When planted right and in the right spot, Podocarpus yews are exceptionally easy to grow and care. Podocarpus, also known as shrubby yew pine or Buddhist pine, come in many forms ranging from low mounding shrubs to taller trees growing over 30 feet in height. 

Here's a breakdown of what you need to know to plant and grow Podocarpus like the pros...



Cultural Preferences


Soil Preferences

Podocarpus are a very tough plants that thrive in the most adverse conditions tolerating a wide range of soils, including well-drained clay. They prefer a moist but well-drained sandy soil, however are exceptionally drought tolerant when established. As with so many other ornamental plants they not like constantly soggy or wet soils, which can cause problems with the roots. Very alkaline or heavy soils may cause nutrient deficiencies.


How To Test Soil Drainage  

If you are uncertain about soil drainage in the area you intend to plant your Podocarpus, it's well worth taking the time to test the drainage before planting. 

To test soil drainage, dig a hole 12" wide by 12" deep in the planting area. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then, after it drains, fill it with water again, but this time clock how long it takes to drain. In well-drained soil the water level will go down at a rate of about 1 inch an hour. A faster rate, such as in loose, sandy soil, may signal potentially dry site conditions and possibly a need to add organic matter to help retain moisture. A slower rate indicates poor draining soil and is a caution you need to improve drainage, plant in a raised mound or bed, or look for plants that are more tolerant of wet or boggy conditions.


Soil pH

Podocarpus grow well in a wide range of soil pH ranging between 4.5 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0. 


How To Test Soil pH

Soil pH is a measurement of the alkalinity or acidity of soil and is measured on a scale of 1-14, with 7 as the neutral mark. Any measurement below 7 indicates acid soil conditions, and anything above 7 indicates alkaline. 

If you're unsure about the pH of your soil, and whether or not it's suitable for growing Podocarpus, it's a good idea to test the soil pH in the planting area. You can quickly test soil pH with an inexpensive soil pH tester probe. To raise the pH (make more alkaline) you can add pelletized limestone to the soil. To lower the pH (make more acid) you can apply Soil SulfurAluminum Sulfate, or Chelated Iron. Adding organic compost to the soil or using compost as mulch can also help to increase acidity and maintain acid soil conditions.




Light Preferences

Podocarpus plants tolerate a wide range light exposures, growing well in full sun or full shade. 



How To Plant A Podocarpus

Scroll down for container planting instructions and care tips.


Step 1

Start by digging your planting hole at least two to three times as wide and not much deeper than the root ball. The wider the hole the better. Place native soil removed from planting hole around the perimeter of the hole, in a wheel barrow, or on a tarp.


Step 2

Depending on the type, fertility and porosity of the soil in the planting area it might be beneficial to amend the native soil. When planting in dense clay or other compacted soils it is beneficial to thoroughly mix in some bagged top soil, sand, and/or a good planting mix at a 50/50 ratio with the soil removed from the planting hole. When planting in very sandy, quick-draining soil you might want to consider mixing in some top soil, peat moss and/or compost to help retain moisture. When planting in moist but well-drained soils of average fertility there is no need for adding a soil amendment.


Step 3

To remove your Podocarpus plant from the nursery container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the piot to loosen the root ball. Then try to gently remove the plant from the container. If the root ball is stuck it's best to use snips or a utility knife to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the sides and bottom surfaces of the root ball. 


Step 4

Set your Podocarpus Yew in the planting hole so that the top edge of the root ball is at or slightly above ground level to allow for settling. If necessary, add some backfill soil mixture to the bottom of the hole to achieve proper planting height. 

Note: If the soil is poorly drained (constantly soggy or wet) improve soil drainage in the planting area or select a different plant species tolerant of wet soils. 


Step 5

After setting your Podocarpus in the planting hole, use one hand to hold the plant straight and your other hand to begin back-filling your soil mixture around the root ball, tamping as you go to remove air pockets. When you have filled the hole to the halfway point you can soak the soil. Then continue back-filling to the top edge of the root ball. To avoid suffocating your plant, avoid placing any soil on top of the root ball.


Step 6 (Optional)

When planting your Podocarpus in a site far away from a water source in well-drained soil, you can use remaining soil mixture to build a 3-inch high water retaining berm (catch basin / doughnut) around the outside perimeter of the planting hole. This basin will help to collect water from rainfall and irrigation often reducing the need for hand-watering. The berm can be removed after a growing season or two.


Step 7

Next, deeply water the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Podocarpus with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


Step 8

To conserve moisture and suppress weed growth, apply a 1 to 2" layer of shredded or chipped wood mulch or pine straw around the planting area. As the mulch decomposes it will add vital nutrients to the soil that your plant will appreciate. Avoid the use of freshly chipped or shredded wood for mulch until it has cured in a pile for at least 6 months, a year is better. Avoid placing or piling mulch directly against the base of your plant as this could cause the bark to rot




How To Plant A Podocarpus Yew In A Container


Podocarpus growing in pots appreciate a moist but well-drained soil. Constantly soggy soil can and often will cause root rot or other harmful plant diseases. Therefore, I suggest using a container that has a drainage hole(s) and a quality potting soil or potting mix, or a 50/50 combination thereof. You can also add 10-20% pumice or Perlite to the soil mixture to enhance drainage.

