From Carpet to Sky — the Best Ground-Hugging and Columnar Junipers
Junipers are a group of aromatic evergreen shrubs and trees in the Cypress family that are native worldwide in the northern hemisphere. Many varieties are standard elements that are frequently planted in a landscape, such as Juniperus communis ‘Greenmantle,’ a prostrate, spreading Juniper, and Juniperus communis ‘Compressa,’ a conical, dwarf tree. Others delight with their diverse colors, shapes, heights, and textures. Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket,’ for example, is the narrowest of the Junipers, and is very blue. The young Skyrocket trees stay narrow until approximately seven years old, but become slightly less narrow with age. Others, such as the dark green Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor,’ are tall and keep their narrow shape, even in maturity. They are ideal for duplicating an Italian Cypress look, but will grow in colder climates. Juniperus chinensis ‘Angelica Blue’ is the bluest of the low-growing, spreading Juniper shrubs, while Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ is the bluest of the columnar trees.
Junipers come in a variety of shapes that can fulfill specific purposes in a landscape. Some lie flat on the ground with a number of branches spreading outward and are excellent as ground covers. Juniperus chinensis ‘Daub’s Frosted‘, and Juniperus communis ‘Greenmantle’, or Juniperus horizontalis ‘Pancake’ are good examples.
Others are shrubby, with numerous branches extending up from the ground, such as Juniperus chinensis ‘Angelica Blue‘, and Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Forest.’ They add interest and fill the space in front of buildings as foundation plantings.
Junipers can also grow in a columnar or pyramidal form depending on the species and variety. Columnar varieties differ widely and have multiple uses depending on their shape, size, and texture. They can function as accent (specimen) plants, entrance trees, as informal groupings, visual barriers at boundaries or borders, and for windbreaks, between windows, at building corners, and as front door sentinels.
Here are a number of recommended Junipers that have multiple uses in the landscape:
|Juniper||Shape||Color||Use in Landscape|
|Juniperus chinensis ‘Angelica Blue’||Spreading, shrubby||Silver-blue||Ground cover, foundation planting|
|Juniperus chinensis ‘Daub’s Frosted’||Low, spreading||Blue-green interior foliage, yellow new growth||Ground cover, foundation planting|
|Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’||Shrubby||Soft blue-green||Ground cover, foundation planting, border|
|Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’||Columnar to pyramidal||Dark green||Accent, entrance, barrier/windbreak/screen, informal groupings, vertical blocking, building corners|
|Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’||Dwarf, conical||Green, with silver and blue tones||Barrier/hedge/screen, informal groupings, vertical blocking, building corners/front door sentinel|
|Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’||Columnar||Yellow, blue-green||Accent, barrier/windbreak/hedge/screen, vertical blocking, building corners/front door sentinel|
|Juniperus communis ‘Greenmantle’||Prostrate, spreading||Green||Ground cover, foundation planting|
|Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’||Pillar-shaped, columnar||Light green to blue-green||Accent, entrance, barrier/windbreak/hedge/screen, vertical blocking, between windows, building corners|
|Juniperus conferta ‘Sunsplash’||Prostrate||Variegated green and gold||Ground cover, foundation planting|
|Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Forest’||Spreading, shrubby||Blue||Ground cover, foundation planting|
|Juniperus horizontalis ‘Copper Harbor’||Prostrate||Yellow in summer, copper in winter||Ground cover, foundation planting|
|Juniperus horizontalis ‘Glacier’||Prostrate||Blue-green||Ground cover, rock gardens|
|Juniperus horizontalis ‘Pancake’||Prostrate||Gray-blue||Ground cover, rock gardens|
|Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’||Columnar, regular||Blue-green||Accent, Entrance, Barrier/windbreak/hedge/screen, Informal groupings, Vertical blocking|
|Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’||Narrow, conical||Silver-blue||Accent, entrance, barrier/windbreak/hedge/screen, vertical blocking, between windows, building corners|
