Juniper In The Garden - Species And Uses

Northern kings of gardens, hardy and frost-resistant, junipers are indispensable for modern landscape design. Dense needles, a wide variety of shapes and sizes make it easy to introduce evergreen accents into garden design and create skeletal plantings. Junipers come in many varieties. Tall and bushy, stalking and dwarf, they conquer, above all, by the beauty and density of the texture of the needles. In addition, they are probably the most unpretentious of all conifers. About what kind of junipers they are (detailed description of species) and how they are used in garden design is this article.

Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniper. © Joe Hoeper


  • Description of garden junipers
  • Classifications of junipers
  • Species of junipers for the garden
  • Use of junipers in garden design
  • Selecting Partners for junipers

Description of garden junipers

Representatives of the genus Junipers (Juniperus) are rightly considered among the most beautiful conifers. Along with spruces and pines, they are included in the "basic three" of evergreens for the design of gardens. But unlike other classic conifers, junipers boast a much greater variety.

The presence of more than 70 species makes garden junipers one of the most diverse and versatile garden plants. But despite the significant differences in characteristics, all junipers are easily recognized by characteristic features that easily distinguish them in the company of any plant.

Junipers belong to the family Cupressaceae. They are one of the most ancient plants introduced into culture. Junipers (Juniperus) received their generic name back in the heyday of ancient civilizations.

In nature, junipers are distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, occurring both in mild tropical climates, in subtropics and temperate latitudes, and in the polar zone.

Despite the impressive distribution, most species occur in narrow, isolated ranges. Junipers are plants of mountain regions, cliffs, and elephants, but there are also species that cover strikingly large areas. Junipers form light forests, understory or understory under deciduous and conifers with sparse crowns.

Junipers are characterized by a strong arrow root system. The deep setting of the central root considerably complicates replanting and is considered the main reason for killing the plant during any manipulation. The height of garden junipers varies from 10-15 cm with dwarf and tapering forms to more than 10 m with large trees. Single-sexed and double-sexed, junipers offer considerable choice in growth form and branching pattern. They include both plants with slender, long, graphic "pinnate" shaped shoots and almost curly plants.

The buds are usually glabrous. The leaves of juniper are arranged in whorls of 3, less often in pairs, arranged supropositively, and can be both needle-shaped and scale-shaped. Needles are invariably lanceolate linear, with ostioid stripes, pinnatipartite in young plants. The scales are diamond-shaped or ovoid. It is due to the fact that juniper shoots have both spiky young and scaly mature leaves at the same time that the plant acquires a particular density and volume of needles. The coloring represents all shades of green.

Flowering in junipers is quite complex. Male spikelets open on side twigs or in leaf axils, consist of stamens arranged in pairs or gathered in 3 pieces in whorls and unusual anthers. Female spikelets are very variable, unfolding on axillary pedicels or at the ends of twigs, consisting of scale-like fruits.

Juniper flowering is inconspicuous, but fruit is a noticeable decoration of the plant. Juniper has peculiar, unopened rounded or oval cones, which are called cone-berries because of their tightly closed and rather fleshy, thick scales. The cones have a small number of wingless seeds, up to 10 in number. Juniper fruit takes a surprisingly long time to ripen, usually only by the second year.

Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniper in garden design. © Jon Cutrell

Classifications of Junipers

In the variety of species, forms and varieties of garden junipers, it is difficult to get confused, especially when guided by quite obvious signs, practical questions and basic characteristics. But the simplicity that characterizes the plant selection process does not apply to their official scientific classifications.

Considering junipers in terms of needle structure, type of leaves, and fruiting, scientists have created a strikingly complex system of juniper subclasses and sections, which is not always easy for practicing gardeners to grasp.

