When to prune juniper?

Can You Prune An Overgrown Juniper – Tips For Overgrown Juniper Pruning

Juniper shrubs and trees are a great asset to landscaping. They can grow tall and eye catching, or they can stay low and shaped into hedges and walls. They can even be formed into topiaries. But sometimes, like the best things in life, they get away from us. What was once a smart shrub is now a wild, overgrown monster. So what can you do with a juniper that’s gotten out of hand? Keep reading to learn more about how to prune an overgrown juniper.

Pruning Unruly Junipers

Can you prune an overgrown juniper? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t a definite yes. Juniper trees and bushes have something called a dead zone. This is a space toward the center of the plant that doesn’t produce new leafy growth.

As the plant gets bigger and thicker, sunlight is unable to reach its interior, and the leaves in that space fall off. This is completely natural, and actually the sign of a healthy plant. Sadly, it’s bad news for pruning. If you cut back a branch below the leaves and into this dead zone, no new leaves will grow from it. This means that your juniper can never be pruned smaller than the border of its dead zone.

If you keep up with pruning and shaping as the tree or shrub grows, you can keep it compact and healthy. But if you try to attempt overgrown juniper pruning, you may discover that you just can’t get the plant down to a size that’s acceptable. If this is the case, the only thing to do is remove the plant and start again with a new one.

How to Prune an Overgrown Juniper

While overgrown juniper pruning has its limits, it is possible to trim your plant down to a more manageable shape. One good place to start is the removal of any dead or leafless branches – these can be cut off at the trunk.

You can also remove any branches that are overlapping or sticking out too far. This will give the remaining healthy branches more room to fill out. Just remember – if you cut a branch past its leaves, you should cut it off at its base. Otherwise, you’ll be left with a bare patch.

dead ends on juniper shrubs & pruning

Hello there,
1. With regards to the yellowing needles,it’s certainly ok to trim off the yellow ends, but that you may not be finding the cause of the problem.
I doubt it’s from lack of winter watering since we have had a good bit of moisture this winter. In fact, junipers will turn yellow from too much water. So, depending upon their location, this could be the problem.
It could be a couple of other things. You should dig around the shrub to see if any pests (ie. voles, rats. etc.) have been gnawing on some branches. Junipers branches often turn yellow before dying. Also take a look up close at some needles to see if you see any little bugs ( spider mites). If you find the spider mites, just hose off the shrubs. Spider mites hate water. It could also be juniper scale that infected the plant last year. Here’s some information on juniper scale and what it looks like.
2. You can prune Junipers any time it’s above freezing. The best time is March/April before the new growth shoots out. Avoiding pruning back so far that only a woody stub remains. Nothing will grow back there. You’ll need to decide if your Junipers are worth pruning or need to be replaced.
3. Here’s some more information on pruning junipers. When you open the document, just scroll down to the juniper section.
If you have any further questions, let me know.

If you’re looking for a ground cover that can grow well with little care, creeping juniper is the one for you.

It grows alongside the banks and slopes and makes an ideal foundation plant for your flower bed. Plant it near decks and garden seating and enjoy its subtle fragrance and evergreen appearance.

If you have a hillside home and want to improve the look of uneven rocky terrain, creeping juniper is the ground cover to choose. You won’t have to invest too much time in taking care of it or have to plant many batches to cover a large area.


Creeping juniper is a fantastic low-growing ground cover. Source: F.D. Richards

Scientific Name: Juniperus horizontalis
Common Name(s): Creeping juniper, blue rug juniper, creeping cedar
Family: Cupressaceae
Habit: Perennial shrub, low-growing, shrubby juniper
Origin: Northern North America (Canada and Alaska)
Zone: 3 to 10
Height: Up to 3 feet
Spread: Up to 20 feet
Foliage: Blue-green, scale-type foliage
Bloom Time: April to May dark-blue, berry-like cones with white bloom
Soil: Loamy or slightly clay
Water: Low

Juniperus horizontalis is native to northern North America, mainly Canada and Alaska. It is also grown locally in Montana to Maine, and in Wyoming and northern Illinois. The plant can tolerate fierce conditions and thrive in both extremely hot summers as well as chilly winters.

This low-growing evergreen ground cover is a tough perennial that you can grow at any time between early spring and late fall. However, the best time to plant is in the spring when the temperature is rising. Spring is the ideal season, as it allows the roots to get set before hot and dry weather takes over.

