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JUNIPERUS communis

Image of Juniperus communis

Gerald L. Klingaman

Family

Cupressaceae

Botanical Name

JUNIPERUS communis

Plant Common Name

Common Juniper

Special Notice

This entry has yet to be reviewed and approved by L2G editors.

General Description

Flavor your home brew of gin with the fleshy cones of the common juniper. Found in a wide array of habitats across northern Asia, Europe and North America, the common juniper also is a highly variable plant, ranging from low shrubs to upright, multitrunked, narrow trees. It is the most widely distributed conifer species in the world and only juniper species to occur in Eurasia and North America. Compared to the Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis), common juniper prospers in much colder climates.

The prickly, spine-tipped needle foliage ranges from blue-green or gray-green to deep green. Needles are typically borne in threes and have white bands on the inner needle surfaces. Rather than flowering, these conifers produce male or female cones. The male cones shed pollen into the wind, later pollinating female cones that ripen to oval or round fruits. The female cones usually are first powdery blue, and over the course of three years on the plant, ripen to black.

Grow common juniper in any well-drained soil in full sun to bright, dappled shade. This species prospers in dry, chalky and sandy soils, but will suffer in soggy ground. Wild-growing specimens provide shelter for wildlife and may become impressive specimens that are contorted or wind-swept on hillsides, cliffs or among rocks. The brown bark weathers to gray and exfoliates to reveal a smooth bark layer on old plants. Numerous cultivated varieties exist, each having a definite foliage color or texture and expected mature plant habit and size. Many dwarf-growing selections are used in landscapes as groundcovers and massed plantings. Pruning typically isn't required, and overpruning destroys the plant's natural billowy and feathery texture.

The more prostrate, naturally-occurring variety depressa grows with upturned stem and leaf shoot tips, and is native to North America and Greenland. Variety saxatilis is also very low-growing, but is native to alpine and boreal habitats at very high latitudes. Variety megistocarpa is from southeastern Canada's sandy and limestone soils.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    6 - 1

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    2 - 6

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Shrub

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    5'-30' / 1.5m - 9.1m

  • Width

    8'-20' / 2.4m - 6.1m

  • Native To

    North America, United States, Northeastern United States, North-Central United States, Northwestern United States, Canada, Europe, Northern Europe, Russia/Siberia, Asia, Eastern Asia

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    None

  • Fruit Color

    Bronze, Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Blue Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Blue Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Blue Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Blue Green, Gray Green, Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Sandy Brown, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    Yes

  • Fragrant Foliage

    Yes

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    Yes

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Matte

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Exfoliating

  • Usage

    Foundation, Groundcover, Hedges, Mixed Border, Rock Garden / Wall, Screening / Wind Break

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    Yes

  • Invasive

    No

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    No