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Juniperus chinensis (photo courtesy of Sheila Schmitz)
Juniperus chinensis (photo courtesy of Sheila Schmitz)

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Juniperus

Juniper
Cupressaceae
Evergreen, Ground covers, Shrubs, Trees

Ranging from low groundcovers to large trees, these widely grown plants are conifers, though they produce fleshy, berrylike fruits instead of woody cones. Foliage may consist of small, prickly needles (juvenile foliage) or tiny overlapping scales (mature foliage); or the same plant may show both types. Leaf colors include green shades as well as silvery blue, gray, and creamy yellow.

Choose the general size and shape that will serve your purpose in the landscape, so that you won’t later be forced to lop off branches to make the juniper fit the spot. Be aware, however, that many of the shrub junipers can eventually grow to the size of small trees.

The groundcover group includes plants from a few inches to a few feet high; the lower sorts are particularly useful in rock gardens. In the first few years after planting, a mulch will help keep soil cool and suppress weeds as the junipers fill in.

Shrub types range from low to quite tall. Shapes can be mounding, gracefully spreading, irregularly twisted, and spire-like. Columnar types make excellent accents, perfect for tight spots where you want some height, offering you a wider variety of choices than other plants do.

Tree junipers (grown more rarely than shrubs) are valued for their picturesque habit. Their height and form vary greatly, depending on the growing conditions; plants are lower and shrubbier in poor soil and arid climates, much larger if given good soil and more moisture. Many of the larger junipers serve well as screens or windbreaks in cold-winter areas.

Though junipers are extremely tolerant of various soil types, you can expect root rot if the soil is waterlogged (plants will turn yellow and collapse). Avoid planting junipers so close to sprinklers that their roots stay wet. Deer don’t usually browse them, but the plants are subject to a number of pests and diseases. Pests to watch for include spider mites (symptoms are gray or yellow, dry-looking plants with fine webbing on twigs); aphids (look for sticky deposits, falling needles, sooty mold); twig borers (browning and dying branch tips). Juniper blight causes twigs and branches to die back; control with copper sprays in summer. To confirm a problem or decide on control measures, consult your Cooperative Extension Office or local garden center.

Juniperus californica

Native to the desert regions of California and Southwest. Yellowish to rich green foliage. Grows to 10–40 tall and wide.

Juniperus chinensis sargentii ‘Viridis’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Juniperus chinensis sargentii ‘Viridis’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Juniperus chinensis sargentii

Grows to 2 1/2 ft. wide and 6–10 ft. wide, with feathery gray-green or green foliage. Classic bonsai plant. ‘Viridis’ is a bright green variety that grows to 1 1/2–2 ft. tall and 6–10 ft. wide.

Juniperus communis

This is a circumpolar species native to the northern hemisphere. It has many forms, from prostrate shrub to tree. The dried, berry-like cones are used to flavor gin.

‘Alpine Carpet’: Grows to 8 in. tall and 3–4 ft. wide. This slow-growing groundcover has deep blue-green, soft-looking foliage.

‘Compressa’: This dwarf column works well in rock gardens. It grows to 2 ft. tall and 6 in. wide.

‘Effusa’: Grows to 1 ft. tall and 6– 10 ft. wide. Sparse foliage lets this slow-growing groundcover show off its reddish brown stems.

Juniperus horizontalis (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)
Juniperus horizontalis (photo courtesy of Proven Winners)

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Juniperus horizontalis

This foot-tall, creeping species is native to northern North America.

Juniperus monosperma

Native to the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. Grows to 10–40 ft. tall and wide. Has bluish green foliage.

Juniperus procumbens

From Japan. Grows to 1–2 1/2 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide, with feathery yet substantial blue-green foliage on strong, spreading branches.

Juniperus rigida conferta

Native to Japan. Prostrate and trailing, with soft bluish green needles. Excellent for the seashore but will stand warmer climates if given moist, well-drained soil. Grows to 1 ft. tall and 7 ft. wide.

‘Blue Pacific’ is denser, bluer, and more heat tolerant than the species, but is the same size.

Juniperus sabina ‘Arcadia’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Juniperus sabina ‘Arcadia’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Juniperus sabina

From Europe and west Asia. Creeping or shrubby, spreading, dark green plant. Exceedingly tough. Grows 4–6 ft. tall and 5–10 ft. wide.

‘Arcadia’: Grows to 1 ft. tall and 6– 8 ft. wide, with lacy bright green foliage.

‘Broadmoor’: Grows to 2–3 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide. Dense, mounding habit and soft, bright green leaves.

‘Buffalo’: Grows to 8–12 in. tall and 8 ft. wide. Soft, feathery bright green foliage.

‘Calgary Carpet’: Grows to 6–9 in. tall and 10 ft. wide. Soft green foliage.

‘Moor-Dense’: Grows to 1 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide. Has soft, bright green leaves and a dense, mounding habit like J. s. ‘Broadmoor’, but is denser. Has layered look.

‘Skandia’ (‘Scandia’): Grows to 1 ft. tall and 6– 8 ft. wide, with dense bright green foliage.

