Cephalotaxus harringtonia
Common Name: Japanese plum yew 
Type: Needled evergreen
Family: Taxaceae
Native Range: Japan, Korea, Taiwan
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 5.00 to 10.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: Non-flowering
Bloom Description: Non-flowering
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Deer, Heavy Shade


Best grown in moist, sandy, well-drained soils in shady areas of the landscape. Tolerates shady conditions better than most needled evergreens. Tolerates full sun in cool summers, but prefers part shade conditions in areas with hot summers. Plants have good heat tolerance. Established plants tolerate some drought. Plants are not reliably winter hardy throughout USDA Zone 5 where they should be planted in protected locations.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cephalotaxus harringtonia, commonly called plum yew, is a dioecious coniferous evergreen that typically grows as a shrub to 5-10’ tall, but may be trained as a tree that could eventually rise to as much as 20-30’ tall. Growth is slow, however, and it often takes as much as 10 years for a plant to reach 4’ tall. It is native to shaded woodland areas in Japan, northeastern China and Korea. Linear, spirally-arranged, yew-like, evergreen leaves (to 1.5” long) appear in a v-shaped pattern on erect stems, many of which rise up from the base of the plant. Female flowers produce fleshy, edible, plum-like fruits (to 1" long). If fruits are desired, female plants with at least one male pollinator are required for fruit production to occur. Excellent tolerance for both shade and hot weather make this species an interesting substitute in the southeastern U.S. for true yews (Taxus) that usually struggle south of USDA Zone 7.

The genus name Cephalotaxus comes from the Greek words kephale meaning "head" and Taxus meaning "yew" for its resemblance to yews (Genus Taxus).

Specific epithet honors the Earl of Harrington who became an early enthusiast for the species after its introduction to Europe in the 1820s.

Plants are commonly called plum yews because the fruits on female plants resemble tiny plums and the foliage resembles that of yews (Taxus).


No serious insect or disease problems.


Accent, group or mass. Excellent evergreen conifer for shady locations in the landscape.