Return to the Mid-Atlantic Gardening Forum | Post a Follow-Up

Removing Yew and Arboriates

Posted by avoirgold z7 MD (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 21, 05 at 16:28

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.



Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates


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

RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

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.

RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

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.

RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

  • Posted by cathy2 z5 Chicago area (My Page) on
    Tue, Jul 11, 06 at 14:05


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?


RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

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.


RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

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

RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

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!!

RE: Removing Yew and Arboriates

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.

 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!

Return to the Mid-Atlantic Gardening Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Please review our Rules of Play before posting.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.

Learn more about in-text links on this page here