Growing Juniper Trees: How To Plant Juniper Trees

Growing Juniper Trees: How To Plant Juniper Trees

Plants in the Juniperus genus are termed “juniper” and come in various forms. Because of this, juniper species can play many different roles in the backyard. Is juniper a tree or bush? It is both, and much more. Junipers are evergreen coniferous plants with scaly leaves, but the height and presentation vary considerably among varieties. You’ll find junipers that look like ground cover, shrubs, or tall trees.

Growing juniper trees or bushes is not difficult. Read on to learn about juniper tree varieties and juniper tree care.

Juniper Tree Varieties

If you are looking for a ground shrub with a flat or a mounded form, think juniper. If you want to create a hedge of upright evergreen bushes, think juniper. If you need a tall, evergreen tree in the sunny spot in your garden, think juniper.

Juniper species come in all sizes and shapes, from low-lying shrubs that cover sand dunes to huge ancient trees in the high Sierras. North America boasts 13 native juniper species, and there are four times that number worldwide.

Juniper Trees vs. Shrubs

Since shrubs are nothing more than short trees, the line between the two types of plants is always a blurred one. Some cases are clearer than others. For example, California juniper (Juniperus californica) is considered a low coastal shrub, because it stays close to the ground, but western juniper (J. occidentalis) always presents as a tall tree, sculpted by the wind.

But sometimes categorizing a juniper as a tree or a shrub is more difficult. Pfitzer juniper (J. chinensis ‘Pfitzerana’), perhaps the most popular cultivated juniper, grows to 5 feet (1.5 m.) high and 10 feet (3 m.) wide, and is considered a small tree by some, a shrub by others. This is also the case with Hetz Chinese juniper (J. chinensis ‘Hetzii’), which grows to 15 feet (4.5 m.) tall.

How to Plant Juniper Trees

Juniper tree care is easier when you pick an appropriate location for planting. Taking the time to select the right spot for your juniper tree can save you time and energy later.

When you are growing juniper trees, you’ll need a location with full sun or almost, as well as well-drained soil. Junipers do not like having their feet in wet mud, but tolerate most other types of soil. Generally, junipers support hot weather and poor, dry soils. They tolerate city conditions as well as any other evergreen.

Consider the mature size of the tree before you plant juniper. Many species grow so fast that they rapidly occupy the space allotted. You can prune upright junipers to keep them compact.

Juniper Tree Care

Like all trees, junipers occasionally suffer from diseases. Phomopsis blight is the most serious disease that attacks juniper. You can identify it by looking for browning branch tips. Control this disease by spraying the new growth several times during the growing season with a fungicide.

UNH Extension

If you are planting evergreens for privacy, the last thing you want to worry about is deer damage. Gardeners in New Hampshire, particularly those in the southern counties and along the Connecticut River Valley, will undoubtedly come into conflict with deer at some point in time. Many evergreen plants serve as favorite winter food sources, including arborvitae, rhododendron, holly and yew. In many cases, proximity to a house is not enough to deter hungry deer in the latter half of winter. Fortunately, there are some evergreen shrubs that are mostly avoided by deer. While no plant is ever entirely safe from deer, the following selections usually escape damage in all but the leanest of times.

Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) has long been a favorite shrub for hedges, and it is one of the most deer-tolerant plants for gardens. It is considered a staple in formal gardens due to its tolerance of pruning and shearing. Though boxwood does not sport showy flowers, its deep green foliage grows densely and can form a good screen. Plants can grow in full sun to shade, but their leaves and branches aren’t as dense in the shade, and plants are less vigorous. Boxwood is hardy to zone 5 but may suffer damage in harsh winters. In many locations in New Hampshire, the evergreen foliage tends to turn brownish-yellow when plants are grown in areas with full sun and winter winds. Boxwood is best suited to sheltered locations where it will have some protection.

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica)

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica), sometimes known as Andromeda, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that can grow up to 10 feet tall, depending on variety. Pieris has glossy dark green leaves year-round and drooping white flower clusters in early spring that attract bumblebees and other pollinators. It grows very well in organically rich, acid soils in full sun to part shade, so if you’ve had luck with other acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, pieris will likely thrive as well. It is also tolerant of deep shade, setting it apart from other evergreens that do best with more sun exposure. As a zone 5 shrub, pieris tends to be most vigorous and suffer the least winter damage in southern New Hampshire. Despite occasional issues with lacebugs and winter injury, Japanese pieris is almost never bothered by deer.