Official botanical classification of junipers

According to the official classification, junipers are divided into three subgenera, within which separate sections are distinguished:

  1. The Caryocedrus subgenus are junipers with needle-like, up to 4 mm wide leaves. They are assembled in triple whorls with the base drooping on the branch. Cones up to 2.5 cm in diameter are distinguished by the bone-shaped seeds fused together. This subgenus is represented by pitted juniper.
  2. Oxycedrus genus - junipers with needle-like leaves, up to 3 mm in diameter, arranged in whorls by 3 pieces, and small cones with ungrown seeds. This subgenus includes the common juniper, the most common species of this plant. In its turn, it is divided into separate sections according to berries and character of stripes on leaves (e.g., the section of Ochocedroides with medium green and two white stomatal stripes on leaves and the section of Rigidoides with a white central stripe on leaves).
  3. The subgenus Sabina is a juniper with needle-like, triple whorls of young and scaly old leaves, with a descending base, and unexpressed winter buds. In turn, plants of this subgenus are divided into species with entire and finely toothed leaves (the difference can only be seen under a microscope) and into separate sections, depending on the coloration of the fruits. Typical representatives of this subgenus are Cossack and Chinese junipers.

Garden classification of junipers

For garden culture the above classification is not used and considered absolutely not practical.

In garden design and plant selection it is much more convenient to use less formal, but more convenient classifications. One of them - according to the form of growth and size of the plant - makes it easy to find a juniper that perfectly fits the task at hand.

General classification of junipers by size and form of growth:

  1. Dwarf forms.
  2. Strunk junipers - differ in height, color of needles, pattern of branches, denseness of cover.
  3. Low junipers of medium size - with a spreading or compact form of bush.
  4. Trees and tall shrubs. For the convenience of plant selection, they are also divided by crown shape into:
  • pyramidal junipers;
  • column-shaped junipers;
  • egg-shaped junipers (cone-shaped with rounded top);
  • sparse junipers.

It is accepted to divide junipers also according to the color of the needles. "Normal" or typical for junipers is considered dark green, rich color. But also among green junipers there is a huge choice of shades, which allows you to fully reveal the beauty of the green color - from the lightest to almost black tones.

Juniperus communis (Juniperus communis)

The most common both in nature and in garden culture, Juniperus species grown as a shrub or tree. Performs well both as a solitaire and in groups, is used for hedges.

It is a slow-growing but extremely long-lived species that tolerates shaping well. The plant is quite variable in crown shape - from pyramidal to ovoid or oval in shrubs, it can exceed 5 m in height with age. Male plants are distinguished by their narrow and severe silhouette, female ones are more spreading.

Branches of common junipers are prostrate or ascending, often hanging or bending at the ends. Rough bark with a grayish patina is combined with sharp needles up to 1.5 cm long. The cones are round, large, inky with a bluish cast, and may ripen not in the second but only in the third year.

Hardy juniper (Juniperus rigida)

A beautiful tree species from nature with a perfect column-shaped crown characteristic of males (female crowns are open-jointed). The yellowish fine and very prickly needles are up to 2.5 cm long, arranged in typical whorls. The plant looks strikingly ornate and is captivated by its dense lace of needles.

Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniperus communis. © Kess
Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Hard juniper (Juniperus rigida). © harum.koh
Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniperus virginiana. © Eric Hunt

Juniperus virginiana

One of the most powerful species, even in garden culture it can grow to over 5m in height. Considered a prime candidate for replacing cypresses in regions with harsh winters, indispensable for alleys, hedges, groups and solitary lots. Narrow ovate or pyramidal crown of young plants only at considerable age changes to longitudinal spreading.

The trunk is powerful, with dark peeling bark. The branches on the trunk are usually evenly arranged, even at the very bottom the crown is dense. Fine resinous, resinous, scale-like needles with a typical dark silvery-blue tint for almost all varieties, which perfectly emphasize the structure and shape of branches. Dark bluish berries are very beautiful, long-lasting on the plant.

High Juniper (Juniperus excelsa)

The beautiful trees with dense, broadly pyramidal or egg-shaped, strikingly dense crowns. Branches curve in beautiful arcs, pointing upward, branching quite densely. Scaly needles, up to 1 cm long, due to their bluish patina, give the plant a noble appearance. Cones are dark blue-blue, very beautiful, fruiting abundantly. This species is used as for alleys or groups, also as a soloist or for strict hedges.

Juniperus horizontalis61>

Also known as prostrate juniper is one of the most popular climbing species. Its maximum height is limited to 1 m. Long prostrate shoots densely divided into thin twigs, creating a graphic pattern, pressed to the ground, conquering the pattern of bluish-green foliage, browning in winter. The horizontal juniper is characterized by two types of leaves.