‘Tamariscifolia New Blue’: Grows to 2 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide, spreading symmetrically like standard Tam juniper (J. s. ‘Tamariscifolia’), but its foliage is bluer.

‘Tamariscifolia’: Grows to 2 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide. Symmetrically spreading, with dense blue-green foliage. More pest problems than many other junipers. Widely used—probably overused.

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Medora’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Juniperus scopulorum ‘Medora’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Juniperus scopulorum

Native from British Columbia south to Arizona and Texas. Grows to 30 ft. tall with green or gray-green, scale-like leaves.

‘Blue Creeper’: Grows to 2 ft. tall and 6–8 ft. wide. Spreading, mounding habit. Bright blue-green foliage.

‘Cologreen’: Grows to 15 ft. tall and 5–7 ft. wide, forming a relatively narrow, bright green column.

‘Gray Gleam’: This symmetrical, blue-gray column grows slowly, attaining its full height of 15 ft. (and half as wide) in 30 to 40 years.

‘Medora’: Slow growing to 10 ft. tall and 2 1/2 ft. wide; narrow, dense, bluish green.

‘Sky Rocket’: Very narrow blue-gray spire grows to 15–20 ft. tall and 2–3 ft. wide. Sometimes sold as J. virginiana ‘Skyrocket’.

‘Table Top Blue’: Flat-topped gray plant grows to about 5 ft. tall and twice as wide.

‘Tolleson’s Blue Weeping’: Drooping branchlets clothed in blue-green foliage make a graceful, weeping, garden-scale tree to 20 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide.

‘Wichita Blue’: Grows to 10–15 ft. tall and 4–6 ft. wide. This is a broad, silver-blue cone-shaped tree.

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Juniperus squamata

Native from India and Tibet east to Taiwan. Comes in many forms, from groundcovers to tall trees. The leaves are needle-like.

‘Blue Star’: This silvery-blue shrub is uniformly branched and grows to 2–3 ft. tall and 3–4 ft. wide.

‘Holger’: Grows to 6 ft. tall and wide. Dense, broad, flat topped. Yellow-tipped new growth.

Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Juniperus virginiana

Native to eastern North America. Grows to 50 ft. tall and 30 ft. wide. This conical, dark green tree turns reddish in cold weather.

‘Blue Arrow’: Grows to 15 ft. tall and 2 ft. wide. Blue-green foliage, pencil-like form.

‘Cupressifolia’: Grows to 10–15 ft. tall and 6–8 ft. wide to form a compact, dark green cone.

‘Hetzii’: Grows to 15 ft. tall and wide, but as an inverted pyramid, with branches spreading outward and upward at a 45° angle. Blue-gray foliage.

‘Prairie Pillar’: Grows to 20 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. Blue-green foliage. Short branches hold up well under heavy snow.

‘Taylor’: Grows to 25–30 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. These columnar trees can be used as formal sentinel trees or planted shoulder to shoulder as screens. Gray-green foliage.

Juniperus x pfitzeriana

This natural hybrid of J. chinensis and J. sabina grows to 4–6 ft. tall and 10–12 ft. wide. Growth is arching, with sharp-needled, feathery gray-green foliage.

‘Armstrongii’: Upright, with medium green foliage. More compact than the species, growing to 4–5 ft. tall and wide.

‘Aurea’: Grows to 4–5 ft. tall and twice as wide. Blue-gray foliage; the current season’s growth is golden yellow. ‘Old Gold’ is similar or identical.

‘Daub’s Frosted’: Grows to 2–3 ft. tall, 6 ft. wide. Yellow new growth matures to blue-green. Mounding habit.

‘Hetz’s Columnaris’

The species is native to east Asia. This juniper variety grows as a dense, rich green column to 15 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide. Largely mature (scalelike) leaves; little juvenile foliage. Threadlike branchlets.

Juniperus chinensis ‘Kaizuka’
Juniperus chinensis ‘Kaizuka’

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‘Kaizuka’

The species is native to east Asia. This variety grows to 15 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide. It is irregular and upright, with a twisted appearance. Rich green foliage. This is a striking plant, popular for good reason. 

‘Mint Julep’

The species is native to east Asia. This variety grows to 5 ft. tall and 7 ft. wide. It is vase shaped, with arching branches. Mint green foliage. 

Juniperus chinensis ‘Parsonsii’
Juniperus chinensis ‘Parsonsii’

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‘Parsonsii’

The species is native to east Asia. This variety is slow growing to 1 1/2 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide. It has dense, short twigs on flat, rather heavy branches. Blue-green new leaves mature to dark green. 

‘Robusta Green’

Native to east Asia. This variety grows as a brilliant green, dense column that is 12–16 ft. tall and 3–5 ft. wide.

‘San Jose’

Descended from a species that is native to east Asia, this variety is low growing (to 2 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide) and heavy trunked. Dark sage green, with both needle and scale foliage. 

Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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‘Sea Green’

Grows to 4–5 ft. tall and wide. Compact dark green selection has fountainlike, arching branches.

‘Spartan’

From a species native to east Asia, this variety forms a dense, rich green column, growing to 15 ft. tall and 3–5 ft. wide.

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