Versatile and tough, junipers offer reliable evergreen color and texture to just about any garden. Whether you are looking for a steely blue groundcover or a taller shrub for a privacy hedge, there's a juniper variety that can fill the job. The plant that flavors gin will also add flavor to your garden.
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Junipers are interesting evergreens for several reasons. The foliage is one source of interest: Some have small, sharp needles; others have scalelike leaves; some have both. Immature plants have the sharp needles; as the plant matures, it grows scale-type leaves, which then bear fruiting cones. Consider the foliage for your planting situation. For instance, if you will be planting it near walkways or other spots that get walking traffic, seek varieties that only have scales (needles can be quite sharp and cause a temporary rash on some individuals).
Related: The Best Conifers for Your Yard
Juniper Care Must-Knows
Their ability to grow in some pretty tough situations with little care makes junipers prized in garden settings. Although junipers handle drought well, they need well-drained soil. They also need full sun for the best growth. (They even tolerate winter's salt spray so work along roads and sidewalks.) Shady spots tend to result in loose, open growth, which reduces the appeal of the plant. Coloring on many of the blue/silver varieties may also be less vibrant in part shade. It is important to note that some of the gold foliage varieties prefer shelter from hot afternoon sun to prevent burning.
They require little maintenance, just minor trimming, and shaping of the plants. Never cut them back to the bare stems in the center of the plants, because this wood is usually too old and tough to set new growth. If you're training juniper into a formal shape, select a variety amenable to regular pruning. Groundcover types are generally not a good choice for that and should be minimally pruned, if at all.
So Many Choices
Junipers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. You can roughly group junipers into three main growth types: groundcover, midheight or mounding, and tall upright. Each has their own uses and come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. As you venture into the world of juniper, it is best to narrow your search down to one of these types and go from there. Within each group, there are still numerous options to choose from, so you'll still have your work cut out for you!
More Varieties of Juniper
'Blue Star' juniper
Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star' features dense branches of silvery-gray needles with white stripes. This drought-tolerant juniper is compact, growing 2 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 5-9
Juniperus californica has blue-gray foliage and showy berries that make this native plant very ornamental. It grows 10-15 feet tall and is exceptionally drought-tolerant after established. Zones 8-10
Juniperus media 'Hetzii' is an upright shrub, growing 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide with evergreen foliage shaded with blue. Zones 4-8
Juniperus virginianum 'Aurea' forms a tall (up to 15 feet), loose pyramid of golden evergreen foliage. Zones 2-9
Golden common juniper
Juniperus communis 'Depressa Aurea' is a native plant that has a low habit—2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. New shoots are bright gold. Zones 2-6
'Grey Owl' juniper
Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl' features silvery-gray foliage that turns slightly purple at the tips in winter. It reaches 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 2-9
Icee Blue juniper
Juniperus horizontalis 'Monber' maintains a dense, full crown year-round. Brilliant silver-blue foliage is the hallmark of this cultivar. In the coldest climates, its foliage becomes plum purple in winter. Zones 3-9
'Mother Lode' juniper
Juniperus horizontalis 'Mother Lode' forms a low-growing mat of bright golden foliage that bronzes in winter. It grows 8 inches tall and 5 feet wide. Zones 4-9
Juniperus pfitzeriana is a wide, spreading shrub with scalelike leaves. It grows 6 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Zones 4-9
Garden Plans for Juniper
Garden Design for a Deck
A garden design featuring easy-to-grow shrubs and perennials enhances this deck and helps it blend into the garden.
Property Line Garden
This stylish border features a sophisticated color palette. The perennials in the design, chosen for their long season of bloom, offer flowers in violet-blue and yellow shades. Evergreen shrubs in silver-blue and bright chartreuse-gold keep the color scheme going year-round.
Clay Soil Garden
Even if you're stuck with heavy, clay soil, you can still grow a lovely garden. Follow this garden plan for a stunning design that can hold up to dense soil.
Drought-Tolerant Garden Plan
This informal mixed garden bed features drought-tolerant trees, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and annuals.