How To Grow And Care For Podocarpus

This evergreen tree or shrub will add structure and a beautiful green color to your garden.


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Podocarpus includes several varieties of evergreen trees and shrubs with differing traits, but any of them will add a beautiful shade of green to your landscape. One thing we love is the way they also provide structure and privacy. (Think about planting podocarpus to visually block an unsightly view!) Although sometimes mistaken for yews, the leaves of the podocarus are longer, broader, and lighter in color.

If grown from cuttings or grafts of a mature tree, plants have the smaller, more closely set leaves, but they have very limber branches and are often reluctant to make strong vertical growth. These more willowy plants are a great choice for espalier, hanging pots, or to grow as vines along fences and are often sold as Podocarpus elongatus. Given staking and tying, Podocarpus elongatus types eventually become upright trees, though their foliage mass persists in drooping for some time. An exception is Podocarpus 'Icee Blue', which has striking blue-gray foliage and shrubby, upright growth to 25 feet tall and wide.

Podocarpus plants are male or female, and they don’t bloom, but if a female plant is growing nearby, that plant will eventually bear fruit after many years, producing small, berry-like fruit that birds like. This plant grows well, but slowly, in most soils but may develop chlorosis (yellow leaves with green veins) where soil is alkaline. Podocarus tolerates drought and salt spray, making it a good choice in the coastal South. 

Plant Attributes

Common Name Podocarpus yew pine, Buddhist pine, plum pine, yew pine, fern pine, Japanese yew
Botanical Name Podocarpus
Family Podocarpaceae
Plant Type Evergreen tree, shrub
Mature Size 3 to 80 ft, depending on species
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial shade
Soil Type Moist but well-drained, loamy, sandy
Soil pH  Neutral to acidic
Hardiness Zones Varies by species
Native Area  South America, Asia, Africa
Toxicity  Toxic to pets

Podocarpus Care

Like many trees, podocarpus are not fussy and require very little care. Give them full sun to partial shade and moist but well-drained soil, and the tree will grow well. You can grow them as specimen trees, or as a hedge wall for privacy or as a windbreak. Southern gardeners who want to have fun will enjoy training podocarpus from willowy grafts into espalier or shape small shrubs into potted bonsai. Podocarpus tolerate salt and drought well.


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Podocarpus prefer a sunny location but they will grow as well in partial shade. The more sunshine they receive, the more these trees and shrubs will thrive.


Podocarpus prefer sandy or loamy soil that is moist and drains well. Podocarpus don’t grow well in soggy, heavy soil.


When you first plant a young podocarpus tree or shrub, it will need regular water in the first year to get established, but after that, podocarpus is drought-resistant and will require no special watering.

Temperature and Humidity

Podocarpus grows well in the South, particularly in Zone 8-11, and does well with our humidity.


The podocarpus tree or shrub doesn’t require fertilizer, but a dose of slow-release fertilizer in the spring will encourage growth. Do not fertilize in the fall.

Types of Podocarpus

Southern Yew (‘P. Macrophyllus’): This shrub or tree grows well in USDA Zones 8–11(LS, CS, TS) with bright green leaves that are about 4 inches long and 4 inches wide. This podocarpus grows narrow and upright, about 15-50 ft tall and 6–15 ft wide. Plant Southern Yew as a screen shrub or as a specimen tree in your landscape. This plant is bendy enough to train in espalier, and can be clipped into a hedge or topiary. Native to eastern China and Japan.

Shrubby Yew (‘P. m. Maki’): This dwarf variety is slower growing and reaches 8–15 ft. tall and maintains a dense and upright form of 2–4 ft wide. A shrubby, yew- like pine, ‘Maki’ makes an excellent hedge.  

Fern Pine (‘P. Gracilior’): This tree grows in USDA Zone 10–11 (TS). Originating in eastern Africa, this tree grows 20–60 ft tall and 10–20 ft wide. It is among the cleanest, most pest-free trees for street, lawn, patio, and garden; plant it as a hedge or big shrub.


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Propagating Podocarpus

To propagate podocarpus, find a small branch of new growth a few inches long and cut it from the tree. You’ll want to remove any leaves near the cut end. Then dip the end into a rooting hormone and plant in  small pot with soil that drains well. Keep the soil moist and roots should form.  

Potting and Repotting Podocarpus

If you live above USDA Zone 8, small varieties of podocarpus can make a good potted container, because they don’t like cold weather and the container makes it possible to move them out of the cold. The most important thing to do when choosing a pot is to find one that’s a few inches larger than the roots of your podocarpus. This will allow the roots to spread out and the tree to grow. When the roots fill the pot, it’s time to choose a bigger pot. You also want to make sure the pot has holes for drainage.


You don’t need to overwinter podocarpus when they are planted in Zone 8 or higher. Trees or shrubs will do just fine in the ground. But above Zone 8, podocarpus should be overwintered. The best way to do this is to plant your podocarpus tree in a container so you can manage its size and protect it from winter temperatures.


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Common Problems With Podocarpus

This tree is easy-going and not prone to any particular problems, but if you notice the leaves turning brown, it might need a deep soaking.

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