Yew trees can provide evergreen colour in your garden all year round, producing a crop of bright red berries to brighten up the dark during the winter months. Although yew trees have similar leaves to conifers, they respond much better to being trimmed and pruned.
Your local tree service company could tidy up your yews as part of their annual maintenance visit, or you could do the job yourself by following the guidelines below.
The best time of year to prune yews is in late winter when the plants are dormant. Pruning too early can encourage a flush of new growth that will then be killed by harsh winter temperatures and frost. It's also safe to prune lightly at the end of the summer when the growing season has finished and the weather is still fairly warm.
Basic pruning techniques
No matter how harshly yews are pruned, they will produce new growth immediately without complaint. However, it is best to remove only around one third of the total pruning at one time so as not to shock the tree. You may need to schedule several pruning sessions over the course of several weeks to achieve the result you want, but this will be better for the health of your tree.
Nip off branches all over the tree, rather than removing one whole side. Random pruning like this will help to keep the tree looking natural and bushy.
If you want to make the tree look bushier and rounder, just snip away the outer growth with hand shears. To control the size of the tree, you need to remove leggy growth, which means removing sections of branches from deeper within the tree's foliage. Avoid taking too much away from the lower branches because they grow more slowly than other parts of the tree, because they receive less sunlight.
If you have an old, leggy yew tree that has not been well-maintained, you should cut back the branches to the woody areas inside the outer foliage. This rejuvenation pruning will encourage budding and invigorate the tree into producing more lush foliage. Note here that very badly neglected trees can take a few years to regain a bushy, full shape.
If you have yew trees on your land, you can keep them in good shape by following the pruning guidelines above. Alternatively, ask your local tree service company to carry out pruning and maintenance work on your yew trees as part of their annual maintenance visit.