The needles are prickly, dense, needle-like, saber-shaped curved. The scales are small and pressed against the shoots. Blue berries are about 0.5 cm in diameter. This species is one of the most popular shrubs for decorating rockeries, but is also excellent as a groundcover plant and in decorating slopes.

Juniperus sabina

One of the most common climbing species, despite its poisonous nature. It is a dicotyledonous shrub up to 1.5 m high, forming strikingly dense thickets and masses due to its active sprawl in width. Suitable for decoration in stony gardens, for use as borders or undergrowth, in masses or in groups. Branches are ascending, prostrate, with reddish bark. This species has needle-shaped concave leaves with a white stripe combined with oval small scales. The globules of the cones are brownish brown with a bluish patina, up to 7 mm in length. The plant is prized for its pungent smell. The previously considered separately Juniperus davurica is also reclassified to this species.

For more information about Cossack Juniperus, read the article: Cossack Juniperus in the garden - cultivation features and varieties.

Juniper in the garden - species and uses
High Juniperus (Juniperus excelsa). © F. D. Richards
Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniperus sabina. © John Hagstrom
Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniperus horizontalis. © Jim Harding

Juniperus procumbens

A low stemmed juniper that has proven to be an excellent groundcover plant. Up to the height of half a meter (with few exceptions) one plant can grow up to two meters in girth.

Strong, as if reaching into the distance at the tips, the outstretched shoots create a very beautiful carpet. The lanceolate needles in triple whorls are distinguished by two white spots at the base. The coloring is fresh, with a cool hue. The cones are up to 1 cm thick and almost perfectly round in shape. This species of juniper seems very dense and curly.

Juniperus chinensis

A very variable and unpretentious species, among representatives of which there are both monoecious and dioecious plants from large, up to 10 m tall trees, to prostrate, creeping bushes.

Trees differ by column-shaped or pyramidal form, bush plants by interesting pattern and pattern of shoots. Grayish, with a red tint peeling bark is beautiful. The dominance of small oblong scaly leaves gives the curl and density characteristic of all Chinese junipers.

Ingulate leaves persist only on young and lower old shoots. Even the fruits of this plant can vary in shape and size, with the more common blue or almost black small oval or round cones. Chinese junipers are some of the best evergreens for topiary art, they are good both in groups and alone, thanks to the beautiful pattern of branches, they are suitable for all kinds of hedges.

Rock Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum)

This species is appreciated for its strict contours and "solid" crown, starting from the base. Cultivated both as a shrub and as a tree, in garden culture it is limited to a height of 1-2 meters. This juniper is characterized by its globular outline. The branches are thin, which gives the crown a special texture. The greenery is dominated by scale-like, rhombic-shaped leaves, arranged supropositively. The needle-shaped leaves are fairly long, more than 1 cm. The dark blue berries, only about 0.5 cm in diameter, are sparse.

Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniperus chinensis. © Jim Harding
Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Juniperus recumbent, or declining (Juniperus procumbens). © Pacific Green Landscape, Inc.
Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Rocky Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum). © MathijsDielissen

Juniperus squamata (Juniperus squamata)

An even more variable species than the Chinese juniper. Evergreen shrubs up to 1.5 m tall, with strikingly dense branching and elongated shoots, are as common as prostrate forms. The dark bark, sharp and stiff lanceolate needles, and black cones look unusual and spectacular. This juniper is characterized by a patterned, distinct pattern of needles and shoots, emphasizing its special beauty.

Middle Juniper (Juniperus x media)

A hybrid species that forms only male plants and is noted for its original structure and rapid growth. At up to 1 m in height, it reaches twice its size in width. The shoots are arc-shaped, hanging at the ends. The spreading crown of young plants gradually changes, beginning to be raised. The needles are mostly scale-like, with sharp needles near the branch base, characterized by a bluish streak on the underside. The change of light green color of young bushes to a darker and richer color is very spectacular.

Juniper in the garden - species and uses
Honeysuckle in garden design. © Gardening Solutions

Use of junipers in garden design

Hardiness and hardiness are two characteristics considered the most important and most valuable in junipers. But winter hardiness differs in different species and even their varieties. This garden crop has other advantages that determine its wide spread:

  • good tolerance of shearing;
  • can be cultivated on poor or stony soils;
  • drought-resistant;
  • aromaticity;
  • resistant to pests and diseases;
  • long life;
  • fungicide properties.

