How to Cloud-Prune a Juniper

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Cloud pruning is a traditional Japanese method of pruning trees, typically used in the art of bonsai, but also frequently seen in landscapes all over the world. As the name suggests, cloud pruning creates the visual effect of foliage of a tree floating like a cloud above the graceful forms of branches.

In landscapes, cloud pruning should be done on mature trees. Cloud pruning can transform an overgrown, unsightly juniper shrub into an attractive, sculptured work of art. Using cloud pruning can keep a juniper shrub from becoming larger and taking over your landscape.

Select a mature juniper bush that has from three to five healthy branches with good foliage on the ends of the branches.

Use a hand saw to cut all the unchosen juniper branches off the shrub. The cut-off, unchosen branches should include all dead and scraggly looking branches. Cut all unwanted branches to ground level.

Use pruners and the hand saw to cut and trim all twigs and foliage off the chosen branches. The twigs and foliage should be trimmed as close to the main branch trunk as possible. Leave 1 to 2 feet of foliage at the top end of the selected branches, however.

Shape the remaining foliage on the top of each major branch into horizontal ovals or circular, using shears and pruners. The cloud-shaped foliage needs to be at varying heights to add visual interest.

Snip off new growth that may appear on the trunk and branches of the juniper, using hand shears. Three to four times a year, trim the foliage to the original shapes.