Types of Creeping Juniper

Reaching up to 2 feet, low-growing junipers can spread easily to 6 to 8 feet. There are three main varieties:

Juniperus horizontalis “Wilton,” can grow as high as six inches and spread out to 8 feet. It has silver-blue foliage and is more common in 4 to 10 zones.

Juniperus procumbens “Nana” is a compact plant that can grow up to 1 to 2 feet in height and width. It has soft blue-green foliage and grows well in zones 7-11.

Juniperus conferta or Shore Juniper is ideal for sandy and poor soils. If you live in zones 5 to 10, you can grow Shore Juniper. It bears golden-green foliage and can spread out to 8′ wide and 12-15″ tall.

Creeping Juniper Care

Leaves are a blue-grey on a flat round bun. Source: F.D. Richards

This creeping plant is easy to grow and look after. The tough, hardy foliage requires little attention on your end. You can practically neglect them and still have thriving foliage throughout the year.

Let’s have a look at the different requirements that you need to meet for healthy planting, growth, and care of the blue rug juniper ground cover.


Although juniper shrubs do not have any specific light requirement, they do grow well in full sun. So, if you’re planning to plant these in your yard, make sure you don’t plant them in a shady area of the garden.


Juniper bushes are drought tolerant, making them an ideal ground cover in hotter climates. When transplanting for the first time, you’ll need to make sure and give them ample water. Once established, they’ll survive for longer periods without a drop to drink.


Like many ground covers, creeping juniper can grow in a variety of soils. However, it prefers sandy soil with medium moisture and excellent drainage. It can’t tolerate wet soil, so either make sure your soil has adequate drainage, or add some extra perlite or sand to increase porosity.


Evergreen ground cover plants usually don’t need much fertilizer. Don’t fertilize the first year when it’s establishing itself. But once the roots are settled in, you can use a well-balanced, complete fertilizer generally used for shrubs and trees. Fertilize in the fall for optimal growth.


You can propagate creeping juniper at any time of the year except in extreme winters. Spring or early fall is the ideal time to move your plant or plant a new batch. All you have to do is dig the entire plant and its roots and replant it elsewhere.

Propagating from existing juniper plants through cuttings can be an exhausting process and will take years before you can see significant growth, so it’s usually better to just buy more at the local nursery or garden center.


It doesn’t require pruning or cutting most of the time. You can cut it back if it exceeds its boundaries, but we recommend selecting a variety that spreads to the size of the site you’re planting out.


Spreads about 8-10″, planted on a driveway. Source: F.D. Richards

There are a few serious issues you might run into when growing your Juniperus horizontalis varieties. Here’s what to do to troubleshoot these problems!

Growing Problems

Juniper shrubs are tolerant of most soil conditions, but they need a well-drained soil for optimal growth. If you leave the soil moist, they’ll start to rot out from the roots, and die a quick death. This is especially important when growing juniper in containers.


Pests you’ll encounter mainly include bagworms, spider mites, and various types of aphids. If you see these pests use one of many different organic control methods, like neem oil, or refer to our in-depth pest prevention guides.


If you notice yellowing of your blue rug juniper ground cover, it indicates a fungal infection. Once you’ve spotted the problem, make sure to carefully trim off the affected parts of the plant.

Sterilize your pruning snips before you use it on any other plant. Failing to do so will just spread the fungal disease throughout your garden as you use your shears elsewhere


Q. My plant is turning yellow. What should I do?

A. Yellowing juniper is an indication of fungal problems. Refer to the disease section above.

Q. Is juniper shrub invasive in nature?

A. It isn’t invasive when it comes to taking over sections of native landscapes. But if you prune it, it can spread at an increased rate. This is why pruning is not recommended for creeping juniper.

Q. Is it tolerant to foot traffic?

A. No, not really. It’s best to plant it where people won’t be walking regularly.

Creeping juniper makes a perfect ground cover for all sorts of weather and soil conditions. You don’t have to put in much time and effort to plant and take care of it. Simple to grow and appealing to look at, it’s an ideal option for foundation plants, terrain coverage and forming borders.

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Creeping Juniper

The Juniperus genus includes many species of evergreen trees and shrubs. Some are low-growing and used as ground covers. Leaves are scalelike and may be dark green, yellow-green, or blue-green.