Also make sure to choose a container that is large enough to allow for 2 to 3 years of growth before shifting up to a larger size container. This might mean your planting pot would be 6-8 inches or more in width than the root ball of your plant. 

Container color will matter as well. Not only will you want to pick a color of container that goes well with foliage color and texture of your Podocarpus, you'll also want to pick a container that matches the style of your home or other structures and other plants in the surrounding environment. 

Many nursery & garden centers offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Before heading out to buy a container take pictures of your home and the surrounding environment. Doing so will help you to choose just the right color and style.


Container Planting Instructions


Step 1

Before filling your container with the soil mix, I suggest lining the bottom of the pot with shade cloth or a porous landscape fabric. This will keep the drain holes from becoming stopped up with soil. If you place gtravel or other materials in the bottom of the pot lay the fabric over it. 


Step 2

To remove your Podocarpus plant from the nursery container it was growing in first squeeze the sides of the piot to loosen the root ball. Then try to gently remove the plant from the container. If the root ball is stuck it's best to use snips or a utility knife to cut the container away. After having removed the plant from the container, loosen some feeder roots around the sides and bottom surfaces of the root ball. 


Step 3

Pour a small amount of your soil mixture in the bottom of the container. Set the plant in the container and make necessary adjustments by adding or removing some soil so that the top edge of the root ball will sit approximately 1" below the rim of the container.



Step 4

Backfill with your potting soil around root ball, tamping as you go, until the level of potting soil is even with the top edge of root ball.


Step 5

Water thoroughly until water starts to drain from the holes in the bottom of the container. Add more potting mix if settling occurs during watering.


Step 6 (Optional)

For decorative purposes and to help conserve moisture, apply a 1/2" layer of wood chips, pea gravel ot sphagnum moss to soil surface.





How To Care For Podocarpus

Feeding - Watering - Pruning


How To Fertilize Podocarpus Yew


Podocarpus are not heavy feeders however will benefit from fertilization. 

In The Ground:  To maintain good foliage color and support growth and overall health of the plant, feed them in spring with a slow-release shrub & tree food, preferably one that contains iron and/or sulfur for deep greening. Alternatively, you can feed with a natural organic plant food

In Containers:  Feed Podocarpus growing in containers with a slow-release granular plant fertilizer or all-purpose water soluble liquid plant food listed for use on plants growing in containers. Follow application instructions on product label. 

Note:  To avoid stimulating new growth that could be damaged by an early frost, cease fertilization two months prior to the first frost date in your area.

Soil pH - Podocarpus grow in a wide range of soil pH ranging from 4.5 to 7.5 on the pH scale. Most average garden soils fall between a pH range of 6.0 to 7.0.




How To Water a Podocarpus Yew


Podocarpus prefer a well-drained soil. When young they'll require some water to establish roots, however are quite drought tolerant when established. As with so many other ornamental shrubs and trees, constantly soggy or wet soils can harm Podocarpus plants. So be careful not to over-water them!

Note:  When watering with an automated irrigation system it's best to set your timer to water during the early morning hours and not in the late evening or at night, which can lead to the onset of fungus and other foliar diseases. Test the soil moisture often during the first few weeks after planting and adjust irrigation time if necessary to maintain a moist but not wet soil.


At Planting Time

Immediately after planting deep soak the soil in the planting area, including the root ball, to a depth equal to the height of the root ball. For an extra boost, you can water your newly planted Podocarpus with a solution of Root Stimulator, which stimulates early root formation and stronger root development. Root Stimulator reduces plant shock and promotes greener, more vigorous plants.


During the First Active Growth Season

In average garden soil you should not have to water your newly planted Podocaprus plants every day. More often than not, this causes soggy soil conditions that can lead to root rot and other harmful plant diseases. In the absence of sufficient rainfall, water only as needed to keep the root ball and surrounding soil damp to moist. Keep in mind that deep soaking less frequently, allowing the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again, is much better than splashing just a little water on the plants every day. 

Note:  Shrubs planted during the winter dormant season, when they are not actively growing and evaporation is much slower, will require much less water. So, be extra careful not to overwater during winter!


Thereafter

When established, Podocarpus are very drought tolerant and will require little if any supplemental irrigation. That said, if you see new leaves wilting or the tips of new stems bending over during dry weather this could be a sign your plants could use a good deep soaking. Check soil moisture and provide water only if necessary.


In Containers

Podocarpus plants growing in pots or other containers will require more frequent watering, especially during the heat of summer. Check soil moisture regularly and provide water when the top two inches of the soil is dry. 



How To Prune a Podocarpus Yew


Podocarpus Yew do not require pruning however respond very well to it for shaping purposes. 

Pruning or shearing to shape your Podocarpus for formal hedges or shapes can be performed almost any time of year. That said, to avoid damage to new growth that is stimulated by pruning, cease pruning your Podocarpus plants two months prior to the average first frost date in your area. Pruning can resume after the plant has gone dormant in winter. 

Damaged branches should be removed as they occur. When pruning a damage branch make your cut at a point at least two inches beyond the point of breakage or damage.

Hard pruning using bypass hand pruners or loppers to reduce size or for topiary purposes should be performed in late winter before new spring growth emerges.



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