Juniper trees and shrubs have needle-like leaves that give off a pine fragrance and dark-blue berry-like aromatic fleshy cones. They are a group of evergreen conifers. Juniper trees come in a variety of forms, ranging from 66 to 103 feet (20 to 40 meters) tall. However, junipers may grow as low-growing or spreading shrubs up to 5 or 6 feet (1.5 or 1.8 meters) tall. Many places have junipers, which can thrive in climates that experience below-freezing temperatures.
Evergreen trees for gardens, junipers are very popular. Hedges or specimen plants formed from columnar juniper trees are very successful. Moreover, foundation plantings of juniper bushes and creeping juniper plants, whether growing in pots on a patio or deck or as ground cover, are excellent. Junipers may be grown in USDA zones 2 through 9, regardless of the kind of circumstances in your garden.
The genus Juniperus belongs to the Cupressaceae family of coniferous plants and includes juniper trees and shrubs. For your garden landscape, this article provides information on the finest juniper evergreen shrubs and trees. You can choose the best plants to add year-long greenery to your yard by using descriptions and pictures of juniper trees and shrubs.
Juniper Trees vs. Juniper Shrubs
The plant height is the only difference between juniper trees and shrubs. Because of their dwarf size and low-growing habit, some juniper cultivars are classified as shrubs, such as California juniper (Juniperus californica). Since they grow as small trees or large shrubs, it’s more difficult to classify other junipers.
Common juniper (Juniperus communis), for example, can be a tiny creeping shrub with a height of up to 12 feet (3.6 meters) or a tiny tree with a height of up to 33 feet (10 meters). Some people categorize Chinese juniper ‘Hetzii’ as a big shrub, while others put it in the little tree category because it grows to be about 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall.
Juniper Tree Leaves
Junipers have needle-like or scaly feathery leaves, which are characteristic of all conifers. Immature juniper trees and shrubs are identifiable by their sharp, prickly needle leaves, which grow in whorls of three and range in size from 0.2 to 1 inch (0.5 to 2.5 cm).
Moreover, mature junipers have scale leaves that resemble arborvitae tree scales in appearance. Some juniper trees and bushes, such as the common juniper (Juniperus communis) and ‘Blue Star’ juniper (Juniperus squamata), have prickly needles throughout their lifespan. As a result, this common juniper leaves characteristic is useful in identifying them.
Before maturity, juniper leaves are a simple way to identify juniper species. Immature juniper foliage is spiky and sharp, unlike cypress trees and shrubs. Immature cypress trees, on the other hand, have velvety, scaley leaves. Others describe the resinous, somewhat citrusy odor of crushed juniper leaves as comparable to cedar foliage, apples, or incense.
Juniper Tree Cones
Juniper cones with 6–20 scales can be found on male trees that are small yellowish or brownish-tan in color. They appear to be swollen ends of the leaves and are positioned at the tips of the foliage.
Female trees have a bitter taste, and juniper male cones are fleshy berry-like growths. When young, the cones are green and turn purple-black as they mature. The diameter of juniper cones ranges from 0.15 to 0.5 inches (0.4 to 1.2 cm), and they take up to two years to reach maturity.
In comparison to other conifers, female juniper trees produce berry-like cones. Small scales, unlike pine cones, make up the modified cones. Instead, the little round green or purple cones on juniper trees and plants develop amid the needle-like foliage, staying fleshy before fusing. In garden landscapes, where juniper trees stay on the tree or shrub throughout the year, their colorful cones add appeal to the tree.
The edible green or purple-black fleshy cones that develop on juniper trees are known as juniper berries. The piney citrus flavor of green berry-like juniper cones. In European and Scandinavian cooking, mature purple Juniper berries are used to flavor dishes. Gin is flavoured with berries from the common juniper (Juniperus communis).
Juniper berries that have been dried. Although most juniper berries are safe to eat, certain types of juniper trees may produce poisonous berries. Toxic juniper berries, such as Juniperus sabina and Juniperus oxycedrus, may be found on these plants. The common juniper (Juniperus communis), California juniper (Juniperus californica), Syrian juniper (Juniperus drupacea), and alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) are all shrubs that produce edible berries.
