Yew hedges turning orange dropping needles East York


I live in East York ( Toronto) have 8 Yew hedges in a row- on both sides of a mature tree.
Under the hedges is Ivy covering the ground and growing up the tree.
Several years ago & again this year -2022- the hedges are running orange and needles falling off- interior of hedge almost bare


Hello gardener – Thanks for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners about the browning on your yews. Yews are considered a low maintenance shrub that tolerate urban conditions well and thrive in both full sun and part shade conditions. However, they are susceptible to winter damage in exposed sites and they absolutely must have good soil drainage.

In terms of winter burn, the damage typically starts on the exterior of the shrub. I’m not seeing visible browning in your photo but much of the damaged foliage may already have fallen off. We’ve just come through a particularly harsh winter so some damage would not be surprising and would also account for why you don’t see this damage every year. I’m including a link below to an excellent article on winter burn from the University of Wisconsin Extension which will help you decide if winter burn is the issue.

Browning of the foliage may also indicate root problems usually due to excessive watering or poor soil conditions that affect the drainage. Have your watering practices changed at all? A deep watering once a week is usually sufficient but check the soil moisture level by pushing your finger 5 cm into the soil. If the soil feels moist and sticks to your finger, there is still sufficient moisture in the soil and you should hold off on the watering.  Look at what other factors may be affecting the drainage.  Have there been changes in the hardscaping or in the surrounding area that are affecting the drainage? When did the stone work on either side go in? Changes in the surroundings can have an effect and stress plants.

I hope these suggestions will help you determine the cause of the damage to your plants and how to avoid further damage going forward. For more information on yews, click on the link below to an article on the many varieties of yews and how best to use them.

Winter Burn

Yews Add Beauty and Durability