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is one of the few native evergreen shrubs that deer largely ignore. Mountain laurel grows in the wild in various locations throughout New Hampshire. It is often used in landscapes due to its abundant, unusual flowers in late spring. The species sports white to pale pink flower clusters that can measure as much as six inches across. Many additional cultivated varieties have been introduced to the nursery trade that have blooms in various shades of pink, red and combinations thereof. The leaves are leathery, dark green and otherwise similar to those of rhododendrons. Mountain laurel is a great choice for landscapes in part shade with moist, acidic, well-drained soil.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is likely the closest alternative to arborvitae that can be grown in New Hampshire. Eastern red cedar is a native needled evergreen that has overlapping scale-like leaves. It is highly drought-tolerant and is a good choice for gardens with full sun and dry soil. It is also an excellent plant for wildlife, as many species of songbirds, such as Cedar Waxwings, will eat the blueish-gray, berry-like cones. On rare occasions, deer may browse the lower foliage, but Eastern red cedar usually escapes damage. One important thing to note is that Eastern red cedar is an alternate host for cedar apple rust and should not be planted near apples or crabapples.

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis)

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is another needled evergreen that is similar to Eastern red cedar in many regards. It also has scale-like foliage on mature branches and is highly tolerant of deer, drought and dry soil. While plants can grow into large trees, a great number of smaller shrubby varieties can be found at garden centers. Chinese juniper is also susceptible to cedar apple rust and should not be grown in the vicinity of apples.

Inkberry (Ilex glabra)

Inkberry (Ilex glabra) is a native evergreen holly species that is popular as a screen in garden settings because it is adaptable to both well-drained and wet soils. It has small, glossy, dark green leaves that are spineless, and produces small black fruit that are enjoyed by various songbird species. Inkberry is easy to grow in most landscapes, provided there is full sun or part shade. It will be at its best when planted in full sun in consistently moist, acidic soil. Inkberry is likely the best native shrub to grow as an informal hedge. Plant height varies considerably, depending on variety, so make sure to choose a form that will suit your landscape needs.

True Cedars vs. False Cedars

An important distinction needs to be made between "true" and "false" cedars. True cedars are members of the genus Cedrus and include species such as the Lebanon cedar, Atlas cedar, and Cyprus cedar. They are found in the Himalayas and the Mediterranean region and are often grown in parks and gardens. All true cedars are members of the pine family (Pinaceae).

False cedars, sometimes known as "New World" cedars, are found in North America. They are members of the genera Calocedrus, Thuja, and Chamaecyparis, all of which are part of the Cypress family (Cupressaceae). Some believe that these trees came to be called cedars because of their aromatic wood, which resembles that of true cedars.


  • 1 Description
  • 2 Classification
  • 3 Ecology
  • 4 Cultivation and uses
    • 4.1 Timber
    • 4.2 Culinary use
    • 4.3 Essential oil
    • 4.4 Ethnic and herbal use
    • 4.5 Wood and leaves
    • 4.6 Ornamental use
  • 5 Allergenic potential
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links

Junipers vary in size and shape from tall trees, 20–40 m (66–131 ft) tall, to columnar or low-spreading shrubs with long, trailing branches. They are evergreen with needle-like and/or scale-like leaves. They can be either monoecious or dioecious. The female seed cones are very distinctive, with fleshy, fruit-like coalescing scales which fuse together to form a "berry"-like structure (galbulus), 4–27 mm (0.16–1.06 in) long, with one to 12 unwinged, hard-shelled seeds. In some species, these "berries" are red-brown or orange, but in most they are blue they are often aromatic and can be used as a spice. The seed maturation time varies between species from 6 to 18 months after pollination. The male cones are similar to those of other Cupressaceae, with six to 20 scales.