Description of creeping juniper: Creeping juniper is a prostrate shrub with wide-spreading branches and grows to 24 inches high. The leaves are scalelike and bluish green, turning purple in winter. The flowers are inconspicuous, and female plants produce small, round, blue-green berries. Use junipers in full sun where low maintenance is desired. Junipers withstand hot, dry situations in the landscape.


Growing creeping juniper: Plant junipers in full sun in well-drained, dry soil. They are tolerant of heavy and slightly alkaline soil. Fertilize in early spring with a well-balanced, complete fertilizer.

Propagating creeping juniper: Start plants from stem cuttings in late spring. Grow rooted plants in containers or propagation beds until they’re big enough to place in the landscape. Plant on four- to five-foot centers for a massed ground cover.

Creeping juniper related varieties: Bar Harbor grows to 12 inches high with a 6- to 8-foot spread. Leaves are bluish green, turning purple in winter. Blue Chip grows 8 to 10 inches high and holds an excellent blue color throughout the year. Plumosa grows 18 to 24 inches high, spreading up to 10 feet; its gray-green leaves turn purple in winter. Wiltoni (Blue Rug) grows to 6 inches high with silver-blue foliage.

: Juniperus horizontalis

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In January, our environment can lead us into a bit of depression due to the lack of excitement outdoors. But don’t get the winter blues yet, there is a type of plant that can be planted into your landscape that will be green all year long, junipers. There are so many different forms of Juniper shrubs that it is easy to find one to fit in any landscape. I will focus on a mid-sized shrub, Sea green Juniper.

Sea green Juniper, Juniperus chinensis ‘Sea Green’, is a quick growing, spreading, evergreen shrub. It grows 4-6 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide and is easily pruned to maintain a specific height. It has an upright growth with arching branches that are very distinct for this particular variety of juniper. Like all juniper species, it has scale-like, or needle-like, foliage. The fruit of juniper shrubs, including Sea green, is a spherical cone that resembles a light blue berry.

The amount of different species and varieties of juniper make it a great plant for almost any landscape setting. It is almost impossible to not find the size or shape or growth habit in a juniper that works in your landscape. There are junipers that are low growing or groundcovers that grow up to 2 feet tall such as Juniperus horizontalis or Juniperus chinensis ‘Sargentii’. As a medium growing shrub that grows up to 2-5 feet tall, like Sea Green, there is Juniperus chinensis ‘Nick’s Compact’ which is flat-topped and has blue foliage. And in the large category, which is 5-12 feet tall, there is Juniperus chinensis ‘Blue Pfitzer’ with a nice blue to purple color to the leaves. There is also a group that are more upright in growth, such as Juniperus chinensis ‘Spartan’ which grows up to 20 feet tall and columnar. This is just a short list of all of the choices, go to your local nursery or garden center and find one to fit your landscape.

Junipers are a great plant for low maintenance landscapes because they require little care once established. They are drought tolerant and can suffer from overwatering or flooding conditions. They prefer full sun and should not be planted in too high of shade or they will become thin in appearance. Sea green juniper is fairly tolerant of most disease and insect problems, but they do have a few issues. As with all junipers, Sea Green can have problems with bagworms but these can easily be pulled off and discarded or sprayed by a general insecticide when the bags are less than 1 inch in length. They may also have problems with Kabatina and phomopsis blights which cause branch dieback, but the damage from these can be pruned out when it occurs.

Historically, Junipers have been used for many things. They have been utilized in fenceposts, to make decorative wreaths and swags, and for firewood. Juniper is a great choice for firewood because, according to Oregon State University, it burns clean with little smoke and ash.

Sea green juniper is a great addition to any landscape. It stays green all year and has a unique, upright growth habit. It is easy to grow in urban soils and on an acreage because it is tolerant of most any growing condition. It can even be used for part of a holiday decoration after pruning off a few branches for a wreath. So the next time you look to plant a new large shrub in your landscape, look to Sea green Juniper.

Sea Green Juniper

Sea Green Juniper

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Sea Green Juniper foliage

Sea Green Juniper foliage

(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Height: 4 feet

Spread: 6 feet


Hardiness Zone: 4a


A popular and beautiful evergreen landscape shrub for general garden and massing use, features an arching, sprawling branching habit with downturned tips, very attractive, deep green needle-like foliage; does best with full sun

Ornamental Features

Sea Green Juniper has attractive bluish-green foliage. The scale-like leaves are highly ornamental and remain bluish-green throughout the winter. It produces powder blue berries from late spring to late winter. The flowers are not ornamentally significant.

