beetle shaped insect phases. In the early stages of its life, it mostly attacks the roots of the plant, while the adult weevils attack the leaves and start eating them. You can control their population by handpicking them if possible. Otherwise, you can also use the appropriate chemical spray to kill them.

Mealybugs: Mealybugs also attack Japanese Yew plants. You may need to wash the whole plant with a detergent or soap. Clean the whole plant with a soaked cloth dipped in detergent water. This will help you remove all the population, sometimes if the attack is very severe, you might have to discard the plant as well.

How to Propagate:

The Japanese yew plants are propagated with the help of their stem cuttings. Cuttings are taken before the spring with the help of a sterile knife. Always take cuttings from a mature plant. After that, place these cuttings into the rooting hormone for some time. Once the small roots start appearing on these cuttings, you can transfer them to the soil. Provide them some water and leave them in a bright place.

Growing them with seeds

The Japanese Yew plants can also be propagated with the help of their seeds. Collect their seeds after they fall from the plant. Then let them dry, once they are completely dry. Plant them in a cutting method, in which cuttings are taken from a mature plant and then kept in the rooting hormone, after that you can plant them in the soil. The second method involves planting them with the help of their seeds.