In zones 7 through 10, junipers can bloom and release pollen several times each year. A few species of junipers bloom in autumn, while most species pollinate from early winter until late spring. [3]

Many junipers (e.g. J. chinensis, J. virginiana) have two types of leaves seedlings and some twigs of older trees have needle-like leaves 5–25 mm (0.20–0.98 in) long, and the leaves on mature plants are (mostly) tiny (2–4 mm (0.079–0.157 in)), overlapping, and scale-like. When juvenile foliage occurs on mature plants, it is most often found on shaded shoots, with adult foliage in full sunlight. Leaves on fast-growing 'whip' shoots are often intermediate between juvenile and adult.

In some species (e.g. J. communis, J. squamata), all the foliage is of the juvenile needle-like type, with no scale leaves. In some of these (e.g. J. communis), the needles are jointed at the base, while in others (e.g. J. squamata) the needles merge smoothly with the stem.

The needle-leaves of junipers are hard and sharp, making the juvenile foliage very prickly to handle. This can be a valuable identification feature in seedlings, as the otherwise very similar juvenile foliage of cypresses (Cupressus, Chamaecyparis) and other related genera is soft and not prickly.

Juniper is the exclusive food plant of the larvae of some moths and butterflies, including Bucculatrix inusitata, juniper carpet, Chionodes electella, Chionodes viduella, juniper pug, and pine beauty. Those of the tortrix moth Cydia duplicana feed on the bark around injuries or canker.

Junipers are gymnosperms, which means they have seeds, but no flowers or fruits. Depending on the species, the seeds they produce take 1–3 years to develop. The impermeable coat of the seed keeps water from getting in and protects the embryo when being dispersed. It can also result in a long dormancy that is usually broken by physically damaging the seed coat. Dispersal can occur from being swallowed whole by frugivores and mammals. The resistance of the seed coat allows it to be passed down through the digestive system and out without being destroyed along the way. These seeds last a long time, as they can be dispersed long distances over the course of a few years. [4]

The number of juniper species is in dispute, with two studies giving very different totals: Farjon (2001) accepted 52 species and Adams (2004) accepted 67 species. The junipers are divided into several sections, though (particularly among the scale-leaved species) which species belong to which sections is still far from clear, with research still ongoing. [ citation needed ]

Juniperus sect. Juniperus – needle-leaf junipers the adult leaves are needle-like, in whorls of three, and jointed at the base

  • Juniperus sect. Juniperus subsect. Juniperus – cones with 3 separate seeds needles with one stomatal band
    • Juniperus communis – common juniper
      • Juniperus communis subsp. alpina – alpine juniper
    • Juniperus conferta – shore juniper
    • Juniperus rigida – Temple juniper or needle juniper
  • Juniperus sect. Juniperus subsect. Oxycedrus – cones with 3 separate seeds needles with two stomatal bands
    • Juniperus brevifolia – Azores juniper
    • Juniperus cedrus – Canary Islands juniper
    • Juniperus formosana – Chinese prickly juniper
    • Juniperus lutchuensis – Ryukyu juniper
    • Juniperus oxycedrus – Western prickly juniper, cade juniper
    • Juniperus macrocarpa – large-berry juniper
  • Juniperus sect. Juniperus subsect. Caryocedrus – cones with 3 seeds fused together needles with two stomatal bands
    • Juniperus drupacea – Syrian juniper

Juniperus sect. Sabina – scale-leaf junipers adult leaves are mostly scale-like, similar to those of Cupressus species, in opposite pairs or whorls of three, and the juvenile needle-like leaves are not jointed at the base (including in the few that have only needle-like leaves see below right). Provisionally, all the other junipers are included here, though they form a paraphyletic group. [ citation needed ]