Landscape Attributes

Sea Green Juniper is a multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with a shapely form and gracefully arching branches. It lends an extremely fine and delicate texture to the landscape composition which can make it a great accent feature on this basis alone.

This is a relatively low maintenance shrub, and is best pruned in late winter once the threat of extreme cold has passed. Deer don’t particularly care for this plant and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier treats. It has no significant negative characteristics.

Sea Green Juniper is recommended for the following landscape applications;

  • Mass Planting
  • General Garden Use
  • Groundcover

Planting & Growing

Sea Green Juniper will grow to be about 4 feet tall at maturity, with a spread of 6 feet. It tends to fill out right to the ground and therefore doesn’t necessarily require facer plants in front. It grows at a slow rate, and under ideal conditions can be expected to live for approximately 30 years.

This shrub should only be grown in full sunlight. It is very adaptable to both dry and moist growing conditions, but will not tolerate any standing water. It is not particular as to soil type or pH. It is highly tolerant of urban pollution and will even thrive in inner city environments. This is a selected variety of a species not originally from North America.

My latest gardening obsession is making over the landscape in front of my housing co-op offices, where the top priority is to do something about the overgrown junipers. Planted too close to the sidewalk and doors, they’d been sheared back, which caused much unsightly needle-browning.

The problem wasn’t just that they were encroaching onto sidewalks, either. Their looming presence over the doors made the female staffers feel less than safe as they exited, especially at night. Something had to be done, and right away.

So the team of staff and volunteers working on this decided to have the junipers closest to the sidewalk removed, and it was super-gratifying to watch those bad boys being yanked out of the ground by a Bobcat excavator.

Unfortunately, this exposed even more dieback and browning in the adjacent junipers (above). So ugly.

But man, I live for pruning projects like this! Oh, the mountain of dead juniper branches I gleefully (obsessively) compiled, ignoring the dozen or so cuts on my arms, blood and all. Who notices these things when they’re absorbed in the job? (And with industrial-grade loppers, too!)

These next two photos show the junipers after I’d removed all the dead parts. Kinda sculptural, right? And I’ve been telling everyone that when spring comes, these bare trunks will “green up” and look new.

Except apparently they won’t. I went back to Google to double-check on that bit, homing in on a source I trust – Bert Cregg, an actual “Garden Professor,” in Fine Gardening Magazine. The relevant text and photos from his article “How to Prune Conifers”:

I’ll be writing to the good Professor Cregg about the “few exceptions,” in hopes that our junipers quality.

A bit more research yields more bad news, though, this time from SFGate’s Home Guide on the subject:

When trimming junipers, not cutting down to bare stems is crucial: always leave some green foliage, because bare wood will not grow foliage.

Cut down overgrown junipers if pruning will result in mostly bare wood. It is easier to replace such junipers with new, smaller shrubs than to try to rejuvenate old, nearly bare wood shrubs.

Crap! Our only hope may be to cover those bare trunks with the fast-growing flowering shrubs we’re planting in front of them – Ninebarks and Spireas – and going all in on turning those junipers into sculptures.

SF Gate’s guide went on to criticize the shearing of junipers, but with an even curiouser qualifier:

Shearing is not recommended for junipers, although it is often practiced for pyramidal junipers when a formal look is desired. Shearing causes dense outer growth, which shades the interior of the shrub and makes it more susceptible to needle browning and branch dieback caused by drying winds.

That bit in italics makes me wonder why shearing of pyramidal junipers wouldn’t also result in the dreaded needle browning and branch dieback. But if true, it explains how this landscape contractor somewhere in the Balkans can do this with impunity:

Blue Star Juniper turning brown

Most likely this is not a pest or disease. When plants decline in the months following planting it usually is an abiotic problem (not related to insect or disease). Quite often the roots of these junipers become very compacted in their containers at the nursery. When the roots are very compacted it makes watering the shrub more difficult. A very tight rootball actually repels water. However, it is true though we have had a lot of rain which can also be a problem.
If you want to give this juniper a chance you need to prune out the brown stems and needles. If the root system was compacted and you did not break it up before you planted it consider digging it back up. Then use a sharp knife or blade to cut four one-inch-deep cuts the length of the root ball. New roots will rapidly grow from the cut areas of the roots. When you have to water do not just water the top of the shrub with a hose but direct the water near the ground where the roots are.
It is questionable whether that area will fill in again.

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