Unfortunately, with few exceptions, junipers cannot boast of growth speed. Besides slow growth, the only disadvantage can be attributed to the dislike of smoky, polluted environment (the most resistant species - Cossack juniper).

The density of texture, the special beauty of the voluminous dense needles of junipers distinguish them even in the company of other conifers. Thanks to the dense greenery, junipers always look ornate, creating the feeling of a delightfully dense and complex coniferous lace. The textures are easy to recognize, but they are also strikingly varied. Junipers allow you to play with the ornamental effect, density and character of compositions.

A special love of both amateurs and professional designers has always been the unusually colored varieties and decorative forms of junipers, but even the dullest juniper can become a magnificent decoration of a plot.

Wrapping the soil in a strikingly beautiful carpet, creating amazing textural spots and tier effects, arranging bright accents, they have gone far beyond the usual evergreens in the possibilities of creating a unique image of ensembles.

Jesperries play an irreplaceable role in garden design. They are introduced into flowerbeds, mixborders and squares, used by ponds, placed in front gardens, used by paths and porches, near rest areas or terraces, placed as green guards. Junipers shade the beauty of flowering species and are considered a major tool for playing with silhouette and mass.

Junipers are appropriate in both landscape and austere compositions, all styles of landscape design and in any project. After all, a suitable candidate can be found for each purpose from the huge assortment of junipers.

Low-growing compact junipers in the garden

The most popular today are compact, low-growing and stalking species, forms and varieties of junipers, which can be used in the design of even small gardens. They look great as accents or perform the task of creating a background and filling in the soil, they grow in a limited space and fit into the requirements of modern landscape design.

Stemming species and forms of junipers are used:

  • as a groundcover;
  • to create coniferous masses;
  • to decorate stony gardens and alpine slopes;
  • to strengthen and decorate slopes and slopes;
  • to create evergreen spots and background;
  • for textural accents.

The dwarf forms and varieties of junipers are used as accents not only in alpinaries and rockeries. Miniature junipers look great in flower beds, squares, mixborders and formal compositions. © gartenknorze

The place of tall junipers in the garden

High-growing junipers are almost superseded by their more compact brethren. After all, huge areas allowing even very large trees and shrubs to be planted are becoming increasingly rare today. Such junipers are more often used in park and urban landscaping than in private gardens. But the oblivion of larger junipers is not threatened.

Smaller varieties of trees and shrub species of junipers are used:

  • as single accents, structuring accents and points of attraction;
  • in small, medium and large groups with other bushes and trees;
  • to create skeletal plantings along the perimeter of the site;
  • as winter-green accents with a view to the appearance of the garden in winter.
  • for protective plantings and hedges.

All junipers without exception are considered fragrant plants. The resinous smell that the needles and twigs emit not only creates a special background for relaxation, but also allows the plant to exhibit its bactericidal and phytoncidal properties, contributes to air purification and has a health-improving effect.

Selection of partners for junipers

Junipers, thanks to their very special character, regardless of size, are perfectly combined with all kinds of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs (if the neighbors will be satisfied with soil characteristics and lighting in the place of planting). The main thing is to respect the recommended distances and not to overgrow the planting.

All junipers combine well and can be mixed in one composition to play with textures and textures. The bright needles of junipers are good neighbors with pines and the best ornamental deciduous shrubs. Very popular combinations of junipers with rhododendrons and roses, cotoneaster, barberries, hydrangeas, spireas, birchwoods, honeysuckle and lapdrop. Beautifully combined with junipers heather and ericas, creating next to contrasting spots and interesting game of textures.

From herbaceous perennials as partners for junipers preference should be given to powerful, able to sprawl and fill the soil, forming dense clumps of plants.

Junipers underline the special musical grace of all ornamental grasses, they grow perfectly in the company of verbenicum, badanum, lily of the valley, thrush, veronicas. Their beauty is beautifully set off by garden geraniums, touching bulbous accents and classic groundcovers from periwinkle to ichneumon and cattleya.

Are there junipers growing in your garden? Tell me in the comments, what plants do they neighbor with?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Fields marked with * are required. *