  • Old World species

  • Juniperus chinensis – Chinese juniper
  • Juniperus convallium – Mekong juniper
  • Juniperus excelsa – Greek juniper
    • Juniperus excelsa polycarpos – Persian juniper
  • Juniperus foetidissima – stinking juniper
  • Juniperus indica – black juniper
  • Juniperus komarovii – Komarov's juniper
  • Juniperus phoenicea – Phoenicean juniper
  • Juniperus pingii – Ping juniper
  • Juniperus procera – East African juniper
  • Juniperus procumbens – Ibuki juniper
  • Juniperus pseudosabina – Xinjiang juniper
  • Juniperus recurva – Himalayan juniper
  • Juniperus sabina – Savin juniper
  • Juniperus saltuaria – Sichuan juniper
  • Juniperus semiglobosa – Russian juniper
  • Juniperus seravschanica-Pashtun juniper [5]
  • Juniperus squamata – flaky juniper
  • Juniperus thurifera – Spanish juniper
  • Juniperus tibetica – Tibetan juniper
  • Juniperus indica – Himalayan black juniper
  • Juniperus angosturana – Mexican one-seed juniper
  • Juniperus ashei – Ashe juniper
  • Juniperus arizonica – redberry juniper, roseberry juniper
  • Juniperus barbadensis – West Indies juniper
  • Juniperus bermudiana – Bermuda juniper
  • Juniperus blancoi – Blanco's juniper
  • Juniperus californica – California juniper
  • Juniperus coahuilensis – Coahuila juniper
  • Juniperus comitana – Comitán juniper
  • Juniperus deppeana – alligator juniper
  • Juniperus durangensis – Durango juniper
  • Juniperus flaccida – Mexican weeping juniper
  • Juniperus gamboana – Gamboa juniper
  • Juniperus grandis – Sierra juniper
  • Juniperus horizontalis – creeping juniper
  • Juniperus jaliscana – Jalisco juniper
  • Juniperus maritima – seaside juniper
  • Juniperus monosperma – one-seed juniper
  • Juniperus monticola – mountain juniper
  • Juniperus occidentalis – western juniper
  • Juniperus osteosperma – Utah juniper
  • Juniperus pinchotii – Pinchot juniper
  • Juniperus saltillensis – Saltillo juniper
  • Juniperus scopulorum – Rocky Mountain juniper
  • Juniperus standleyi – Standley's juniper
  • Juniperus virginiana – eastern juniper, eastern redcedar
    • Juniperus virginiana subsp. silicicola – Southern juniper
  • Juniperus zanonii (proposed) [6]

Juniper plants thrive in a variety of environments. The junipers from Lahaul valley can be found in dry, rocky locations planted in stony soils. These plants are being rapidly used up by grazing animals and the villagers. There are several important features of the leaves and wood of this plant that cause villagers to cut down these trees and make use of them. [7] Additionally, the western juniper plants, a particular species in the juniper genus, are found in woodlands where there are large, open spaces. Junipers are known to encompass open areas so that they have more exposure to rainfall. [4] Decreases in fires and a lack of livestock grazing are the two major causes of western juniper takeover. This invasion of junipers is driving changes in the environment. For instance, the ecosystem for other species previously living in the environment and farm animals has been compromised. [8] When junipers increase in population, there is a noticeable decrease in woody species like mountain big sagebrush and aspen. Among the juniper trees themselves, there is a lot of competition. The cost of this is a decrease in berry production. [9] Herbaceous cover decreases, and junipers are often mistaken for weeds. As a result, several farmers have thinned the juniper trees or removed them completely. However, this reduction did not result in any significant difference on wildlife survival. Some small mammals found it advantageous to have thinner juniper trees, while cutting down the entire tree was not favorable. [10] [11]

Some junipers are susceptible to Gymnosporangium rust disease, and can be a serious problem for those people growing apple trees, an alternate host of the disease.

Timber Edit

Some junipers are given the common name "cedar," including Juniperus virginiana, the "red cedar" that is used widely in cedar drawers and closets. [12] The lack of space or a hyphen between the words "red" and "cedar" is sometimes used to indicate that this species is not a true cedar, Cedrus. [13]

Juniper in weave is a traditional cladding technique used in Northern Europe, e.g. at Havrå, Norway. [14]

Culinary use Edit

Juniper berries are a spice used in a wide variety of culinary dishes and best known for the primary flavoring in gin (and responsible for gin's name, which is a shortening of the Dutch word for juniper, jenever). A juniper based spirit is made by fermenting juniper berries and water to create a "wine" that is then distilled. This is often sold as a juniper brandy in eastern Europe. Juniper berries are also used as the primary flavor in the liquor Jenever and sahti-style of beers. Juniper berry sauce is often a popular flavoring choice for quail, pheasant, veal, rabbit, venison, and other game dishes.

