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

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Juniperus chinensis ‘San Jose’

San Jose juniper
Cupressaceae
Evergreen, Ground covers, Shrubs

JUNIPERUS

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 chinensis ‘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. 

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