Junipers are workhorse shrubs traditionally used as easy-care but not-very-inspiring landscape plants. The blue-foliaged, spreading plants dominating commercial landscaping are typical. Newer, more exciting juniper cultivars make attractive garden plants with interesting foliage colour and form. Speciality breeders grow them meeting demand for home gardens.
Junipers have narrow branches with pointy, scalelike foliage. They are prized for holiday decoration because of their blue berries on female plants. They are drought tolerant, adaptable to poor soils and thrive in full sun. Horizontal junipers benefit from early pruning encouraging more branching. They need little care once established.
Used primarily as groundcovers, prostrate junipers form dense mats less than 18 inches tall covering an area 8 feet wide. They follow the ground's contour. The foliage is yellow, blue or green and often takes on red tints in the winter. The J. horizontalis "Golden Carpet" cultivar has creamy-yellow foliage and grows only 4 inches tall. Other cultivars include Blue Rug, which reaches 6 inches; Sargent, a green cultivar 10 inches tall; and San Jose, 10 inches tall with grey-green foliage.
More vase-shaped than creeping varieties, spreading junipers have an arching branch pattern and grow 3 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide. The J. squamata "Holger" cultivar has creamy-yellow, new foliage against its older, blue foliage on a dense, flat-topped plant. Blue Star has sharp, dense, blue needles on short branches, giving it a starry appearance. It grows 2 feet tall. A common two-toned cultivar, J. chinensis "Daub's Frosted," grows only 1 foot tall with golden, new growth against its blue-green, feathery interior.
Dwarf Mounding Junipers
Some horizontal junipers grow in mounding forms, forming low buns of colourful foliage. J. horizontalis "Blue pygmy" makes a suitable plant for a rock garden with its tight, blue foliage and compact habit. It grows 5 inches tall. J. horizontalis "Gold Strike" has bright-yellow new foliage against its chartreuse interior. Fall and winter add coral tones. Growing slowly to 5 inches tall, it prefers afternoon shade.
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