Still unknown to most Southerners, the plum yews give hope to gardeners in the Lower and Coastal South who love the look of traditional yew (Taxus) but whose climates are too hot to grow it. These slow-growing evergreens from Asia have long, bright green needles and, on female plants, produce small green or brown fruits that resemble plums. They accept almost any well-drained soil; do best in partial to full shade but will tolerate sun. And whereas deer will gnaw most Taxus species to the ground, they turn up their noses at plum yews.
C. fortunei. FORTUNE'S PLUM YEW. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Large shrub or small tree to 1015 ft. tall and wide, with soft, medium green needles up to 312 in. long. Reddish brown bark peels off in large pieces. 'Prostrate Spreader' is a low-growing, spreading form.
C. harringtonia. JAPANESE PLUM YEW. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Spreading shrub or small tree with bright green, 1- to 212-in.-long needles. Can grow 1015 ft. tall and wide, but named selections are smaller and more compact. 'Duke Gardens' grows 34 ft. tall and wide and has survived 24F; 'Fastigiata' ('Stricta') is a broadly columnar form that can reach 10 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide. 'Korean Gold' has golden new foliage, columnar habit. 'Prostrata' is the name given to plants propagated from side branches; these do not form a central leader and remain 23 ft. tall, spreading somewhat wider. 'Yewtopia' grows into a vase shape just 34 ft. tall and wide. Japanese plum yew tolerates much pruning and will resprout even if you cut back into older wood. Makes an excellent substitute for shrub-type junipers (Juniperus) and hollies (Ilex).
C. sinensis. CHINESE YEW. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Plant somewhat resembles C. harringtonia but with needles that are blackish green above and silvery to bluish green beneath.