Plant of the Month: Taxus x media ‘Tauntonii’

Taxus x media ‘Tauntonii’

The Taunton Yew has rapidly become one of my favorite evergreens. It has dense needle coverage right to the base of the shrub; it has an elegant arching, vase-shaped form; it doesn’t suffer from winter windburn; and, it is incredibly flexible, easily reassuming its shape even after being buried under two feet of snow. Although not a true dwarf, it is one of the lower growing conifers, attaining an ultimate height and spread of 3’-4’ by 4’-6’. The Taunton Yew takes well to pruning, but I recommend planting it where you don’t have to prune and can simply appreciate its beautiful natural shape.

Taxus x media is a cross between two other taxus species, Baccata and Cuspidata. Taxus baccata is the lovely English yew, with its soft graceful needles, and Taxus cuspidata is the cold hardy Japanese yew. Both species are naturally dense and upright.

Like all yews, Taxus x media ‘Tauntonii’ insists on good drainage, although it tolerates all types of soil, including heavy soil, and will grow well in a wide range of soil pH. It also can be grown in deep shade; however, this particular yew will be a darker green in shade or indirect sunlight, so try to plant them where the amount of sunlight or shade is approximately the same for all plants. All parts of the plant are poisonous and should not be planted where animals or small children might consume plant parts. Since yews grow slowly, it is worth investing in the largest, best quality plant you can afford. Prune any stray branches after new growth appears in June.

UPDATE 2015:  After vicious winter weather, once the icy mounds of snow melted, I noticed that the Taunton yew foliage looked yellow and chlorotic. I was planning to have a soil test performed once the ground warmed up, but, as the spring rains began, the foliage began to turn its normal green again. So if you see needle yellowing after the winter (not brown foliage, but yellow foliage), give the plant a chance to recover. This winter yellowing can occur with other types of evergreens, as well, and my guess is that the plant goes into protective mode based on lack of soil moisture. Unless you are experiencing a dry spring, let nature provide water for the yew until it regains its color. Yews hate wet feet, so avoid the temptation to provide water. It may take 4-6 weeks for the yew to recover from a bad winter.

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