I have four English Weeping Yews that that suddenly died or are dying back...

Asked May 7, 2013, 4:36 PM EDT

I have four English Weeping Yews that that suddenly died or are dying back from the branch tips. I have been to several graden centers and no one can answer this question; I am hoping you can help. I had 4 Spreading English Yews in front of my home (two on each side of the front entry, in Millersville MD. I planted them about 4 years ago. They were thriving until mid summer last year. Two are now dead and removed and the remaining two are starting to develop the same symptons that their predicessors suffered. The two remaining ones are not next to each other and the ones that died last year, died the same way but not at the same time. The plant starts to die one branch at a time from the tips inward. (see the attached pictures) As the branches die the rest of the plant seems to be thriving. The dead branches feel as soft and supple as the green ones. This keeps going till the entire plant is dead. I cannot find any indications of infestation or disease. I have not been watering these plants this spring. Help! Tim

Anne Arundel County Maryland

1 Response

Scattered branch dying and dying back from the tips on yews suggests a root problem: a root rot or environmental issue that goes back to how they were planted four years ago.

Yews do not like soggy soil and will tend to get root rots as a consequence. This leads to scattered dieback, often starting at branch tips. You mention watering. Overwatering or planting a yew where it gets too much water from, say, a downspout, will kill yews. Especially if they are in clay soil, which holds water and drains slowly.

Another possible problem could trace back to when the yews were planted. If the yews were root-bound (the roots filling their containers and growing in circles) and when planted the roots were not sliced or teased out to make them to grow out into the surrounding soil, the roots may have continued in circles and not become well established. In summer dry periods, the roots may not have been able to supply the top growth.

The good news is that they appear to be putting out some new growth.
Contact us if you see any more symptoms or think of any more contributing circumstances. We have a good short pub on our website that gives some largely unknown reasons why plants fail. It's titled "Common Abiotic Plant Problem": http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG86%20Common%20Abio...
It might give you some ideas, too.