Therefore, it’s best to avoid eating juniper berries straight from the tree unless you’re certain of the species. Juniper berries have a pungent, bitter flavor with a slightly spicy aftertaste. berries from the common juniper shrub have a strong flavor, so they are usually used in tiny concentrations. berries are used to flavor meat dishes, as a marinade ingredient, or as a wood chip additive when smoking meat.
Juniper Tree Bark
tree bark comes off in thin, vertical strips or plates, and it is reddish-brown in color. The highly aromatic bark of juniper trees, which gives off a cedar-like woody smell, is one identifying feature. Moreover, certain juniper trees have unique bark. The checkered bark of the alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana) resembles alligator skin, for example.
Juniper tree bark is used to make alligator skin.
Do Juniper Trees Have Flowers?
Juniper trees don’t create flowers or produce blooms. Instead, modified leaves (bracts) that emerge or bloom from late winter to early spring are referred to as “juniper blooms.” Cone or juniper fruits develop from the flower bracts that have fused together. Female juniper trees’ “flowers” may be particularly attractive.
How to Identify Juniper Trees
The prickly needle-like leaves of juvenile juniper trees and plants are the finest way to identify junipers. Junipers’ berry-like cones distinguish them from other coniferous trees, as well as helping to identify them. When the leaves or bark of juniper trees and shrubs are crushed, they have a distinctive citrus odor.
Types of Juniper Trees (With Pictures)
Now, let’s take a closer look at the most popular juniper tree species and landscaping shrubs for garden cultivation.
Common Juniper (Juniperus communis)
The common juniper (Juniperus communis) is a tall evergreen tree that may grow as a low-growing columnar or spreading shrub, depending on cultivars. The prickly needle leaves, blue fleshy cones, and yellow spring “flowers” of the common juniper cultivars make it a low, mat-forming shrub that grows up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) tall and 13 ft. (4 m) wide.
One of the most popular trees in the world is the common juniper tree. The common tree may grow to be 25 feet (7.5 meters) tall and spread up to 12 feet (3.6 meters). To create a privacy screen, living fence, or barrier, the evergreen tree is an ideal hedge plant. The following small or dwarf cultivars of juniper are also attractive landscaping plants:
Common Juniper ‘Gold Cone’ (Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’)—The ‘Gold Cone’ dwarf juniper cultivar is a beautiful landscaping tree with dense gold-green foliage that can be found on any given day. The slow-growing juniper makes a nice specimen tree, foundation planting, or pot tree because of its upright, columnar form. The juniper ‘Gold Cone’ reaches heights of 3 to 5 feet (1.5 to 1.5 meters) and widths of 0.6 foot (0.2 meter).
Dwarf Pencil Point Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’)—In the autumn, this columnar shrub-like tree turns an ornamental copper color, with blue-green evergreen leaves. It grows to be 3 feet (1 metre) tall and 2 feet (0.6 metre) broad. As an accent plant, front-of-houseplant, or patio container plant, it’s ideal.
Blueberry Delight Juniper (Juniperus communis ‘AmiDak’)—This little creeping juniper plant with dark-green leaves and silvery-blue hues that persist throughout the fall and winter is a little miniature shrub. The blue-colored berries that appear in the fall give this spreading juniper cultivar its name, which means “blueberry.” It can reach a height of 2 feet (0.6 meters) and a width of 10 feet (3 meters). USDA zones 2 to 6 are ideal for this hardy evergreen shrub.
Juniper Identification: Because its needle-like spiky leaves don’t soften and scaly like other juniper species, the common juniper is easy to identify. Also in the fall, the plant is covered with little dark blue berry-like cones.
Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis)
An ornamental evergreen tree or huge shrub, the Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) The spiky, needle-like leaves of a Chinese juniper plant growing up to 1″ (2.5 cm) long on immature plants identify it. The Chinese juniper has a white waxy covering and dark blue meaty cones, like other junipers.