Essential oil Edit

Juniper berries are steam distilled to produce an essential oil that may vary from colorless to yellow or pale green. [15] Some of its chemical components are terpenoids and aromatic compounds, such as cadinene, a sesquiterpene. [16]

Ethnic and herbal use Edit

Most species of juniper are flexible and have a high compression strength-to-weight ratio. [17] This has made the wood a traditional choice for the construction of hunting bows among some of the Native American cultures in the Great Basin region. [18] These bow staves are typically backed with sinew to provide tension strength that the wood may lack. [17]

Some Indigenous peoples of the Americas use juniper in traditional medicine for instance the Dineh, who use it for diabetes. [19] Juniper ash has also been historically consumed as a source of calcium by the Navajo people. [20] [21]

Juniper is traditionally used in Scottish folkloric and Gaelic Polytheist saining rites, such as those performed at Hogmanay (New Year), where the smoke of burning juniper, accompanied by traditional prayers and other customary rites, is used to cleanse, bless, and protect the household and its inhabitants. [22]

Wood and leaves Edit

Local people in Lahaul Valley present juniper leaves to their deities as a folk tradition. It is also useful as a folk remedy for pains and aches, as well as epilepsy and asthma. They are reported to collect large amounts of juniper leaves and wood for building and religious purposes. [7]

Ornamental use Edit

Junipers are among the most popular conifers to be cultivated as ornamental subjects for parks and gardens. They have been bred over many years to produce a wide range of forms, in terms of colour, shape and size. They include some of the dwarfest (miniature) cultivars. They are also used for bonsai. Some species found in cultivation include:

  • Juniperus chinensis
  • Juniperus communis
  • Juniperus horizontalis
  • Juniperus × pfitzeriana
  • Juniperus procumbens
  • Juniperus rigida
  • Juniperus scapulorum
  • Juniperus squamata

In drier areas, juniper pollen easily becomes airborne and can be inhaled into the lungs. This pollen can also irritate the skin and cause contact dermatitis. Cross-allergenic reactions are common between juniper pollen and the pollen of all species of cypress. [3]

Monoecious juniper plants are highly allergenic, with an OPALS allergy scale rating of 9 out of 10. Completely male juniper plants have an OPALS rating of 10, and release abundant amounts of pollen. Conversely, all-female juniper plants have an OPALS rating of 1, and are considered "allergy-fighting". [3]

Eastern Red Cedar

Commonly referred to simply as cedar, the Easten red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is in fact a juniper variety that is found growing naturally throughout the Northeastern United States. It has also been cultivated for use in the garden landscape.

The Eastern red cedar produces berries that are edible and safe for human consumption. While these berries are not bitter as are the berries of most juniper species, the red juniper's palatable berries are not as aromatic as those of the common juniper. The Eastern red cedar is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 9, notes the North Carolina State Cooperative Extension.

How to Identify a Juniper Tree

Juniper tree varieties come in a variety of shades -- from deep to silvery greens and then shades of blue, bronze, and even gold.

As a coniferous evergreen, juniper leaves start out rough, prickly, and needle-like, but soften as they mature into flattened, scale-like foliage. Depending on the species you choose, junipers can have an upright, spreading, or weeping habit, and can range in size from 6 inches to 130 feet tall and a spread range from 1 to 25 feet. Tall varieties with thick foliage can make great windbreaks.

Types of Juniper Trees

What does a juniper tree look like? Let’s take a look at some common types of junipers.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) - Found in eastern North America in zones 2 to 9, red cedar is an especially fragrant form of juniper with dark blue-green foliage and gray to reddish-brown bark. It can grow 30 to 40 feet tall and enjoys full sun. While it tolerates moisture well, it does not like soggy soil.

California juniper - This favorite for creating wildlife habitats and drought-tolerant landscapes in the Southwest U.S. features scale-like blue-gray leaves and reddish-brown cones. This juniper is tolerant of alkaline soils and growing 10 to 15 feet tall in zones 8 to 10 has also been used in bonsai.

