Removing Yew and Arboriates

avoirgold(z7 MD)October 21, 2005

Any advice for the best way to remove large, overgrown, ugly, horrible, car scratching yew and arboriates? I have them along my drive way and if you haven't guessed would REALLY like for them to go away. I figure this for a job in the Spring, but am starting my planning now.



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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)


I have dug out overgrown Yews and Junipers a couple times. Junipers are more of a pain because they are prickly. My method involved getting in there and digging them out by hand. I cut the main branches off with loppers and then dug out the majority of the root ball. I have not had any problems with them growing back. A mattock (a heavy tool with a digging axe and pick axe) is pretty good at chopping through roots, and it is helpful if the ground is moist but not muddy.

This may be more physical work than you are up to...I note your profile page mentions a bum back. Maybe you could hire some laborers or some friends to help out. If you try to pull them out with a car, be sure to tape it. I love watching those segments on America's Funniest Home Videos where either the hook or the shrub flings up and breaks out the car window. ;-)

- Brent

    Bookmark   October 21, 2005 at 5:51PM
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oogy4plants(6B MD)

I am not sure if you have taken the chainsaw to your yews yet, but I wanted to offer my experience with several of these monsters.

They were planted at three corners of my house and resembled giant chia pets until I decided to do some creative pruning. I pruned out all the low hanging branches and sheared the tops. They now are much much smaller and even quite a pleasing shape, like a vase. Yews can be cut back very hard and will grow back. You can trim them down in stages if you are intimidated by them (or become exhausted). I used a lopper, hedge trimmer, and chainsaw alternately to do it. I like the look of the branches arching up to the top like a little baobab tree.

I decided on the pruning after lots of thought and after removing one (a hell of a job to get the roots out and I had to do my husband a lot of favors afterwards). If the location of the yews is OK, but they are just too large, this is a good way to control them. Don't be shy, you can't hurt them. They are monsters.

Good luck and happy pruning.

P.S. I don't have junipers, so I can't give any advice on them.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 5:57PM
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This IS a winter job. Just keep filling your yard cans every recycle day until they are gone. Forget about getting out the entire rootball - I dug around the stem until I found the main roots going off, then cut to release the stem.

I took out three humoungous junipers this way with only my Felco Number 2 secatures and a Felco Japanese pruning saw.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2005 at 5:34PM
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cathy2(z5 Chicago area)


We have 50-60 year old yews which we are removing. While my helpers were delighted to chainsaw the yews nearly to the ground, they are not thrilled about digging up the main roots.

Where these yews once rested are going a number of shrub and perennial plantings: hydrangea, dwarf white pine, weeping japanese maple, virginia sweet spire ... and yes a Capitata Yew as an accent.

Is it reasonable we get the principle roots, then let the rest rot away? How many feet are we talking about anyway?


    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 2:05PM
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avoirgold(z7 MD)

I ended up using a 4x4 truck and a very heavy duty chain to just rip them up out of the ground. I did make sure to use the hose to soak them for at least 3 days beforehand so that the ground was very soft. They came out very easily that way. I knew a lady who dug yews out. She said it took her all weekend long. Granted she was doing it all herself. The root balls were pretty hefty. at least as wide as the plant itself and very heavy.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 6:10PM
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Brent_In_NoVA(z7/6 VA)

Per my post above...I have dug up yews on a couple occasions (none that were close to 50+ years). I dug up the main root ball (maybe 24-30" wide and 18" deep) and I never had any problems with them sprouting from the remaining roots.

A pick mattock (like the one shown in the link below) is a great tool for chopping through roots and prying shrubs out of the ground.

- Brent

Here is a link that might be useful: Pick Mattock Picture

    Bookmark   July 13, 2006 at 5:54PM
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We had five yews along the front of our house. They were about 6' tall, very overgrown and ugly so we decided to remove them.

To start, we soaked each one for about 15 minutes. Then, using a towing chain from Home Depot ($37.95), wrapped one end around the axel of our 8-cylinder Dodge Dakota and the other end around the bottom of the bush. The first Yew was the hardest and I actually had to cut 3 or 4 of the roots with some loppers but once we got that one out the other four were a breeze! With a little gas they just popped right out. Very heavy though so make sure you drag them where you want them to go while the chain is still attached. They left big holes in my yard that I'll have to fill. All in all I am so glad we did this ourselves and probably saved a few hundred bucks! It took less than two hours to do the whole thing. Don't understand why anybody would want a Yew!!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2011 at 3:56PM
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Just don't try to pull them out with a tractor. A judge in a nearby county used a tractor to pull out some tree roots, the tractor oveturned, and he was killed.


Yews grow well in our area, and can look nice if kept trimmed; that is why they are so popular. Additionally, there are columnar, ball, and spreading varieties so they can be handy plants to pop in near a foundation in a wide variety of situations. Additionally, they make excellent hedges even in semi shade.

Unfortunately, they seem to continue growing indefinitely, and if they are not kept pruned, eventually it becomes impossible to bring them back to a reasonable size without major structural changes as noted in the post above.

When I moved to this area, I had never seen a yew before and knew nothing about their growth habits, so it was easy to simply neglect them and let them grow out "naturally". What a mistake. I did a radical pruning several years ago, but one of the plants never really recovered, and the others (which I had to leave alone until they recovered) are looking rangy again.

If they are continuously pruned, it is my impression they can be kept to a fairly shapely hedge, as is boxwood.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 10:09PM
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