Depending on the climate, Chinese junipers may grow to be 65 feet (20 meters) tall. In residential gardens, the coniferous evergreen tree/shrub is a great choice. It creates excellent privacy screens thanks to its thick dark green foliage. You can grow shrubs for foundation plantings, containers, or as a specimen plant by trimming the foliage. The following are some of the most impressive Chinese juniper landscaping trees:
Juniperus chinensis ‘Expansa Variegata’—This spreading, slow-growing juniper tree grows only 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) each year and takes 10 years to reach 5 to 10 feet (1.5 to 3 m). Yellow and green spiky leaves cover the variegated juniper.
Spartan Juniper Tree (Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’)—With pencil-like growth, this juniper is a columnar tree. The 20-foot-tall (6-meter-)wide mature juniper tree cultivar ‘Spartan’
California Juniper (Juniperus californica)
The scaly green-gray leaves, dark blue-brownish fleshy cones, and thin peeling bark distinguish the California juniper (Juniperus californica) from other shrub-like junipers. Mature plants have short scaly leaves that grow 0.2 inch (0.5 cm) long. Immature shrubs have tender, spiky evergreen leaves, like all junipers. The California juniper tree, sometimes known as the Joshua tree, grows to be up to 26 feet (8 meters) tall.
The dark blue berries have a white coating and are 0.5 inches (1.3 cm) in diameter. The Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma) is a close relative of the California juniper. While the Utah juniper is more hardy than the California juniper, it takes longer for its berries to develop.
Juniper identification: The blueberries, delicate, scaly foliage, and thin peeling bark of the California juniper distinguish it from other species.
Utah Juniper (Juniperus osteosperma)
Utah juniper is a tiny evergreen tree or shrub that grows 15 to 30 feet (4.5 to 9 meters) tall and is native to the southwestern United States. It is the most widely distributed juniper species in Utah and Arizona, growing on arid, rocky soil or mountain slopes.
The bark of Utah juniper is peeling in long thin strips, and the crown is rounded with spreading branches. The juvenile leaves of Utah juniper are scale-like, 0.04 – 0.08″ (1 – 2 mm) long, while the mature leaves are needle-like, 0.2 – 0.4″ (5–10 mm) long. The white coating on the berry-like cones is 0.3–0.5 inch (8–13 mm) in diameter and is blue-brown in color. Utah juniper is a drought tolerant tree/shrub that grows in USDA zones 3 through 8.
Juniper identification: The blue-brown berries of a juniper in Arizona are small scale-like adult leaves that peel in thin strips and a mediumsized tree with short mature leaves.
Skyrocket Juniper Tree (Juniperus Scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’)
The Skyrocket juniper tree (Juniperus Scopulorum) is a columnar juniper that makes a lovely visual focal point in a garden setting. The scale-like aromatic leaves of the tiny, columnar juniper are a bluish-green color that distinguishes it. The peeling bark of the juniper is thin and reddish-brown, while the berry-like cones are blue.
For garden landscapes, the ‘Skyrocket’ is one of the tiniest juniper trees. It’s a vertical-growing juniper with lovely foliage that takes a long time to grow. With a spread of 3 to 12 ft. (1 – 4 m), columnar ‘Skyrocket’ junipers mature to be 20 feet (6 meters) tall.
Juniper identification: The reddish-brown bark, soft scaly leaves, and tall, thin, columnar appearance distinguish the juniper called the ‘Skyrocket.’
Mexican Juniper (Juniperus flaccida)
The Mexican juniper has drooping branches, flattened green sprays, brown berry-like cones, and thin cinnamon-brown bark that peels off in thin strips. It’s a weeping juniper tree. The Mexican juniper tree, also known as the drooping juniper, grows to be 16 to 33 feet (5 to 10 meters) tall and 33 feet (10 meters) broad. Mexican juniper berries are enormous berry-like fleshy cones that may reach 0.8″ (2 cm) in diameter.
Juniper identification: The only instance of flattened spray foliage on pendulous branches is the weeping Mexican juniper.
Other Types of Juniper Trees for Landscaping Gardens
The graceful common juniper, with its distinctive dark blue berries, and the dwarf shrub ‘Blue Star’ are the most well-known landscape junipers. Other juniper trees for front and backyards are as follows:
Ashe Juniper or Mountain Cedar (Juniperus ashei)—The bright green, silky berry-like purple cones, and peeling brown bark of this juniper make it attractive. This native juniper grows to 33 feet (10 meters) tall and is also known as the blueberry juniper.
