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Which Is Better: Yew or Boxwood? Plant Information You Need To Know

Posted by Ann Tosovsky

For decades the Yew (Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’) was considered one of the staple plants used in the landscape. It served as a good, solid evergreen shrub, providing color all year long and it was basically maintenance free.  As long as the plant had good drainage there really wasn’t much that affected it.  No bugs, no diseases…..no brainer. 

Along comes the boxwood, the new “hottie” on the market that has been gaining in popularity over the past 10 years or so.  Homeowners became tired of the old look and began searching for something new and Boxwood sure fit the bill.  Having a lot of the same attributes as the Yew in regards to low maintenance and year round color, Boxwoods have become the new staple evergreen for the landscape. 

Taxus DensiformisSo which plant is better……Yew or Boxwood? Here's the plant information you need to know.

Let’s start with the Yew.  Taxus ‘Densiformis’, or spreading yew, is a needled evergreen that grows 3-4’ tall and 4-6’ wide.  It grows best in full sun to part shade and is hardy in zones 4-7. It blooms March –April, but its flowers are relatively insignificant. Female plants produce bright red fruit that can be toxic to humans and animals if ingested. Yews tolerate a wide range of soil conditions as long as there is good drainage.  It is considered a low maintenance plant that prefers a slightly acidic to near neutral pH, but is somewhat intolerant of winter temperature extremes. Occasionally Black Vine Weevils and scale insects will feed on Yews and they can be susceptible to sooty mold, root rot, needle blight, twig blight and phytophthora canker. Pruning on Yews should be done in early spring before the new growth appears. Yews can tolerate dense shade, drought and they are resistant to rabbits.  

Now, let’s move on to Boxwood.  Buxus sinica var. insularis ‘Winter Gem’ is a Korean boxwoodBoxwood Green Velvet which is a broadleaf evergreen growing  2-3’ tall and 2-3’ wide.  This plant is best grown in soil with medium moisture and good drainage.  Boxwood ‘Winter Gem’ grows well in full sun to partial shade and prefers a slightly acidic pH in more sun and slightly alkaline pH in partial shade.  It blooms in April with yellow-green flowers that are of little significance aesthetically.  Boxwood ‘Winter Gem’ has a shallow root system so a 1-2” layer of mulch will be beneficial. Stem and branch damage can occur from heavy snow accumulation if not removed in a timely manner.  There is some susceptibility to leaf spot and blight, but in particular Boxwood blight.  Insects that may present a problem include psyllids, boxwood mites and boxwood leafminer. Boxwood ‘Winter Gem’ is tolerant of rabbits and deer. 

Both of these plants serve an important purpose in the landscape. They both provide nice green color year round and overall are considered very low maintenance plants.  Personal preference may be the deciding factor here.

Tags: Plants, Evergreens