Common juniper - This common sun-loving shrub is widely distributed on rocky soils throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Working well in both acidic and alkaline soils, this juniper is one of the rare ones that has needle-like leaves rather than scales. Growing in zones 3 to 8, it matures to around 15 feet tall, sometimes reaching 30 feet.

Creeping juniper - This juniper works well as a groundcover, with many varieties having yellow foliage and producing blue-white berries. In full sun in zones 3 to 9 is where this juniper grows.

Greek juniper - Growing in zones 5 to 9, this hardy tree can reach 20 to 65 feet tall in full sun. Sometimes growing massive trunks -- up to 6 feet diameter -- the Greek juniper has gray-green foliage and purple-blue berries.

What Do Juniper Tree Cones Look Like?

A helpful way to perfect juniper tree identification is by looking at its cones.

Juniper cones on male trees are small and either yellow or tan.

The female plants produce colorful berries, which are actually modified cones. Northwest species berries turn blue at maturity, but some species have red berries. Berries can attract birds and other wildlife.

Juniper Tree Bark

Juniper tree bark is attractive. Some varieties even have oddly-twisted branches giving them unique ornamental appeal.

Juniper wood on some species is considered very fragrant, and this uniquely aromatic characteristic is how many identify juniper trees.

How to Care for Juniper Tree

  • Grow zones: Most junipers are hardy in USDA zones 2 through 10, with the majority of the species being hardy in zones 4 to 10.
  • Where to plant: Junipers like slightly acidic pH soils, but will grow in non-acidic soils as long as they receive good drainage.
  • Height/spread: Depending on the species you choose, junipers can have an upright, spreading, or weeping habit, and can range in size from 6 inches to 130 feet tall and a spread range from 1 to 25 feet.
  • Sunlight: Most junipers prefer full sun. In warmer climate areas, some juniper tree varieties prefer a bit of afternoon shade during the hottest parts of the day, particularly in the summer. They need about six hours of direct sun each day so foliage density isn’t compromised.
  • Flowering dates: In spring, junipers can produce tiny yellow or green flowers. Some juniper tree varieties self-pollinate, producing both male and female blooms, while others require a male and female juniper for pollination.
  • Best time to prune: You can prune tips of branches each year to keep plants in check size-wise. But if you provide enough space for a juniper to grow to its mature size, no pruning is necessary. Prune junipers in late winter and early spring just before growth begins.
  • Deer resistance: Since junipers often give off a heavy fragrance and deer are sensitive to smell, they tend to avoid junipers.

Potential Threats

Junipers are relatively low-maintenance plants when properly placed in the right location and given adequate care. However, improperly planted junipers can suffer extra stress resulting in browning needles and even entire shoot dieback.

During warm, wet weather, junipers can suffer twig and tip blights caused by fungi. This browning of needles on the oldest, lowest branches can be caused by other issues, such as drought or overwatering, so closely inspecting plants is important for diagnosis. Purchasing disease-resistant juniper tree varieties can help avoid this problem, as well as avoiding poor placement in shaded or poorly drained locations. If a fungal blight is present, promptly prune and remove any diseased or browning branches as they occur. Your tree care professional can use a fungicide as well an experienced eye is essential since timing is crucial.

When it comes to pests, scales and spider mites can be troublesome on junipers. Their damage appears as tiny yellow spots on needles, and eventually browning needles and needle drop. Your local arborist can inspect the tree and identify your pest problem, suggesting a treatment solution.


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The broad, shrubby juniper contrasts nicely with the thin, upright holly.

Junipers are incredibly versatile plants there is a form for almost every landscape use. From hardy ground covers to salt-tolerant shrubs to large trees, these sun-loving plants can be of use in any Florida yard.

There are about forty species of juniper and many selections of each. Junipers range from dwarf types, which can be used as groundcovers, to large trees like red cedar. This range makes junipers a versatile choice in the landscape.

Junipers have excellent tolerance to salt spray and salty soils. Shore juniper is often used for seaside plantings, but other varieties could be chosen as well.

Another advantage to junipers is their excellent drought tolerance. But for all their flexibility, junipers definitely need at least half a day of full sun.

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