Virginian Juniper (Juniperus virginiana)—The eastern red cedar, also known as the Virginian juniper, grows 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 meters) tall and 8 to 20 feet (2.4 to 6 meters) broad. Its enormous columnar juniper tree has feathery, scale-like blue-green or gray-green leaves and masses of dark blue-black “berries.
Brodie Juniper (Cupressaceae juniperus ‘Virginiana Brodie’)—The Brodie juniper is a kind of cypress tree, according to its botanical name. The rich green soft, scaly foliage of the fast-growing, drought-tolerant tree has a pyramidal, columnar form. The Brodie juniper grows to be 15 to 20 feet (4.5 to 6 meters) tall and broad..
Brodie Juniper (Cupressaceae juniperus ‘Virginiana Brodie’)
Types of Juniper Shrubs (With Pictures)
Many landscape applications exist for low-growing juniper bushes. Ground cover, foundation planting, rock gardens, and evergreen borders all benefit from the dwarf or short-stature spreading evergreen junipers. The following are some of the finest examples of juniper bushes:
Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)
The spreading habit of Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’) limits its growth to 3 feet (1 meter) tall and 4 feet (1.2 meters) wide. The prickly silvery-blue needle leaves of the ‘Blue Star’ cultivar make a thick mat as the spreading branches expand, making it an ideal candidate for landscapes. In a garden setting, the ‘Blue Star’ juniper is an excellent choice for dense ground cover.
As a foundation plant, container plant, or evergreen foliage in rock gardens, the compact mounding plant is also suitable. The juniper cultivar ‘Blue Star’ is a drought-tolerant shrub, much like other juniper cultivars. Furthermore, to maintain its form, the low-maintenance evergreen shrub requires no trimming.
- Blue Star Juniper ‘Meyeri’ (Juniperus squamata ‘Meyeri’)—This upright bushy shrub with steel-blue foliage is known as the ‘Blue Star’ juniper cultivar. It grows to be 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall and 4 feet (1.2 meters) broad.
Blue Pacific Shore Juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘Blue Pacific’)
The Blue Pacific Shore juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘Blue Pacific’) is a handsome spreading plant with deep foliage that works well in full-sun ground cover. As the low-growing juniper matures, its dark green needle-like leaves become softer. The Blue Pacific juniper can grow to be up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall and 1 foot (0.3 meters) wide.
Wichita Blue Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’)
The Wichita Blue juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Wichita Blue’) is a native hedging plant with an attractive conical shape. The distinguishing features of the ‘Wichita Blue’ juniper shrub are its silver-blue thick foliage and wide pyramidal shape. This tough juniper tree grows to be approximately 10–15 feet (3–4.5 meters) tall and broad.
Dwarf Japanese Garden Juniper (Juniperus procumbens ‘Nana’)
The dwarf Japanese garden juniper is a decorative shrub that can be used as a ground cover, on sunny slopes, or as a foundation planting under the window. The dense foliage of the spreading juniper branches retains its attractive look all year, with spiky blue-green needle leaves. The dwarf Japanese garden juniper plant grows up to 1 foot (0.3 meters) tall and 6 feet (1.8 meters) broad, making it one of the shortest juniper shrubs available.
Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
Green-gray, feathery, scaly leaves and short, spreading growth characterize the creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), a native North American juniper shrub. This spreading juniper tree cannot grow higher than 12 inches (30 cm). Nonetheless, it spreads up to 10 feet (3 meters), creating a thick blanket of green leaves. The low-growing creeping juniper rarely produces its characteristic blue fleshy cones in cultivated landscapes.
Blue Chip Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’)
The spreading shrub with long creeping branches that stretch up to 8 ft (2.4 m) long is known as blue chip juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Chip’). The silvery-blue soft needle-like needle leaves and densely growing foliage of the blue chip juniper distinguish it. Evergreen edging along walks or drivewayways, as well as hard ground cover, may be grown.