|Juniperus virginiana ‘Brodie’||Pyramidal||Dark green||Accent, entrance, barrier/windbreak/hedge/screen, vertical blocking, between windows, building corners|
|Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’||Narrow, columnar||Dark green||Accent, entrance, barrier/windbreak/hedge/screen, vertical blocking, between windows, building corners|
Juniperus chinensis ‘Angelica Blue’ (Angelica Blue Chinese Juniper)
Angelica Blue is probably the bluest of the Junipers. It is a soft, fluffy shrub that grow 6” to 12” per year, and attains dimensions of 3’-5’H × 5’-10’W in 10 years. It loves full sun, and is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9. It is also heat and drought tolerant, and deer resistant. This beautiful shrub makes a pleasing contrast when paired with dark green plants as a foundation planting or ground cover.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Daub’s Frosted’ (Daub’s Frosted Chinese Juniper)
This low-growing Juniper puts on bright yellow new growth which contrasts with its older, blue-green interior foliage. It grows 3” to 6” a year, and reaches 1’H × 4’W in 10 years. It is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8, grows well in full sun, and is poor soil tolerant, drought tolerant, and deer resistant. Daub’s Frosted annual growth is 3” to 6,” and in 10 years it achieves a height and width of 1’H to 4’W. It does well as a colorful ground cover, or on a hillside or rock garden.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’ (Sea Green Chinese Juniper)
Sea Green is a low-growing, shrubby Juniper with soft green arching branches and is popular as a ground cover, border, or foundation planting. It grows 3” to 6” a year and becomes 1’H × 5’W in 10 years. Like most Junipers, it does best in full sun and is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8. Sea Green is remarkably vigorous, drought tolerant, and deer resistant.
Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’ (Spartan Chinese Juniper)
This stately, dense, pyramidal tree is perfect for a driveway entrance, as a screen, or to delineate a border. It thrives in full sun, is deer resistant, and is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8. It grows 8” to 10” a year, and by 10 years it is 10’H × 6’W. Its rich green foliage and classic shape will make it a stunning addition to a property.
Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ (Pencil Point Common Juniper)
Pencil Point is a medium-green, dwarf Juniper with silver-blue tones that grows 2” to 4” per year and reaches 3.5’H × 1’W in 10 years. It grows well in the sun, and is deer resistant and drought tolerant. It is hardy from very far north to south, in USDA Zones 2 to 8. Pencil Point is useful in any-sized property because it doesn’t take up much space, and it remains cute and dense even as it grows to maturity.
Juniperus communis ‘Gold Cone’ (Gold Cone Common Juniper)
These dwarf junipers are upright and pyramidal in shape with bright yellow foliage in the spring that grows out to blue-green but retains the yellow color on the outer ends of the branches. They are slow growers, adding 6” to 9”per year, and standing only 5’H × 2’W in 10 years. They are deer resistant, sun worshippers, and are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 7. They are cute and colorful sentries when planted at the corners of buildings or on either side of a front door.
Juniperus communis ‘Greenmantle’ (Greenmantle Common Juniper)
Greenmantle forms a moss-like, green blanket as it grows out horizontally from its crown. This plant is great as a spreading ground cover, over walls or rock gardens, and can also be trained as a topiary tree. It grows to 6”H × 4’W in 10 years at a rate of 3”-6” a year. Greenmantle is hardy to USDA Zones 3 to 9, grows in sun to light shade, and is drought tolerant and deer resistant.
Juniperus communis ‘Hibernica’ (Irish Common Juniper)
Hibernica is a narrow, columnar Juniper with strong, upright branches that resist bending down with snow. It is green to blue-green, and grows 4-6″ a year, reaching 6’H × 2’W in 10 years, becoming more conical and wider with age. It is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9, and is excellent as an accent tree, hedge, or windbreak, in container plantings, or to stand at building corners and on either side of a door.
Juniperus conferta ‘Sunsplash’ (Sunsplash Shore Juniper)
This unusual dwarf Juniper is green with splatters of gold on its foliage. It grows 1″ to 6″ per year, and reaches dimensions of 6″-8″H × 5’W in 10 years. It is hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9, grows in full sun and doesn’t burn, and is drought tolerant and deer resistant. Because of its highly ornamental nature, Sunsplash Shore Juniper is excellent as a ground cover, in borders, rock gardens, and in container plantings.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Forest’ (Blue Forest Creeping Juniper)
Blue Forest is a multi-stemmed shrub with branches that rise vertically from its spreading, prostrate stems and look like a little forest. It is blue in the spring and summer, turning darker blue with purple tones in the winter. Blue Forest grows 3” to 5” per year, becoming 1’H × 4’W after 10 years. It grows best in the sun and is hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 8. It is also drought tolerant and deer resistant. This interesting shrub makes a good ground cover, and is an excellent addition to rock gardens.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Copper Harbor’ (Copper Harbor Creeping Juniper)
Copper Harbor is a sport, or mutation, of the Bar Harbor Creeping Juniper. It is yellow-gold in the summer and copper colored in the winter giving it interest year round. It grows 6” to 12” per year and 1’H × 5’-10’W in 10 years. Copper Harbor is hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8, grows in sun to partial shade, and is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It is good as a ground cover, in rock gardens and containers, and as erosion control.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Glacier’ (Glacier Creeping Juniper)
This is a dwarf, ground-hugging plant with blue-green foliage that turns silver-blue in winter. It grows best in full sun and is hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 8. Its annual growth is 1” to 3” per year, and in 10 years it grows to 5”H × 40”W. This beautiful shrub was found in the Glacier Nature Reserve in the Rocky Mountains and it is tough, drought tolerant and deer resistant. Glacier is an exceptional ground cover.
Juniperus horizontalis ‘Pancake’ (Pancake Creeping Juniper)
Pancake lives up to its name since it is probably the lowest-growing Juniper there is. Its gray-blue-green, scaly foliage lies flat against the ground, growing 1” to 3” a year, reaching 1’H × 5’W in 10 years. Pancake is hardy to USDA Zones 3 to 8, and grows well in sun to partial shade. It is perfect as a flat, spreading ground cover, and spilling over retaining walls and rock gardens.
Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’ (Blue Arrow Rocky Mountain Juniper)
Blue Arrow Juniper is one of the cold-hardy choices for those who are seeking a similar look of Italian Cypress. Its blue-green, rope-like foliage emphasizes the narrow, upright branches. Blue Arrow grows best in the sun, is deer resistant, and is hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 8. It is a smaller tree than the Italian Cypress, growing 8” to 10” a year, and reaches a height and width of 7’H × 2’W in 10 years. It is stunning as an entrance tree or as a landscape accent.
Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ (Skyrocket Rocky Mountain Juniper)
Skyrockets are exceptionally narrow junipers with dense blue-green foliage. Since they have such a slender form, Skyrocket plants can be placed close together to make pleasing and effective privacy screens, windbreaks, or hedges. They grow about 12” per year, reaching a height and width of 15’H × 2’W in 10 years. They are hardy to USDA Zones 3 to 8, grow well in sun, and are deer resistant and drought tolerant. Skyrockets are a variety of the native Rocky Mountain Juniper, and are probably the narrowest junipers on the market, although they do become more pyramidal in shape as they age.
Juniperus virginiana ‘Brodie’ (Brodie Eastern Red Cedar)
This popular, dark green Red Cedar has a classic pyramidal form, making it a cold-hardy alternative to the Italian cypress. Its dense, feathery foliage makes it a great barrier or screen, hedge, or specimen tree. Brodie is deer resistant and drought tolerant, grows in full to partial sun, and is hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 9. It grows at a fast rate of 12” to 24” a year and reaches 15’H × 4’W in 10 years. This is a variety of the Eastern Red Cedar, native to the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.
Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’ (Taylor Eastern Red-Cedar)
This is a classic columnar evergreen that can substitute in colder climates for the look of the Italian Cypress. It has feathery, blue-green foliage, and is an excellent entrance tree or with just the right dimensions to block a vertical pipe or downspout. The Taylor Juniper likes sun, it grows 8” to 10” per year, and attains a size of 10’H × 6’W in 10 years, remaining slender throughout its growth. Taylor is hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 8 and is deer resistant. Junipers are very easy to grow since they are poor soil tolerant, heat and drought tolerant, and deer resistant. The thing they don’t like is wet feet. Junipers don’t do well and tend to get root rot when their roots are left in waterlogged soil. And please don’t plant junipers near apples, crabapples, hawthorns, quince, or pear. They are susceptible to cedar-apple rust and related rusts that require two hosts — junipers and apples or other trees in the rose family.