A yew (Taxus spp.) produces dark green, needled foliage in an upright, conical, narrow or spreading growth habit based on variety. Due to its range of sizes and shapes, this evergreen shrub or small tree works well as a hedge, focal point, topiary or foundation planting. Due to the poisonous nature of its bark, foliage and berries, avoid planting it near children's play areas. Depending upon variety, the yew grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 7, where it establishes best when planted in the late fall through early spring during its dormant period.
Pick up rocks, debris and pull weeds from a planting site that receives full to partial sunlight and contains fast-draining soil. Dig a hole in the site with a shovel, making it twice as wide and equal in depth to the yew's root ball. Space the hole 8 to 25 feet away from other plants, buildings and stationary objects, using the specific yew cultivar's mature spread as a guide.
Slide the yew from its container and remove any wrappings from around its root ball. Cut off any dark brown to black, mushy, broken or dead roots with a pair of pruning shears. Slice through any roots growing in circles around the root ball to encourage future outward growth.
Place the yew in the bottom center of the planting hole. Adjust the depth of the hole if needed to position the top of the root ball level with the surrounding ground.
Fill the hole one-half full of soil. Tamp the soil down firmly around the roots. Fill the hole full of water from a garden hose. Wait for the water to soak completely into the soil.
Fill the remainder of the hole with soil, tamping it down as before. Do not overfill the hole or mound soil up around the yew's trunk. Bury the root ball only as deep as it was previously growing.
Build up a 4-inch high ring of soil just outside the perimeter of the buried root ball. Pat the soil in the ring to firm its sides. Fill the ring's interior with water. Allow the water to drain into the soil.
Spread a 2-inch layer of pine bark mulch over the planting site with a rake. Cover the ground underneath the yew's canopy and 12 to 24 inches past its perimeter. Brush the mulch 3 to 4 inches back from the yew's trunk to allow adequate air circulation and prevent mold or rot from forming on the trunk.
Water the yew when the top 1 inch of soil becomes dry. Fill the soil ring with water one to two times as needed to moisten the soil to a depth of 12 to 18 inches. Never over-water to the point that the soil becomes soggy. Reduce watering to when the top 3 to 4 inches of soil dries, three to four months after planting.