How to Plant and Grow Juniper

These tough evergreen shrubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes to fit almost any landscape.

Versatile and tough, junipers are hardy in Zones 3-9 and offer reliable evergreen color and texture to just about any garden. So whether you are looking for a steely blue groundcover or a taller shrub for a privacy hedge, a juniper variety can fill the job.

Immature juniper plants have small needles, but as the plant matures, it grows scale-like leaves, which bear fruiting cones. When deciding what to plant, consider the type of juniper foliage that will work for your situation. For example, if you'll be planting near walkways or other spots that get pedestrian traffic, use types with scales—the needles can be quite sharp and cause a temporary rash on some people.

Juniper Shrubs Overview

Genus Name Juniperus
Common Name Juniper Shrubs
Plant Type Shrub
Light Part Sun, Sun
Height 1 to 15 feet
Width 2 to 20 feet
Foliage Color Blue/Green, Gray/Silver
Season Features Winter Interest
Special Features Good for Containers, Low Maintenance
Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Propagation Layering, Seed, Stem Cuttings
Problem Solvers Deer Resistant, Drought Tolerant, Good For Privacy, Groundcover, Slope/Erosion Control

Where to Plant Juniper

Junipers can thrive in almost any condition except for full shade and poorly-draining soil. Since some juniper shrubs grow up to 15 feet tall and even wider, give them lots of room. Avoid planting large types close to a house or other structure where they could cause damage as they grow. Small juniper ground covers are useful for protecting hilly or sloping yards from erosion. For hedging, borders, or privacy, choose larger types that grow tall and wide. Junipers tolerate winter salt spray, so they work well alongside roads and sidewalks.

How and When to Plant Juniper

Nursery-grown junipers in containers can be planted any time of year, but juniper shrubs with balled and burlapped roots should be planted in fall. Amend the soil in the planting area with compost if it doesn't drain well. Dig a hole at the same depth as the root ball or container and two or three times as wide. Set the plant in the hole. The soil line on the plant should be level with the surrounding soil. Backfill the hole, pressing down on the soil to remove air pockets. Water the shrub deeply. When planting several shrubs, leave plenty of room for air circulation between each shrub to prevent diseases.

Juniper Care Tips

Their ability to grow in pretty tough situations, with little care, makes junipers prized in gardens.


Juniper needs full sun for the best growth. Shady spots tend to result in loose, open growth, which reduces the plant's appeal. Coloring on many of the blue/silver varieties may also be less vibrant in part shade. It's important to note that some gold foliage varieties need shelter from the hot afternoon sun to prevent burning.

Soil and Water

Although they handle drought well, junipers need well-drained soil to keep them from getting root rot. Soil should be slightly acidic and rich in organic nutrients. After the plants are established, watering is seldom needed, except in drought conditions.

Temperature and Humidity

There's a juniper variety for just about any type of environment. Extreme cold can be damaging, but in most cases, juniper will tough it out through below-freezing temperatures. When temperatures get above 90ºF, junipers may need extra watering.


With the right soil and sunlight, junipers shouldn't need fertilizer.


Junipers require little maintenance, just minor trimming and shaping. Never cut them back to the bare stems at their centers since this wood is usually too old and tough to set new growth. If you're training a 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.

Potting and Repotting Juniper

Smaller junipers are good candidates for potting. The pot should have good drainage, as should the soil, to prevent juniper's roots from sitting in soggy soil and rotting. Junipers are suitable for bonsai; when planted in a container, their roots will be restricted so they won't grow as big. Repot junipers when they get too big for their pots, which you'll know when the roots begin to grow out of the drainage holes..

Pests and Problems

Insects such as mites, caterpillars, and aphids can cause problems for junipers. Diseases that can plague junipers include cedar-apple rust, cercospora blight, and twig blight. Remove the infected branches and use a fungicide to treat diseased plants. It's recommended that junipers be sprayed a few times a year with an anti-fungal product to prevent infection.

How to Propagate Juniper

Propagate juniper shrubs between mid autumn and mid winter. Take 6-inch cuttings from healthy plants and add to prepared pots, covering half of the cutting with soil. The cuttings should be about 2 inches apart. Add a little water to the pot and cover with a plastic bag with a few slits cut. Add water only when the soil is dry. After the cuttings have rooted, transplant them into individual pots. Let them grow in the pots for about a year, then transplant them to your yard or larger pots.

Types of Juniper

'Blue Star' Juniper

blue star juniper
Justin Hancock

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

California Juniper

california juniper
Denny Schrock

Juniperus californica has blue-gray foliage and showy berries that make this native plant very ornamental. It grows 10-15 feet tall and, once established, is exceptionally drought tolerant. Zones 8-10

'Hetzii' Juniper

hetzii juniper
Carol Freeman

Juniperus media 'Hetzii' is an upright shrub, growing 7 feet tall and 10 feet wide, with evergreen foliage shaded with blue. Zones 4-8

Gold Juniper

gold juniper
Peter Krumhardt

Juniperus virginianum 'Aurea' forms a tall (up to 15 feet), loose pyramid of golden evergreen foliage. Zones 2-9

Golden Common Juniper

golden common juniper
William N. Hopkins

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

grey owl juniper
Dean Schoeppner

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

icee blue juniper
Denny Schrock

Juniperus horizontalis 'Monber' ('Icee Blue' is a commercial name) 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

mother lode juniper
Peter Krumhardt

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

Pfitzer Juniper

pfitzer juniper
Jay Wilde

Juniperus pfitzeriana is a wide, spreading shrub with scalelike leaves. It grows 6 feet tall and 12 feet wide. Zones 4-9

'Maney' Chinese Juniper

maney chinese juniper
Dean Schoeppner

Juniperus chinensis 'Maney' is a low-growing shrub with gray foliage. It grows 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 3-8

Garden Plans for Juniper

Property Line Garden

property line garden illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

The perennials in this 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

clay soil garden plan illustration
Illustration by Mavis Augustine Torke

Even if you're stuck with heavy clay soil, you can still grow a lovely garden. Follow this plan for a stunning design that can hold up to dense soil.

Drought-Tolerant Garden Plan

orange and white florals with greenery outdoor garden next to large fountain
Peter Krumhardt

This informal mixed garden bed features drought-tolerant trees, evergreen shrubs, perennials, and annuals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is juniper fire-resistant?

    No, in fact, juniper is one of the most flammable shrubs. Its branches and leaves burn quickly, and juniper sap quickly burns as well. Plant them among more fire-resistant plants and away from buildings.

  • Is gin made from juniper?

    The berries of common juniper (juniperus communis) are used in making gin.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles