How to Plant Juniper Shrubs

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Some junipers produce decorative berries or cones.
Some junipers produce decorative berries or cones. (Image: oksix/iStock/Getty Images)

The versatility of the juniper (Juniperus spp.) in the garden makes it a favorite for both commercial and home landscaping. Junipers range from creeping ground covers to wide shrubs to narrow, pyramidal forms. Evergreen, hardy and drought resistant, junipers require little or no pruning. Tolerant of pH and soil types, the main requirements in planting junipers are full sun, well-drained soil and spacing to avoid crowding the mature plants.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Shovel
  • Utility knife
  • 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 slow-release fertilizer
  • Anvil pruners
  • Ready-to-use neem oil spray

Planting Your Juniper

Measure the space to allow sufficient room between the plants. If the mature plants are 7 feet wide, plant the junipers 7 to 8 feet apart to allow for air circulation. If planting two different junipers, divide each one's mature width by two. Then add the two products together to find the appropriate spacing between the plants.

Dig a planting hole with a shovel, twice the width and the same depth as the grower's pot. Do not amend the soil.

Cut the grower's pot down the side with a utility knife. Carefully remove the juniper's rootball, crumbling around the edges with your hands or a knife to loosen the soil. Trim any broken or decaying roots.

Place the juniper in the planting hole at the same depth as it was in the grower's pot. Backfill with the excavated soil, tamping gently.

Water the juniper thoroughly to remove any air pockets around the roots. Scratch 2 teaspoons of a balanced 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer into the top 1 to 2 inches of soil around the juniper and water again.

Add a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch around and under the juniper. Pull the mulch back 4 inches from the trunk.

Juniper Care After Planting

Water twice weekly, adding 1 inch of water per week. One inch of water is approximately 6 gallons per square yard. After the first month, reduce watering to twice monthly or when the soil is dry to a depth of 3 to 4 inches.

Fertilize in early spring and late summer with a slow-release 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 fertilizer. Scratch 1/2 pound of fertilizer per 100 square feet into the soil under the juniper. Always water thoroughly after fertilizing.

Prune only to remove broken, crossing or dead branches. Junipers do not produce new growth on old wood, so cutting back to old wood leaves bare spots in the shrub. Keeping old or overcrowded growth trimmed back helps prevent blight and other fungal infections.

Monitor the juniper for pests, such as aphids, scale and spidermites. A strong blast of water knocks the pests off the shrubs; repeat as needed to discourage reinfestations. A severe infestation may be treated with a ready-to-use neem oil product. The infested branches and leaves must be soaked thoroughly, as the insects are killed by direct contact with the oil.

Tips & Warnings

  • Junipers thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 though 9, depending on the variety.
  • Creeping juniper varieties (Juniperus horizontalis), such as "Prince of Wales" and "Pancake" are only 6 inches tall and spread from 2 to 6 feet wide. They thrive in USDA zones 3 through 9.
  • Shrubs such as "Sea Green" (Juniperus × pfitzeriana "Sea Green") grow 4 to 6 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. "Sea Green" thrives in USDA zones 4 through 9.
  • Conical and pyramidal junipers range from 5 to 65 feet tall. The 5-foot-tall "Gold Cone" (Juniperus communis "Gold Cone") thrives in USDA zones 5 through 9, while red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) grows up to 65 feet tall in USDA zones 2 through 9.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, gloves, safety goggles and a dust mask to protect your skin, eyes and lungs when digging, planting, pruning and spraying around the juniper.
  • Keep all tools, fertilizers and pesticides out of reach of children and pets.
  • Avoid planting a juniper near apple and crabapple trees (Malus spp.) to prevent the transmission of cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae) from the juniper to the apple trees. Apples thrive in USDA zones 4 through 9.

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